Blah Blah Blah Motorcycles

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Blah blah blah, deep, raw, and looking lean and mean
Kurt Clauss: Uncle Blah Blah Blah and a lifetime rider

So I had climbed on the back of my best friend's older brother's 1972 CH Sportster for the short 5 block ride across town; to another friend's house. "Hold onto my belt" Johnny said. I'd been on bikes before. Road many miles through local fields and illegally on the street on my brothers' hand-me-down Honda 175 Scrambler (stories for another time). The Sportster was different. Deep, raw, and looking lean and mean just sitting still. Pulling away from the curb I could feel the torque, all bottom end. Then he short-shifted into 2nd and I could feel that rear wheel digging in; I could feel the front tubes pulling up, straining against the hydraulic chambers--travelling to the max. "What an animal",  I thought to myself. This was repeated for the short 4-5 minute jaunt across town. When he dropped me off I told him I was gonna get me one of those. Johnny laughed and rumbled off. I was 16 or 17 at the time. When I was 18 I found a '72 CH available in the next town over that I was told "might be available". Problem was the dude that owned it was living in AZ. and the bike had been hibernating on his father's screened-in back porch. I was determined. I tracked down the address; startled the dude's father when he answered his front door but, after explaining myself; he was more than happy to show me the bike and supply his son's phone # in AZ. I think he really wanted it off his porch. With two or three long distance phone calls--she was mine. She was stock except for the 16" chromed hog rear wheel & hub and the custom paint job. '72 was the 1st year for 1000cc Sportsters. Two piece handlebars with internal throttle cable. No turn-signals and non hydraulic front and rear mechanical brakes (at 400+ pounds they could be-how shall we say?-"difficult" to stop on a dime when moving at a clip). They were right shifters--attributed to their flat-track heritage. I managed to get her started after much labor (XLCH's are kick-start only) and sputtered home. I had a good friend who was a mechanic at the local HD shop who came over and rebuilt the Bendix carb for me. That and an oil change was all it took! The following weekend I rode her to the Jersey shore for a weekend of bar-hopping adventure! That's how my 47 year long love affair with Harley (particularly Sportsters) started. An affair that's taken me from sea to shining sea (more stories for another time). The best $1700.00 I ever spent. What got me thinking about all this is I just bought another Ironhead Sportster today (1985 XLH). My 5th Sportster--and riding her home made me think of that '72 CH.

Blah blah blah, apparently, just the kind of intro I needed
Lucy Carrera: Chronic Fixer, Motorcycle Repair Shop Owner

16 years old, on a first date with What’s His Name and he has a bike and I’m giddy that he has an extra helmet because I haven’t ever been on a bike before. I rode a three-wheeler once when I was 10 and loved it, riding all day long in the field behind the horse stables and I even lived to tell the tale without flipping the death machine once. What’s His Name hands me the oversized helmet and I climb on his bike (current knowledge informs me that it was was probably a GSXR600 or similar sport bike) wearing my white jeans and penny loafers. I think I’m an excellent passenger and I’m loving the speed and the intimacy, holding on to him and giving over completely. I think he probably was going too fast and showing off when someone pulled out left in front of us. In an instant we’re sliding sideways, both of us keeping the bike up using our left legs to prevent the lowside. Current experience informs me that this was an incredible feat. He regains control and we pull off over to the side of the road. I have rubbed the soles of my penny loafers almost through and he begins to cry and I can see he’s pissed his pants so I kiss his neck.

Undaunted, now some 30 years later I find myself having devoted almost every facet of my life to motorcycles. They are my career, my friend diviner, my passion, my escape, my challenge, my joy.

Blah blah blah, it all started in '94 or '95. 
Paul Elledge: Paul Elledge Photography

It all started in ‘94 or ‘95 I think when I was doing a photo shoot with the band MINISTRY and Paul Barker arrived to the shoot on a 1969 Ducati single.   I’d never seen or noticed an Italian motorcycle.   I grew up with folks on HD, so this was a very enlightening, eye-opening experience.  Of course, one of the key band members was late, so Paul gave me a brief history of the brand.   He could tell I was extremely interested, and he told me that I needed to meet Fred Cousins to learn more.  My interest with all things Italian and motorsports perked my interest, so that conversation started the moto madness in me.

I met the master of all Italian machines Fred, and Paul and Fred went to a swap meet in Iowa two weeks later and found my first bike, a 1975 Ducati 860GT.  It landed at Fred’s shop and Fred told me promptly there was no way he was going to allow me to ride the bike.   While I was pondering that curious concept, Fred introduced me to a very old BMW (edit: Fred has since confirmed it was a ‘65 R27, single cylinder 250 (pictured)).   It was a very slow vintage bike that he said would be perfect to learn on.  It functioned in slow motion, the brakes, the engine, everything was very mellow, and perfect for my first ride.  We went outside the “OOO” shop on Goose Island back when it was a Chicago waste land, perfect to learn to ride.  Wide streets, no traffic, no people, and me with no moto certification on my drivers.  

Fred did a demo ride, starting, shifting, and stopping bike while I watched.  Then, my virgin moto ride arrived under Fred’s supervision.  I slowly got on and took off very slowly riding the little BMW.   It took me a while to get the feel for riding, but the excitement was undeniable.   It was very hard for me to calm the excitement so that I could ride the bike in a measured manner.   It was a combination of optimism and fear that took over my body.  I felt empowered riding that slow BMW, not aware of how after that moment my life would never be the same.

I went over to Fred's shop many times to practice in the empty streets before I ever was allowed to venture into the streets of Chicago.   After a period of time, I graduated to the more powerful, but yet mild “Green Lightning” Ducati single.   That bike had the ability to go faster, and stop at a quicker pace.   Once I got comfortable with “Green Lightning”, I was taken out into the streets of Chicago with Fred in front and Paul in back, boxing me into the safe bubble of my friends.   We went in the neighborhoods of Chicago for a long ride.   During the ride, Paul and Fred would change positions and we would stop every once and awhile so they could give me a critique of my rookie skills.   Much insight, kindness and wisdom was passed to me from Paul and Fred during those rides.  Some of which, I am sure, has saved me from injury through the years.   Slow but sure, they finally allowed me to go to the front of the group.

I never saw the city in this manner, I never felt so alive in the street.   This moment riding together opened an entire new world to me.  It has produced deep friendships, shared travel experiences, and a still evolving education of motorcycle mechanics.  Since those formative moments, I have traveled on a motorcycle Route 66 solo, toured Italy with friends, and explored the backroads all over the Midwest.  I have raced in the woods, Baja, on Ice, and won 5 National Championships with AHRMA.   

More importantly than the rides or the races is how riding has changed my body and state of mind.   I realized how my fitness is so important.  I lost 75 pounds, I started working out 5 days a week, and most importantly I have viewed the world differently.  “Where you look is where you go” has become a life mantra for me.   I see differently, I am more aware of touch and feel, I am more aware of my body, and also everyone and every object around me.  I am a better person on every level because of riding, and I have developed the deepest friendships.

For me the world is a better place now, I think if everyone rode. People would be kinder and more appropriate to others.   When you put yourself out in the world at large, you gain a certain understanding of your responsibilities and how other’s choices can affect your world.  It is a very powerful insight that is hard to place in words.   It really puts a focus on your choices, and the choices of others.  A lesson we can learn from.

Blah blah blah, this is the story of my first motorcycle and how it changed my life.
Ben Clauss: Motobenco

I have been acquiring and restoring vintage Japanese motorcycles and there has been one bike that has always been in the back of my mind.  After 10 years of pestering a family friend I was finally able to acquire the little Harley that started my relationship with motorcycles. 

This past August we made the journey from Chicago to Central Michigan, back to where I was raised and where the bike resides.  Fortunately I was able to make the trip with my mom, who had flown in from VT to spend a little time on the road. 

After wandering the back roads of rural MI we were headed in the right direction, the asphalt ends and the street turns to dirt and the driveway begins.  There is was, the distinctive shape, diminutive size and blue tank gave it away.   I haven’t see this bike in so long, looking a little worse for wear and showing its age, it was the same machine that sparked the passion for motorcycles years ago. 

Reunited after 35 years:

Summer of ’81, family took a trip to a friend’s farm; this is the bike that started it all. After a day of watching my parents ride around (that’s mom on the “piglet” in my bmx helmet), she also flipped a Kawasaki dirt bike, story for another time, it was finally my turn. The next morning, deal was if I could kick start it I could ride it. I spent the morning, kicking, choke on, kicked some more she finally turned over.

After some instruction from the owner JW, as I rode, he provided guidance from the pillion, when to shift, when to brake and where to look.  This continued through the day until he was satisfied I could manage on my own and promptly exited the rear.  He had forgotten about the turn signals on the rear, which caught his leg and flipped him on the ground.  I glanced back to make sure he was ok, but I was free, big eyes now focused forward.  Roaming the cow pasture, shifting gears, enjoying the experience and finally on my own. 

As the day ended I found myself on the far end of the pasture, miles from the farm in unfamiliar territory, soggy ground with limited traction.  I remember the engine revs increasing as the rear wheel struggled for traction and the whole bike became squirrely.  I was on my own at this point not wanting to drop the bike and have to walk back in the fading light. Something, call it natural instinct, sheer determination or just a will to survive kicked in, my focus increased and I willed my way through that situation. I made it back; bike covered in mud, my confidence elevated knowing that someday the skills I learned today would help me in a similar situation.

Fast forward 24 years, racing at Daytona, I ran wide at the dog leg, ended up on the grass heading towards turn 4 and the racers in front of me on the track, front brake, no traction, rear brake no, traction, down shift, asphalt closing fast, gradually slowing down, finally the front wheel touched the pavement, full front brakes, release and turn, disaster avoided.  (Flashback to that day on the farm.)

Blah blah blah, my first motorcycle  
Robert Clauss: Becky & Co

When I was 17, I thought I should have some wheels of my own. I’d sold a boat that my father and I built together and so I had some money to spend, but $300 would only take me so far. My cousin, Patrick, had a Honda 175 motorcycle, and that seemed to be a good idea that could work for me as well. I ran the idea by my parents, and they said that since my father had been a motorcycle rider, they really couldn’t say no. 

My father was a motorcycle patrol officer in the New Jersey State Police. I’m not sure if it was by choice or just by assignment - he was never a fan of motorcycles after that, and never had one of his own. Anyway, I started watching the ads in the newspaper - that was how you found anything for sale in those days. A Honda 160 came up for sale in Camden, NJ. We lived about 20 miles north of there. My Dad said he’d run down with me to take a look at it, so we made plans to meet with the owner and took a drive down there. 

The guy who had it had bought it new in 1965, and this was 1970. He took me for a ride, and I decided I wanted it. After paying him the $275 he wanted, we now had to get it home. The ’69 Plymouth Fury III my father drove had a huge trunk, and the three of us lifted it in and left the front wheel dangling outside. It wasn’t a CB160, the street version, and wasn’t the CL160 scrambler - this had the high exhaust of a scrambler, but lacked the gaitered front forks and skid plate. I later read about a CK version that was a hybrid and think that was what I had. 

I rode it all summer and the following winter before selling it to my younger brother and buying my cousin's 175 - mmm, five speed trans and aftermarket shorty mufflers that had some bark! I spent that summer working at the local Honda dealer, where I worked the parts counter, did go-fer duties, and got a discount on parts. Even better, in New Jersey every vehicle had to go to the inspection station to get the required sticker - even brand new ones. So, somebody had to ride the new 750 Hondas that were selling very well to get the inspection sticker. The well heeled guys dropping a few thousand for this hot new toy wanted theirs ready to go. I was tapped for that duty more than a few times. 

Since then, I got into and out of motorcycles a few times, even dabbling in racing for a while, and did half a dozen east coast Motogiro USAs. But, that’s another story.........

Blah blah blah, my first experiences with motorcycles. ~Season Clauss, Blah Blah Blah Motorcycles

Motorcycles have been a part of my family for a long time as evidenced by my brother perched upon our dad's bike back in the early 70s. However, I didn't encounter motorcycles until my mom had an opportunity to ride an old Harley in the early 80s on JW's land in central Michigan. I remember being put on the back of a dirt bike and being ridden around as JW drove the dirt roads of Evart.

Growing up over the years, I heard numerous stories of my dad and his brothers riding motorcycles. I learned that my dad stopped riding after an accident on one of his bikes in which he and my brother, then quite young, were thrown off. I'd stop too! Though this might explain some of my brother's behavior now! My brother picked up the gauntlet later in life and even raced. I had great fun, coupled with great worry, going to the track to see his events.

It took turning 30 and facing the end of a long relationship to open myself up to the idea of becoming a motorcyclist. I didn't know me as an adult, I only knew me+someone as an adult, and I decided that I needed to stop being scared of what I wanted and give myself permission to take control. So I took my motorcycle safety course in Vermont and bought my first bike, the sweet silver blue Suzuki GZ250. My adventures on her took me around Vermont and then to Colorado. I sold her when I decided to move overseas to Vietnam, opening a whole new chapter of motobike riding. 

I landed in Vietnam, my home for the next 5 out of 6 years, and I saw what was simply called a '67. This was in reference to a specific year of production for Honda's S90, or Super Sport 90. I fell in love with the simplicity and general coolness of the bike. It took 5 years of living in SE Asia before I had a chance to buy my own off my friend. I rode that slight and speedy bike for a year! 

I returned home to the States bike-less and with no idea that I'd get so involved with essentially the same bike, but one year after being in the States, I had my own rebuild project of a 1967 Honda S90 because of meeting this guy named Fred, famous in the Chicago vintage motorcycle world. 

All of this has led me to this page called blahblahblahmotorcycles.

Blah blah blah your motorcycle experience here!
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