What I learned to ride on.

Probably in 1977 or so, I began my experience with motorcycles. I was too young to have my permit for the street, so naturally, we did the off road thing. Recently I have been reliving my youth, and sharing some experiences, so I thought I would go back even further to the first bikes I rode.

Hard to imagine a better learning point.
Hard to imagine a better learning point.

We had a pair of Honda XL125’s, 1976. Red tank, black plastic, mild steel rims, and the street legal trials tires. The lights were removed, and we did replace the rear tire with a true knobby, but otherwise, the bikes were stock. ¬†Probably had 3″ of suspension travel, and since they were “road/trail” bikes, they had soft-ish suspension for that good in showroom feel.

They were both bought used. These were pretty common, if you recall the gas crises of the ’70s, that drove a lot of people to riding motorcycles, this class of mild, beginner friendly bike was a good learning platform. But you quickly outgrew the bike, so you bought something bigger, and sold your “starter bike”.

I do remember my first trip. We went to Metcalf, a riding place south of San Jose, and learned the basics in the big, open parking area. Clutch, shifting, braking, how to steer/turn/stop. Later in the day we tried some of the easier trails in the park, and I was hooked.

Yes, I fell a lot, got a bunch of scrapes, but there was a thrill factor that was impossible to ignore.

We rode the hell out of those bikes. I learned all the trails at Metcalf, then we moved on to Hollister Hills (another ORV park), and spent pretty much every weekend riding. During the week I fixed broken levers, did maintenance, lubed chains, checked the valves, etc.

I wonder whatever happened to those bikes. We rode them hard for probably 7-8 years, most weekends, and with just a modicum of maintenance, they all ran perfectly.

Next, I will talk about the first bike I actually bought myself.

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A classic – 1983 Honda V65 Magna

On the way home today, I saw a truck hauling a piece of motorcycling history. A Honda V65 Magna, circa 1983, was strapped to the trailer. One of the first Honda V4’s, the v65 was the boss bike that year. It was the fastest off the line, and held the production quarter mile title. Shaft drive, 65 cubic inches displacement, and a laid back cruiser styling.

The Honda Magna V65, king of the hill in 1983.
The Honda Magna V65, king of the hill in 1983.

It was pretty rough, but I strongly suspect that they were going to restore it. For a 30 year old bike, it seemed to have a lot of promise. I hope I see it on the road sometime.

I remember wanting one of them bad. I recall that the early versions of the V4 had some reliability issues, but that wouldn’t have deterred me. Of course, the last thing an 18 year old male with hormones raging was a bike capable of sub 11 second quarter mile times.

Good times.