k001

How I became a motorcyclist (for cheap)

I loved riding a bicycle when I was a teenager. We had a summer club, of sorts, riding all day long under the hot sun, only stopping to grab a bite or cool down in Volga river. One summer my neighbor let me ride his moped (a bicycle with a thick frame and a small 50cc (1 h.p. or so) two stroke engine. When going uphill, the engine power was not enough — pedals to the rescue!

Later my father got a Soviet motorcycle, Tula. It was a very unique motorcycle, with smallish but fat "all terrain" tires and an electric starter, but it's a real motorcycle by all means: heavy, powerful, it had a clutch, a gearbox, turn signals, everything (watch this if you crave for some visuals). I learned to ride on that one, it was so much fun, but ended up not so good — the bike overheated (short story: don't roll downhill on neutral and no gas, it needs gas/oil mix for lubrication and cooling), engine got stuck. Dad found someone to repair it and sold it at a loss. All that happened long, long time ago in a place far, far away.

Photo taken from http://drive2moto.ru/garage/7936
Photo taken from http://drive2moto.ru/garage/7936

Fast forward to 2013, I moved to the U.S., Seattle area, which is way less crazy than Moscow in terms of traffic, and I got my first bike, almost by accident. It was a 2000 Kawasaki Ninja 250, a perfect bike for a beginner, can't recommend it enough. It made a hole of $800 in our family budget... little did I know that I need another ~$1000 for gear and about $800 for various tools, repairs, improvements, new tires etc. All in all it was under $3000 (or so I hope, as I neglected to maintain a detailed log), and made me happy for a few years... 

My own first bike, fully tuned, with new plastics, tires, windshield, turn signals, and top box, all ready to ride!
My own first bike, fully tuned, with new plastics, tires, windshield, turn signals, and top box, all ready to ride!

Besides riding, I learned a few skills: hunting for used parts on ebay and craigslist, reading the service manual, changing oil and filter (well that's all trivial so far), ABS plastic repair (kinda trivial, too, once you have proper supplies), valve adjustment (far from trivial) etc. The only thing I did not do myself is changing the tires — I was worrying that I can tip the bike over, and so I went to a specialist whose services I am still using to day.

It was all good, until one day I found out I can't keep up with the group as they were doing about 80 mph on a highway going up the mountain pass, and I ended up being miles behind. Above all, it was kinda embarrassing. So I got myself another bike, 2004 Yamaha FJR1300, a sport tourer, meaning it can go both far and fast and comfortable. Also, much more expensive at $4250, plus I spent another $1800 (this time I do have detailed logs) for farkles, tires, repairs etc.

My current bike, 2004 Yamaha FJR1300
My current bike, 2004 Yamaha FJR1300

So, under $10K for two bikes in five years, not so bad overall I guess. The joy of riding, that's indescribable. The only bad thing is, driving a car (or should I say cage? all real bikers use the term) is not as much fun as it's used to be.

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