I have heard it said that the happiest 2 days of a boat owner’s life are the day he buys his boat and the day he sells it. I suppose something of the same can be said of bikes. I have an old friend named Fred, who retired well and despite not riding much, has a penchant for collecting bikes both old and new. They sit and collect dust in his home ‘mini-museum.’ He must have over 100, just sitting there silently, a testament to his prosperity, but sadly motionless. It’s fun to visit him and chew the fat about the ‘old days’ but truth be told, he’s got too many bikes! Yes, that is possible. When is too many bikes, too many? It all depends upon your tolerance for shuffling bikes around in the garage or basement just to get to the light switch. I have recently realized that my ‘numerical bike tolerance’ has for all practical purposes been too high over the years. A tolerance too high for wedging between a ‘69 Norton Commando “S” and a half restored ’74 HD Iron Head, just to get over to the BMW GS in the corner. When jockeying bikes around the garage becomes a major operation, it’s time to let go of a few. Despite every intention to restore that Harley ‘Aermacchi’ 250, I’m never, ever going to pull it out of the corner and crack a single rusted bolt. I realize this now, but the opposite was quite clear when the acquisition was made: good price, upcoming winter months, desirable collectable, easy restoration, and the list goes on. Summer’s clarity unclutters my head, and riding rather than restoring comes to mind.
When the trickle chargers wind 5 miles of cord through my garage, it is an indication that I have a problem. Green lights blinking an affirmative 12 volts of useless anticipation, just to sit on a side stand and collect dust, is an indication I have a problem. Should I be on that “Hoarders” show, the one and only person on that show ever, to hoard motorcycles? Weeks before my birthday, GA Tags and Titles sent me a ‘bulk mail’ package with my tag stickers in it. This tells me I have a problem. When my insurance agent tells me I have to buy a ‘commercial collector’s umbrella,’ I realize I have a problem. When years go by and I literally have not cracked a throttle or a bolt on a particular model, it’s time for a ‘cure’ to this problem. The cure is a ‘for sale’ sign, by hook or by crook. I realize this now. I did not see this “back then” because there are so many reasons to acquire a bike, but only a few to get rid of one.
Springtime brings great promise of things to come. It is a time to start anew, to refresh and clean out. So began my realization last month that in fact, I too had too many motorcycles. Some would say that ‘too many motorcycles’ is an oxymoron, an impossibility. However, I truly believe that if you have too many kids, you can’t give each one the attention he or she needs. If you have too many kids, it’s too late, you can’t give them back or sell them. This is why we stopped at two (kids that is). When it comes to bikes, my judgment was not always as clear. This is one scenario: Client enters office, convinced that I am the ONLY lawyer (despite the 40,000 others in Atlanta) that can fix his problem. Client has no $, but of course, has a clean 19!! Yada Yada 1000 with new rubber and a fresh top end. I fix the legal problem, and voila, a happy client! I crowd one more “child” into the garage. This process repeats itself several times a year with me. Or, I attend a swap or an auction, and despite not ever having seen a 1976 Laverda 1000 3-C in my life, I am absolutely convinced that I must have THAT one, lime green!! This system of acquiring two wheeled 700 pound paper weights must come to an end! Armed with the mature reflection which ‘early’ mid life brings, I have had an epiphany. It is simple. “IF I HAVEN’T RIDDEN IT OR WRENCHED ON IT IN A YEAR, THEN GOODBYE.”
In order to safely decide what to liquidate and what to keep, you must look back at the year and decide what bikes in the last 12 moths you have at least touched. The rest is easy. Liquidate all that has not been touched: ’76 Bonneville with bald tires and gummed up Amals, not touched. ’74 Harley AMF with rust throughout, ripped seat and cracked rubber, not touched. ’97 Suzuki TL 1000s in rough shape, not touched. 1970 Norton Commando, older restoration, not touched. 2000 Harley Night Train with big bore kit, not touched. 2005 Kawasaki Mean Streak with straight pipes (WAY too loud), not touched. 1984 Iron Head Sporty old school chopper with girder front end, (mostly in boxes) not touched. That pile of parts, that if melted down, could build another Brooklyn Bridge, was not touched, except to move for an hour to get to my drill press. Craig’s List, E-Bay, dealer consignments at local shops and a few carefully placed calls, cleans up most of the problem. The only problem I have now is what to do with 13 “Battery Tender” trickle chargers? I suppose I could bring them over to my old friend’s house, who e-mailed me to inform that he’s bought a 1939 Brough Superior SS 100. Perhaps he’ll write me into the will. No, bite my tongue! Bikes come and go for all of us. Oddly, there’s just one that deserves to remain with us for life, like a great wife, which I am lucky enough to have. That ’52 Pan that just simply fits perfectly under me, would be my solo pick. But there’s the Bonny I’ve owned since high school. The airhead Beemer that never lets me down. My track bike. The ‘Captain America’ and the ‘Billy Bike’ I keep in the office, more art than bikes. I do have a few bucks from my recent liquidation. I haven’t bought a new Harley in 10 years. Wonder what Killer Creek Harley has in stock? Aside from that, I’ll leave the serious collecting to those with bigger garages, bigger check books, and bigger tolerance for shuffling bikes around. I’ve also heard it said that the best type of boat to use is your neighbor’s. Same goes for bike collections. Me, I just want to ride a few, wrench a few, and admire old Fred’s collection!
Well, signing off for now. Ride strong, ride safe and in the end, make sure you ride home.