I’ve always loved Triumph motorcycles. The Bonneville’s, the old Triumph Tigers and who doesn’t love the 1950 Triumph Thunderbird 6T? It’s a work of art. Something about the lines of the tank, the way the fenders wrap around the wheels, the pea shooter muffler and the chrome spoked wheels speak to a time when designers took chances. There wasn’t a sea of sameness that seems to dominate our options today. In fact, most of the head-turning models today are models from the 50’s 60’s and 70’s. Nostalgia perhaps or did we get it right back then? Probably a little of both but mostly the latter.
My first bike was a 1977 KZ1000 A1. I was eighteen years old. Not the bike you should probably learn on. I bought it from a friend who let me pay him $100 a month until I paid it off. Maybe the best $1000 I have ever spent. It was a fantastic bike. I don’t think I ever changed the oil on that bike, just got on it and twisted the throttle.
A KZ 1000 with a 4 in 1 Kerker header has a unique sound. It’s not a growl or a roar but a high-pitched scream. I miss that bike and lament that I never took a picture of it. Tear drop shaped gas tank, straight bars and the closest thing to a rocket you could legally license. It was the fastest production bike made in 1977. I sold that bike in college when I started to do stupid things on it and had to pay for another semester of school. Seemed like a good idea at the time and it probably saved my life. I decided I would wait until my frontal lobe fully developed and then get back into riding.
Fast forward 17 years and the itch for a motorcycle takes hold once more. It’s an itch that needs a scratch. I find myself on Ebay bidding on a 1970 Bonneville located in Phoenix. The bike has been completely restored and is a beauty. It’s all I can focus on. I set my bid limit to $10k only to find out I lose last second to someone who was willing to spend a grand more than I was or knew how to more effectively manage bid limits. I was crushed as I had already pictured myself flying from Chicago to pick it up and riding back on the Mother road. I would have spent that extra money for the experience alone in retrospect. I’m sure whoever “won” that bike was feeling the same.
Next thing you know I am spending more time online than I should dreaming of a new bike. I convince myself that it’s probably safer to get a newer model with better brakes. After all, as a father of five children, it will be easier to convince my wife. Damn marketing folks at Triumph have done a good job too. The Bonneville T100 has that classic look and reminds me of that 1970 I imagined myself on. It’s even less expensive for a “safer” bike. That leather jacket looks like it might fit too. Need a good leather jacket if you’re going to ride. Picture yourself on a bike near the river…. I’ve always been good at turning wants into needs.
Now I just need to convince my wife that this is a good idea. Hmmm…I decide that is probably not going to work. Probably better to just buy it and show up with it? Seems like a sound strategy. Well, I still have the bike and I’m still married so I guess it worked although it was a little bumpy at first.
Determined that now is the time to pull the trigger, I call up the dealership that happens to be about two miles from one of the train stops on my way home. “Do you have a Bonneville in claret red on the showroom floor? They do. Next thing you know I am hopping off the train at the Villa Park stop fifteen miles before I’m supposed to get off. Well, it didn’t take long for my better half to share with her friends what her husband just rode home on. I’m out in the driveway admiring my new ride and a friend walks over from three doors over and says with a beer in his hand, “I am so glad I have a friend like you.” Guess I made him look better in his wife’s eyes by association. It was a get out of jail free card for him. He told me “I can’t do anything wrong for a while” with a smile on his face.
For the next five or so years, I would joke with my non-riding friends that they needed to buy a bike as I was starting a motorcycle club in the Fox river valley. There would be jokes about “Wild Hogs” and occasionally a proposed name for the imagined club. It was all talk until a couple of guys bought bikes. HC John already had one and had been riding longer than any of us.
Funny thing is we aren’t really a club. Just a group of guys that like to ride and have set our sights on riding to Alaska this Summer. We did have a little fun thinking of different names for our group. A friend who has participated in several of these bourbon induced discussions offered up his opinion on naming the club. “I have a name for our motorcycle club, ” he said with conviction and emphasis on theater. “We will be the Handsome Chaps and our ladies will be our Sassy Lassies.” Thanks, Tom….you look good in bright pink.
Handsome Chaps Motorcycle Club was born. Can’t wait for my cut and my frontal lobe to fully develop.