The Ric Ocasek / Honda ST1100 Conundrum: Part 2

Motorcycles have personality. If you don’t ride motorcycles you’ve no idea. While most people complacently park their ass behind a car’s steering wheel, a motorcyclist saddles a dragon. If you’ve never ridden a motorcycle all I can say is that you should, if you can, but you probably can’t or you’d have already done it. The next time you’re commuting in a Subaru look out the window at the motorcycle roaring past and know, know deep in your heart, that he’s living life on a wavelength and depth that would make a Subaru weep.

The mechanics of motorcycles tend to cluster into groups seeking like minded experiences. Every bike is different but the stereotypes hint at their purpose. There are bikes for speed, for style, for distance, for tricks, for power, etc…

As with all things that are powered by the soul (you think motorcycles run on gasoline?) one selects a motorcycle based on their spiritual needs. I certainly did.

When it rains you get wet. When it's cold you get cold. If you crash you get mangled. Even so, nobody on a motorcycle wishes they were in a Subaru.

When it rains you get wet. When it’s cold you get cold. So what? It’s worth it!

A common motorcycle configuration is the cruiser. Painting with a broad swath, cruisers tend toward the heavy, loud, and chrome laden. This isn’t an insult. My motorcycle is a cruiser. It had to be black because, at least in my mind, that’s the proper color of a cruiser. Cruisers, regardless of their inner mechanics, look primitive. That’s part of their charm. You should look at a cruiser and see engine bits hanging in the wind. James Dean and The Fonz were not jetting around on bright blue, body cladded, motorized spaceships. They cruised.

Also cruisers tend to be slow. Of course they’re only slow compared to other motorcycles. They’re almost never as slow as a car. Read what I said about saddled dragons. (Because this is the Internet, some yoyo is already reaching for a keyboard to refute me with technical specs they’ve copied from Road and Track. Spare me. Yes, some cars are faster than some motorcycles just as occasionally a politician tells the truth. That’s not the normal situation and you’re pissing into the wind citing exceptions.)

In order for a cruiser to be a cruiser it’ll have a low revving, fat pistoned, rumbling, deep sounding engine because you want to feel the power. Most people think “Harley Davidson”. I’m a little less into show and much more into reliability. My cruiser is a Honda. It has as rock solid engine that has served me well. Yet Honda engineered in the requisite rumble. I’m sure this caused engineers to weep because a smoother engine is more efficient and simply better in all logical ways. Then again if it were all about efficiency and logic I’d be driving a mini-van.

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

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18 Responses to The Ric Ocasek / Honda ST1100 Conundrum: Part 2

  1. Joel says:

    I’m sure this caused engineers to weep because a smoother engine is more efficient and simply better in all logical ways. Then again if it were all about efficiency and logic I’d be driving a mini-van.

    Japanese engineers don’t get the rumble. I have a friend who was involved in developing the first Nissan Titan, which was primarily engineered in Japan. When the Japanese sent over their “final” prototype engine it was a work of art, and so silent it would have been right at home in a sixties Continental. There ensued a serious struggle because all the American development people yelled, “No, no, it has to RUMBLE!” They eventually got their way but it was after the fight.

    • I believe the same thing happened with my Honda. They tinkered with the flywheel counterbalancing to make it rumble just a bit. In effect, engineering in a flaw.

      In a way I’m embarrassed. It’s dumb to hose up an engine to make it “pretend to be” crappy and primitive. Then again I’m an American and we’re the fools who race caboreted dinosaurs in NASCAR. Why fight it? I just ride and enjoy.

  2. Mel says:

    “Yes, some cars are faster than some motorcycles just as occasionally a politician tells the truth”
    Can show me a politician that has told the truth?
    Know what you mean about riding. I was riding my BIL’s bike thinking about getting one.
    After he watched me he said if I get one don’t pay cash for it you’ll be dead in six weeks.
    He grew up with a bike between his legs so it’s one advice I took.

    • cspschofield says:

      Winston Churchill often told the truth. Not always, but frequently enough that before Chamberlin screwed the pooch, Churchill was considered a has-been.

      I believe that Truman told the truth from time to time. I think the same of Lincoln, Grant, Cleveland, and George W. Bush (which is one reason the Left hated him like poison).

      I think Carter often told the truth, when he was in office, for all the good it did him.

      I doubt that Wilson, FDR, LBJ, or Clinton ever drew an honest breath. I’m not sure JFK would have known the truth if it bit him.

      • Churchill pulled out all the stops and did a great job in WWII, only to be tossed on his ass shortly after. Lesson here? People will only tolerate the truth just long enough to get back to a place where it’s optional.

        I agree with most of your assessments. I too have noted that Carter seemed simultaneously truthful and inept. I suspect he’d be an interesting dinner guest but I wouldn’t ask him to manage anything important. He seemed a class act as former president when he was pounding out houses for Habitat for Humanity but then he sort of gave up on that and started annoying me again.

        I might add Washington and Jefferson to your list of “truthful” presidents. I suspect Washington was a bit of a snob but neither man appeared to be a “tell them what they want to hear” kind of guy. Jefferson’s bill of rights saves our bacon all the time but Washington’s Whiskey rebellion and Lincoln’s “once you’ve joined you’ve joined forever” policy led to Federal expansion that has never stopped.

      • cspschofield says:

        I don’t think it’s strictly fair to saddle Lincoln with the expansion that didn’t really hit until that rat Wilson smarted his way into the White House. The cold facts are that the Old South had spent eight decades pushing the North around policy-wise and then when it looked like that might have to stop they proposed to take their ball and go home. They were asking for a curb-stomping, and pretty much got one. I have no patience for the States’ Rights argument; if the South had cared a rats ass about States’ Rights they wouldn’t have force the Free states to return runaway slaves.

        You say your livestock wandered onto our land, where it is illegal, and we have to give it back? No. It’s confiscated. Sucks to be you.

      • I don’t blame Lincoln and I’m not sure anyone could have done better in his shoes. I’m just saying that once it’s official that you can never ever leave the Federation, then the power will sooner or later reside in the Federation and not it’s components. After all, if you’re a component State and don’t like it you have no option to suck it up.

  3. Bruce says:

    I’ve always been somewhat practical in my motorcycle purchases, the Vstrom offers me the comfy cockpit of Japanese efficiency, a silly amount of speed, and two cylinder motor that sounds positively angry with a good set of cans. Oh and luggage room for a week.

    • VStroms are nice. My Shadow is a bit tamer with the power. When I was shopping they had a Shadow Tourer, I wish I’d gone for it but I didn’t know better. Fitting saddlebags and such sucks. Much better if they’re OEM package equipment.

      I’ve mellowed in my bike preferences. When I first started riding I thought a Goldwing was an abomination, now I just think they’re too expensive for me.

      When you get down to it, all motorcycles are fun. Heck, I had a moped and that was a blast too.

  4. cspschofield says:

    Hey, I LIKE my Subaru.

    But I’m a mediocre driver, and know it. I might, MIGHT ride a motorcycle on a deserted track, just to find out. But I have no illusions about my instincts and reflexes. I drive a car, and I drive it carefully. I envy the really good drivers their pleasure, and resent and fear those who think they are good drivers and are wrong.

    You! Yes, you! No, you aren’t a good enough, aware enough driver to drive and exercise your ratchet jaw on the phone at the same time. If you were, you wouldn’t be in most of two lanes. Please have your inevitable accident elsewhere, and in the meanwhile SHUT UP AND DRIVE.

    Please, no offense to the people who CAN phone and drive. I know you must be out there. But the ones I notice, because they’re wandering into my lane at 50 MPH in a 30 zone, clearly can’t drive safely WITHOUT the distraction.

  5. Al_in_Ottawa says:

    A Harley has a cylinder angle of 45degrees and a common crankpin, so the cylinders fire at odd intervals of 315degrees and 405degrees and there is no way to remove the secondary imbalance. That’s why a Harley has that loping sound and its characteristic shake which requires rubber mounts to dampen. When Yamaha designed the Virago V-twin in the early eighties they could have used a 90degree layout with separate crankpins to achieve perfect balance and even exhaust spacing (like Ducati) but chose a 75 degree layout to create a distinctive 345/385 firing beat to get the ‘cruiser’ sound and feel.

  6. Dan says:

    Motorcycles……those of us who inhabit the realm of Emergency Medicine don’t call them corpsecycles for nothing. They can be a helluva lot of fun to ride…..till the grim reaper taps
    you on the shoulder. Doing 60 mph with nothing between you and the ground or granny in her
    Buick but air is definitely living dangerously.

  7. Robert says:

    Oh, god, what does is say about me that I rode for years on my beloved Yamaha RD-400D? No, don’t answer that, I don’t wanna know. And yes, it was the red tank D model. Imported directly from Japan inside a US of A aircraft carrier. Those were the days…

  8. Robert says:

    Yup. I commuted year-round on it. Had a passenger just once; it wheelied with no effort. And I didn’t want it to. It was the only red one I’ve ever seen stateside. The SanDiego Yamaha dealer I frequented insisted they came in either yellow or blue but no such thing as red. When I showed it to him, he said I musta painted it. We didn’t talk much after that. Years later, I traded it for a sailboat. Less chance of getting embedded in a semi’s grill. I regret the decision.
    BTW, how is that pretty bike in the picture not falling over? Both the kickstand and center stand are up.

  9. Tennessee Budd says:

    Dan, I’m reminded of a story about a Texas Ranger who carried his 1911 cocked & locked (as I carry mine). Someone asked him if that wasn’t dangerous. His response, and I’m paraphrasing, was that it’s a firearm; if it weren’t dangerous he wouldn’t carry it.
    Riding is worth it. I say this as a man whose right leg is now a couple of inches shorter than in early 2008. Hell, it took Vanderbilt a month to decided I’d get to keep the leg. I could work the rear brake with a prosthesis; the front does most of the work.

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