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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

I'm a sucker for good marketing

"A life without dreams simply has no meaning."
–– Soichiro Honda
I'm a Honda rider; I'm never really sure, however, whether you could call me a Honda guy. My emotional relationship with the manufacturer of the bike I ride is often tenuous. You can see that in a number of posts I've written over the past few years: the time I compared Honda to professional wrestler Lance Storm,the time I lamented Honda's utter lack of coolness, the time I compared my bike to an ex-girlfriend, and so on.

Of course, the mind immediately jumps to the question of whether it's necessary to be an anything guy. Why not just buy/ride whatever bike it is that you like according to your needs and wants at the time, rather than trying to shoehorn yourself into the illusory lifestyle of any given motorcycle manufacturer? After all, motorcycle ownership is not religion.

But I suppose we could learn a little about motorcycling from at least one religion: Sikhism. To paraphrase Guru Nanak, there is no Harley Guy, there is no Honda Guy, but each of us must still choose a motorcycle.

I digress. The point is: I'm a Honda owner but I often feel something akin to embarrassment because of it. People will ask me what kind of bike I ride and too often I'll attenuate my answer with words like "only" or "just," e.g., "Oh, it's only a little 600cc Honda, but what I really want is..."

Nevermind that my "little 600cc Honda" delivers more horsepower than a 1200cc Harley-Davidson Sportster, is more fuel-efficient and everyday useful than an Indian Chief Classic, and has better brakes than every bike Victory has ever made. For some reason, I have in my head a silly, childish, aesthetic, and all too often financially-based (a) vision of what coolness is, and Honda doesn't really fit within that.

But then there are things like the picture above of world-travelling Stephanie Jeavons, or my own interaction with American nomad Steve Johnson, or the chance conversations I've had with people like the guy I met at Motorcycle Live who had put 87,000 miles on his ST1300 and said of it: "Be careful if you get one because the bloody thing won't die and you won't have any good reason to replace it when you decide you want something new."

These people are adventurers. Their gear is often makeshift and almost always worn out from use. They just go and go and go, in part because the bike they've chosen doesn't stop. And that's pretty cool. 

But because I'm a Gen X dude who can't think for himself, I sometimes need the capitalist machine to remind me that Hondas are cool. Which is why I have been really digging the marketing campaign for the forthcoming True Adventure motorcycle.




I kind of wonder how this hype will jive with the actual automatic transmission motorcycle that I saw displayed at Motorcycle Live, but, you know, Who cares, man?! These videos are awesome. Especially that second one (b); I've watched it about a dozen times thus far. And each time I do, it manages to set off a little voice in my head that yelps: "I need a Honda so I can explore all the things."

Hey, wait! I already have a Honda! Go me! I can explore all the things right now! Yay! Fire up Google Maps and let the dreaming begin!

And therein you have the power of good marketing. Harley-Davidson, of course, does it incredibly well, but this is the first time I can remember being struck by any sort of Honda campaign. Well done, Big Red: you've made me feel happy to be a Honda owner.

Though, I'm still not sure if I'm a Honda guy...

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(a) For example, Hondas have a reputation for durability and quality. BMWs also have a reputation for durability and quality. BMWs definitely don't look much better than Hondas, so why do I swoon over them more? The only logical answer is that I am somehow enchanted (and duped) by the fact that they are more expensive.

(b) One of the people featured in the video is Steph Jeavons, who is Welsh and is a partial inspiration for my own Great Welsh Tea Towel Adventure.

Comments

  1. Just having read "What Can I Actually Afford?", I couldn't help thinking that you are, in fact, in desperate need of a bike, that just goes and goes and doesn't eat it's weight in gold in services. You need to own a Honda, full stop. Life is what happens while you're making other plans, or so they say - maybe, your ideal bike is what happens, while you're wishing for everything else.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think much of the Honda's rap stems from their old advertising campaign, "You meet the nicest people on a Honda". It came out at a time when biker gangs of the 1950s were exaggerated in movies. Hence, Honda took a black eye for justifying Hollywood's dramatization. But also stemming from that blunder, and continuing today, is Honda's effort to soften the looks of their bikes, unlike the aggressive designs of competing brands.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nothing wrong with Honda. Does riding a Harley make me a Harley girl? I like to think not. First and foremost I am a rider, regardless of make or model ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. OK, this makes me weep. I'm so in love with riding my motorcycle. I don't belong to a particular "church" yet. I ride a Yamaha V Star, which is bulky and slow, but faithful. I miss my Kawasaki Ninja, love the Indian Scout and I'm not really sure what I want down the road.

    Must I choose?

    I think not.

    Thanks for the amazing videos. I want to ride right now!! Far, far away, drinking in the asphalt, the nectar of living. . .

    Love. Yup, it's love.

    Sash
    Sash - The Rude Biker Chick
    See Sash Videos!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Chris, I completely relate to being a sucker for branding...
    Oh well, what can I say. I love BMWs. Some of their bikes are so reliable (K12LT, the GS are decent) and some are utter and appalling reliability examples (K12R).
    Somehow though, even that K12R brings a smile to my heart every time, I mean every time I ride it.
    Is it the looks? Is it the amazing tech? Is it because there are few things like a BMW motorcycle (quirky but extremely efficient suspension, electronic suspension, awesome, awesome brakes)... The styling?
    Just the roundel, so small... and when people finally see it.. "look it's a BMW!"

    Of course, the whole exercise is made better if you're only one in your riding group with BMWs.
    Wish I could have my Honda CB550F with me... but it seems it won't be possible.

    When I look at Honda motorcycles, what I see, and it seems beyond cool to me, it's everything I've read about Soichiro Honda. It's so inspiring, all that effort to make them reliable, to make them last seemingly forever (when a BMW needs a full shop, and seemingly a full-time job)....

    Since I'm an Engineer, Soichiro is so inspiring and so are his motorcycles. They seem cool to me.
    But I like BMW better.
    ... and I can't have enough of them, and of riding them.
    ... my car (a BMW) has been parked for the last four years, and I hope that doesn't change...

    I still have a project to make an Atom-like car, you guessed it, from a 3.0L BMW that I have ('72 Bavaria). Some day I'll do it.

    For now, BMW bikes stir my soul.

    ReplyDelete

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