I started to get the itch to ride again in the summer of 2006. I kept pushing it to the back of my mind, but by the fall I was commited to giving it a try. After looking at a lot of bikes for sale I decided on a Ducati Multistrada 620. Had a terrific buying experience at Martin Moto, and on October 6th, 2006 I was once again a biker. Here's my whole write-up on that buying experience and first rides.
A better rider now than a year ago for one thing :-).
My biggest issue when I first started riding again was confidence in corners. This is a direct result of the lowside accident that was the primary factor in stopping riding many years ago. In the first few months with the new bike I very often found myself braking before turns, and sometimes braking the rear during the turns. Bad. Group rides with STN'ers and lots of practice have cured a lot of the problem. I can't recall the last time I braked mid-corner, and I'm not normally braking before turns. I have also (mostly) come to terms with the fact that I just don't need to carve a corner as fast as I used to. While peg-scraping was common in my first life as a biker, I just don't have the courage/faith/stones to do it anymore. It has taken a long time to get used to the idea that I can still enjoy the ride without really deep leans in the corners. I'm not saying I'm a cruiser rider, staying upright at all times, but I'm definitely a notch or two slower than a lot of the folks I've ridden with. And that's OK (I can now say). Plus, as time goes by I expect my comfort zone will increase. Just the other day I scraped the centerstand for the first time! It's actually not that hard to do on a Multistrada, but still!
It may sound like a Zen-thing, but I take the most enjoyment from just being out there, "in the moment" on two wheels in the environment. Not just from attacking a particular section of road, but just being on the road. I'm more interested in the whole package - the road, the weather, the sights, the sounds - than just "man I tore up that series of corners". I suspect I have quite a bit of "touring" rider in me.
11,000 miles later I'm still very happy with the Multi. It has been pretty much problem-free and reliable. Once in stop-and-go traffic the engine started to rev on its own and I had to hit the kill switch to stop it. Lubed all the linkages but never found the definitive answer on that one. At 10,000 miles my high beam went out. $16 for a new H7 at AutoZone. Had the 600 mile and 6000 mile service done at Martin Moto, $150 and $450 respectively. On my second rear tire now, about due for replacement. I'll most likely replace the front at the 12,000 mile service as well.
I'm a self-confessed demo-ride junkie. If some dealer or manufacturer wants me to test-ride their bike, I'm all for it. There are so many interesting motorcycles out there, and I want to get a taste of as many of them as I can. I want to be an informed consumer for my next bike purchase (whenever that turns out to be). Some of this may stem from when I bought my first bike back in the early 90's. No demo rides, you just read the magazines and picked one you thought you would like.
In the past 12 months I've ridden these bikes:
What did I learn from all those demo rides? First off, I made a good decision with the Multistrada. I really liked the Ulysses, both Guzzis, the Tiger and the BMW R1200R. None of those particular bikes were perfect, but I found them were very interesting and could be the happy owner of any of them. I found I don't really like the ergos on the more aggressive sport-touring bikes such as the Honda VFR, Triumph Sprint and BMW K12R. The biggest surprise was how much I liked riding the Harley Fat Boy. A whole other type of riding experience, very laid back, which I found very appealing. I don't know if I could have one as my only bike though.
I want to do more travel-oriented bike trips, probably at the expense of day trips. Since I have a lovely wife and a fabulous son at home, there's only so much time I want to spend away from them. A 48-hour getaway like my Rainy Trip to West Virginia is much more enjoyable than 5 single days trips around where I live. I'm not sure how to orchestrate this exactly - I have a very supporting wife, but it's much easier to schedule a free Saturday than 2 or more nights away from home. This past year I spent 13 nights away from home on bike trips, 5 each at Americade and Key West.
I know for sure I want to do Americade next year again, and I'd like to go back to West Virginia when it isn't raining.
The big event in 2008 will be our bi-annual big vacation, this time back to Colorado. Every other year we take a month off and do a big roadtrip (in the car, with wife and son) out West. We've done Colorado a bunch of times, Utah, Oregon, California, and the Canadian Rockies. This year I'll be putting the bike on a trailer and taking it to Colorado with us. I'd love to ride the whole way to get there, but then my wife would have to drive solo the whole trip - not going to happen. We'll ditch the trailer at a friend's house in Colorado Springs, and I'll ride the rest of the month around Colorado. I can't wait.
I want to rent a Fat Boy for a day. I did the Road King, but that was the Custom version with crap handlebars. I need to know what it's like to ride a cruiser for 400 miles in a day, not just 10 on a test loop.
I would love to get to Nova Scotia, but that's not likely in '08. The Blue Ridge Parkway beckons, as do the NC/TN mountains. We'll see what time allows.