Constructive Creativity

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

To Ride Like The Wind

Here is a little post that I was thinking about doing a while back, but am now just getting around to. The title is inspired by the song "Ride Like The Wind" by Christopher Cross. Now, why would I choose such a title? Well, some years in the past, I did ride like the wind on my motorcycles! :D

My first motorcycle was a Honda 125. The picture below is not my bike, but it is exactly like my bike, down to the model and color.

The engine of my 125 was a single cylinder of, as you may have already surmised, 125 cc displacement. Having only one cylinder, the engine tended to vibrate quite a bit. In fact, the vibration was enough to numb my hands during a long ride! This bike had a kick start, which was quite a pain until I got the knack of it. One of the hardest things for me to learn was how to properly control the manual transmission, especially when starting up from a stop. I had to learn to take in the clutch with my left hand, shift it into gear, and slowly let the clutch out while giving it some gas by turning the throttle with my right hand. Sound complicated? Well, it was, at least for the first couple of months! ;) While I was learning to do this, I stalled my bike many times and had to restart it. Sometimes, I had to wheel my bike off the street to get out of the way of cars that were behind me at a stop light. Kick starting a bike doesn't always work the first time. If you are wondering what I am talking about, it does not involve actually kicking the bike, although I felt like doing that sometimes out of shear frustration! The kick start is a lever with a foot peg that folds out from the engine. Its visible in the picture above. Look to the center of the bike and see if you can spot the thin vertical bar at the rear of the engine with a black thing angling to the right off the top. That is the folded up kick start. Anyway, you fold it out, and then kick down on it with your foot. This turns the engine and energizes the starter. If you do it right, the engine starts up.

Ok, so much for getting the bike going. Riding the 125 wasn't exactly like the wind, it was more like a moderate breeze. ;) The top speed was about 55 miles per hour going downhill. That was ok for getting around on city streets, but not really fast enough for the highway. However, it was probably for the best, as it takes a good while to get really proficient at riding a motorcycle. Too much power in the hands of a beginning rider can really get the rider in trouble, or worse! I have fond memories of my 125, but after a year or so of riding it, I began to wish for something bigger and better. It took me a while to save my money, but eventually, my wish came true. :)

My second bike was a Honda Shadow 500. Once again, the picture below is not my bike, but it is identical to my bike.

The dark red color was one of the things that attracted me to the Shadow. I also really liked the styling. It was simple, but quite elegant, as you can see. :) The Shadow's engine was a two cylinder with a displacement of 500 cc. It was designed with engine balance in mind, so it was a lot smoother to ride than the 125. The engine size, being much larger on this bike, the acceleration and top speed was vastly superior to the 125. Talk about riding like the wind, I topped the Shadow out late one night on the highway at 105 miles per hour! That's like a small hurricane! :D Aside from exhilarating speed, the Shadow also had a couple of other advantages. It had an electric start (which I really loved!) and a sealed maintenance free drive shaft (the 125 had a chain drive, like a bicycle).

I enjoyed my Shadow for a long time, during which I learned a lot about keeping the bike in good working order. I would regularly change the oil and filter. But, from this simple task, I moved on to more complex mechanical repairs. I learned to change my tires. I rebuilt the clutch. I rebuilt the front suspension forks. I changed the brake pads and rebuilt the front disk break assembly. I installed new turn signals when the old ones broke. I also learned to trouble shoot electrical problems. For example, I had to rebuild my starter relay after it melted in the open position. The result of that was that the starter would run continuously. Not a good thing! I had to disconnect the battery to stop the starter! To help me with all these repairs, I had a good maintenance book specific to my bike. I also collected a good variety of mechanics tools. I taught myself to be quite handy! :)

Well, all in all, I enjoyed owning and riding my bikes very much. :) When I moved from Alabama to Indiana, I decided to sell my Shadow, as I didn't expect to have anywhere to store it in the winter time. Snow and motorcycles do not mix well! Its been a number of years since I have ridden a bike, but sometimes, on a nice cool Fall or Spring day, I wish that I could Ride Like The Wind once again! Perhaps someday, I will. :)