So after a long time away from bike ownership, I took the plunge.
Thanks to my amazing wife, she encouraged me to "invest".
Over the past few years, I've had a chance to ride different bikes, mostly loaners from friends and dealers.
For example, a friend almost gave away motorcycling because of a bad back. He offered me the use of his Harley 1500 Springer.
Many years ago, well, a long time ago when I was only a teenager, a mate I worked with, had an ex-US army Harley 750 (from memory). He gave me a quick loan, just up and down the street. Straightaway, I was taken by the low seat and oodles of torque. My bike at the time was an SL125 Honda, so anything bigger than that was going to leave me impressed.
When my friend gave me the use of his Springer for a few weeks, how could I say No?
Oddly enough, prior to that, I'd recently purchased some gear. I had a helmet, jacket and gloves and my wife had a set too. Maybe the yearning for a bike had been festering longer than I thought.
For a freebie, the Harley was nice but long term ownership I knew, would leave me dissatisfied.
It was fast enough, but honestly, it felt agricultural and lacking in refinement. Two-up, it was OK, but the frame twisted in corners and the exhaust noise got really annoying. I know you Harley guys are going to say I've missed the point, but each to their own. I was kinda happy to give it back, but grateful for his generosity.
The one thing that stuck with me was the yearning.
A few months later, my Harley mate phoned. He said his back was greatly improved and wondered if my wife and I would like a weekend away with him and his wife. He offered to loan me his bike because he had a weekend loaner, an Indian Chief Vintage. Again, how could I say No? We had a great weekend, touring through the Gold Coast hinterland one day, then the NSW North Coast the next. We stopped often for coffee breaks and stayed at comfortable accommodation. The weather was perfect. The Springer didn't miss a beat, and we even enjoyed the agricultural, noisy ride. We rode a part of the way on the Indian, enough to appreciate the comfort and nostalgia of the big 1800 thumper. Sitting in the calm air behind the big screen, laid back in the cruising seats was a great experience.
And the yearning grew.
In January this year, I travelled to Tasmania on business. My youngest son lives there and said, "Hey Dad, wanna go for a ride with me?" I admit to a tinge of jealousy. He earns better money than me, is less than half my age and owns a bike. When he was living at home in Brisbane, he bought his first bike, a Honda CBR250 Repsol replica. It was his LAMS bike. The thing had an 18,000rpm redline. I was amazed how willingly it wanted to rev. Over 10,000rpm, it seemed to hit a power-band and would just bolt. He crashed it several times; low-speed stuff but it worried me enough to be glad he eventually sold it. We worked on it together, putting the fairing back together or replacing engine covers. I rode it a few times and it was a heap of fun. It was easy to see its racing heritage. It liked to rev and could take corners with confidence.
In Tasmania, we hooked up on a Saturday. His Tassy bike is a Kawasaki 250 Dominator. His wife's uncle kindly loaned me his BMW F650GS. We spent a few very pleasant hours on the back roads around Launceston. We stopped for fish and chips and talked motorcycle. Again the weather was gorgeous.
The style of roads are narrow and curvy with good surfaces. My son's familiarity with his bike and the roads, made it hard to keep up with his scratch riding, even though I had the bigger bike. The Beemer had it all over the little Kawasaki on the straights, feeling stable and confident. If you tried really hard, you could squeeze 120kph out of the Kwaka. The stiffness of the frame and stability of the Beemer spoke of its engineering quality.
And I think that was the final straw.
Soon after getting back to Brisbane, I was looking on bikesales.com.au at the range of BMWs. An F800ST at the local bike shop caught my eye, so I dropped in for a bo-peep. With the panniers and sport touring looks, I had to take a test ride. As soon as I threw a leg over, it felt right. I'd only travelled a few meters and its size and power disappeared into a bike that was nimble, willing and agile. I loved the confidence it gave me to throw it around and twist the throttle.
I did a bit of research, the price was right and determined I had to have it. It just needed the thumbs-up from domestic management. While talking with the sales guy, I mentioned about my long-term dream to own a BMW R1200RT. It happened they had that bike at another store and if I came back on the weekend, he'd arrange to have it there for me. I wasn't intending to buy; just wanted to experience a bit of dreaming. Our main interest though was the 800.
Good to his word, there was a beautiful silver 2008 RT, waiting to be test ridden. My wife was happy to come along to see how it felt for her.
It felt like a really big bike and I was nervous, the extra bulk of my wife making riding a bit tricky for a first time. The sales guy told us to go for as long as we liked. I reckon we rode about 50km. It was easy to see why the motorcycling journalists, rate this bike so highly. For me, it's simply got the goods. Smooth, powerful, effortless cruising and bristling with the bits that make it a fully equipped tourer. My wife enjoyed the pillion position just as much.
I came away from the test ride, very satisfied but not really placing the bike as a serious purchase.
So we stepped onto the F800ST. From the moment we took off, we knew this wasn't going to be suitable for two of us. My wife was crammed up against me and to stay secure, had to lean into me. It put weight on my arms and was uncomfortable for her. Holding the grab rails behind her, wasn't a comfortable option either.
If I could own a bike for a weekend run or a trip for bread and milk, this would suit me fine. But for two of us, it didn't cut the mustard.
The RT was out of my price range, but with a bit of help from the bank, that's how I'm getting back on the road.