A Motorcyclist Once Again

I was a full-time motorcyclist for about 5 years in the 90’s. Mainly riding a 91 Kawasaki Zephyr 750, a terrific little standard bike. I used that bike rain or shine, hot or cold, for commuting, cruising around, and a fair amount of traveling. My biggest trip was 4400 miles in 9 days, from NJ to the Colorado Rockies and back. That was a pretty good adventure on an unfaired bike with soft luggage. My girlfriend during the later part of those days (who is now my wife) was a frequent passenger, and we had many a great time with the bike. I even belonged to an internet motorcycle club that went for rides, the Denizens of Doom (that name makes it sound way more nefarious than it was, mainly just a bunch of computer geeks who ride).

Then a couple of things happened. I got married, started thinking about a family, and most importantly, we had our first crash. Not a big crash, by any means, but enough to shake the confidence quite a bit. My best post-mortem puts it down to cold new tires, but it was enough to cast a shadow over riding for a while. Pretty soon the weeds started growing under the bike, and riding became something I once did. It has been 10 years since I rode all the time, and 7 years since I really rode at all.

I don’t know why, but a couple of months ago the desire to ride again started to resurface. I put the thought on the back burner, but it kept coming back. I borrowed a buddy’s bike (Katana 600) for a day just to see what would happen. Big mistake – I couldn’t stop riding. Put a couple hundred miles on it just riding around that day. Talked with the wife, she’s happy about it for me, but is not interested in being a passenger at the moment. I completely understand, but hold out hope that she’ll take an interest again down the line. My 6-year old son, not surprisingly, thinks it’s awesome.

I spent a couple of weeks hitting all the bike shops. I didn’t want a cruiser, and I didn’t want a sportbike. Riding position on a sportbike always makes me feel nervous, like I’m poised above the bike about to do something serious. Besides, I know what kind of riding I do, and I’m never going to use a sportbike to it’s potential. So I perused the ‘standards’ that are available today. I discounted most of them just based on looks as a lot of them are much too George Jetson for my tastes (the Z1000, the FZ6, the V-Strom and Wee-Strom). The only bikes that stood out were the Honda 919, the Monsters, and the Multistrada. The 919 seemed fine, but I already had an inline-4 standard – time for something different. The Monster was very tempting, but I couldn’t really envision touring (even short tours) on it. Which left me with the Multistrada. I did some demo rides on the Monster and the Multi (and a brief detour on a Triumph Sprint ST), and after coming back to the dealer with the Multi put down a deposit.

Enough back story.

(crappy cell-phone pic)

First week in October I bought my first motorcycle in 15 years. Picked it up in the morning from Martin Motorsports in PA (first-class experience), and put 300 miles on it going up to Knoebels Amusement Park in Elysburg, PA (we had plans to attend their fall festival) and back.

It was wonderful to be back on 2 wheels again. The skies were clear, the temperature chilly (50's), and the roads empty (well, once I cleared Reading, PA anyway). I did 100+ miles of pure country backroads to get to the park and had an absolute blast. For those familiar with southeastern PA, I took 419 to 183 to 901 to 54 to 487. Mostly sweeping country roads, lots of gentle hills, almost no other traffic. Just wonderful. I came back the next day via a different route, another 150 miles of mostly backroads. 487 to 125 (a terrific little secret twisty road) to 501 to 897 to 322.

So many things I had sort of forgotten about I got to experience all over again. Like microclimates that drop the temperature 10 degrees for 30 seconds in a shaded section. The feeling of camaraderie you get from waves from all the other riders (well, most of them). The feel of accelerating out of a curve. I can’t really describe how great it was to be be doing this all again.

The Multi is wonderful. I will post a new owner ‘review’ after I’ve had it for a bit, but I’ll make some comments after just 300 miles. I love the sound of the engine, and can’t wait until I can rev it past 6k. I spent most of the weekend short-shifting between 4000 and 5000rpm, and it was just heartbreaking to do so. I don’t think I missed an opportunity at any red light to goose the throttle a bit to hear the snarl. Mmmm.

The riding position is spot-on for me. Lots of legroom, a perfect reach to the bars, enough room to move around a bit on the seat. The seat itself is OK after 5 hours in the saddle, but not great. I suppose I’m out of practice. A fair amount of noise from the windscreen (my first), I’m still working on finding good earplugs that fit me.

The handling seems light-years ahead of my Zephyr of 15 years ago. I just think about turning and the Multi leans over and carves. I’m still getting my ‘sea legs’ back, so I’m not doing any serious lean angles, but from what I can see the bike is very happy leaned over.

The shifter is very firm, and finding neutral sometimes takes a bit. My Zephyr had a ‘Positive Neutral Finder’ which was pretty nifty.

It’s certainly an attention-getter, at least in this neck of the woods. While sitting at a light on my test-drive, an older gentleman in a pickup pulls up and says “sure is a nice looking bike you got”. Pulled into a shopping center today for a quick break, and the teenager collecting the shopping carts abandons them to run over and check the bike out. “I haven’t seen too many Ducati’s around here”. Guy on a ‘busa pulls up next to me at a light 20 minutes later. “That the new Ducati? Looks cool!”.

Thanks again to everyone at multistrada.net and ducatimonster.org who convinced me to keep trying Ducatis. I couldn’t be happier.