Three Bikes That Changed My Life. Sort of.

Motorcyclist magazine has featured “The Bike That Changed My Life” in recent issues, and the magazine’s Brian Catterson recently editorialized about some of the bikes that changed his life. Perhaps to satisfy his ample ego, or maybe just to fill up space, Catterson featured not one but five bikes that were significant in his life.

Naturally I started thinking about the bikes that “changed my life”. The term “changed my life” is probably a bit strong, but I suppose that in a subtle, Zen-like way, you could say my life was changed by a few of the
many bikes I’ve owned.


As is so often the case, dear old Dad is at least partly to blame for my, and my brother’s, motorcycle obsession. At the age of 9 or 10 Dad brought home a scrappy little Tecumseh powered hardtail minibike. Did I say hardtail? Make that no suspension at all, other than letting some air out of the slick, rock-hard, lawn-mower refugee tires. Ah, but motorcycle mania had settled into our impressionable little brains, never to leave.


The bike I remember most fondly, and my first street-legal ride, was a 1972 Honda SL125, purchased used when my twin brother and I were 16. Mom was none too happy about it, of course, but our good father brought home the little enduro anyway, in the back of the family Torino Squire Wagon. Looking at SL125’s nowadays brings a huge smile, and a laugh. That bike seemed huge, powerful, and barely controllable back in my teenage years. Nine ginormous horsepower screaming down the road. Now, after 30-plus years of riding streetbikes, the little SL seems like a toy, something more suited for a pit-bike. Back in the day we were the only kids in school with a motorcycle, and I must confess to a small James Dean complex. The SL125 saw duty riding to school, drag racing against a neighbor’s Hodaka 100, and “off-roading” in vacant lots behind factories. Ignorance was truly bliss.


Another memorable motorcycle was the Kawasaki 350 S2 triple two-stroke that carried me through college. Though I also had two cars at the time (unique among full-time college students in those days) the smokin’ Kawi provided rapid, attention-grabbing transportation from April to November around the University of Illinois campus. Being
on a bologna and mac-and-cheese budget, the only modifications I could afford were some chain lube and the removal of the three exhaust baffles. Oh yes! I had to push that bike a block from home before starting it in the morning, to avoid nasty neighborly yelling. On the throttle those unmuffled pipes provided an unforgettable
soundtrack to my travels. No bike has made me smile more.

The last bike that “changed my life” was a 1992 Honda CBR600F2. Screaming red with white stripes, this baby was the first bike that taught me my riding skills were no match for what I was riding. Despite years of riding experience, the F2’s handling inspired me to hone my skills with training and track days.


Like most veteran riders, I could go on and on about each and every bike I’ve owned, extolling its virtues and probably forgetting its faults. There was the Ninja 900 that seemed like it steered by telepathy. The Honda Nighthawk 750 that reliably carried me around much of the U.S. The Suzuki GS1000S that scared me silly with its amazing acceleration. And the SV650 that just does everything so well. But the diminutive SL125, the oily Kawasaki 350 triple, and the red Honda 600 stand out above the rest.

So, what bikes changed your life?


6 Responses to “Three Bikes That Changed My Life. Sort of.”

  1. That was a nice read,I just now subscribed to your feed.

  2. That was a great post,I count on many more post from you.

  3. it is really great to become a motorcycle lover, i collect different moyorcycles from different countries.,:`

  4. Thank you for your brilliant insight into a sport that few people seem to understand. I hear Dainese will be having their big annual sale in August again?

  5. Archie Hill says:

    i am a motorcycle fan and i am a collector too. motorcycles are really beautiful and a great mode of transport.“;

  6. my father and i loves to repair motorcycles, repairing motorcycles have been our way of life’-~

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