March 21, 2009

Do You Remember Your Very First Motorcycle Ride?

img_9607_2How many people can remember clearly the first time they road on a motorcycle? Do you remember what kind of bike it was? How about the first time you actually drove a motorcycle by yourself? Both of my “firsts” were on the same bike, my Dad’s 1974 Honda 250XL (pictured above), so when I picked it up up this past weekend, those memories came back vividly. It was many years before my Dad began building his collection of vintage Harley Davidson Panheads, but his interest and passion for riding was evident to me all along.

When I was about 5 years old my Dad used to sit me on the seat of this bike, right in front of him, and I would hold onto the handlebar cross bar. It was a perfect setup – he could ride freely while I was secure and feeling like I was actually driving the bike. I loved it, and we would ride the trails under the power lines from Tarrytown NY up north for what seemed like days at a time. It was the first “riding” I ever did. My father raced recreationally in a number of enduros around this time as well, and my brother and I were right there at check points along the way acting as his faithful pit crew – doing nothing more than handing him some water and food as he gassed up – then we stared in awe as he zoomed away. All of this was on his trusty Honda 250XL

A home video of him in action is below.  The bike he is cleaning and riding is the same bike as above (with the engine taped up for protection).  That little blond guy at the pit stop is me, the other little guy with the hat is my brother.

VIDEO: DMF Sr. — Cleaning and Racing his 250XL

A few years later, he told my brother and I that when we could start the bike ourselves, we could ride it. We weren’t big enough to kick it over, and we could barely touch our feet to the ground, but we figured out how to jump it by rolling it down the driveway and popping the clutch. It was the first motorcycle I ever drove myself and I will never forget the feeling.

The bike was tucked away in storage for at least 10-12 years and didn’t run, but my father tuned it up and refurbished it about 5-6 years ago, not long before he died. My brother in law has ridden it a few times since then, but it again ended up in storage in the back of his garage. I picked it up last weekend and brought it back to my place to clean it up and get it running well. I’m not exactly sure why I suddenly decided to do that, but I knew the bike was there and it was just something I was moved to do.

While I realize that this Honda is not “American iron”, I wanted to share this story and this bike, because it represents the roots of my love for motorcycles and the start of what became my passion for vintage bikes, Harley Davidson’s in particular. This old bullet-proof machine might not look like much, but it will always be a very special bike. I often wonder what the stories are behind other vintage bikes I see when I’m riding….did they give anyone their first ride? Were they the reason someone became a motorcycle enthusiast? I’m sure the answers and the stories are endless.

Filed under DMF's Blog by dmf1

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