My love affair with motorcycles

I have been meaning to do this for a while, but never quite got around to it because of my time constraints. This page is about what probably is more than most of my hobbies, and they probably come pretty close after my family in terms of importance to me :-)

Disclaimer First of, parts of this page were written in the "heat of the moment" so some of the timing information here are quite off. I have tried to change some of the chronology information, but if I say "last month" somewhere, you should know that could be "last month" years ago. Some of the specs may also be inaccurate since they are from memory rather than from spec sheets.

The first one...

1989(?) Yamaha Rx100 - 100cc, 2stroke, single cyl, 3speed - 1991-1992

My very first bike was a Japanese import in India - one of the 100cc crazes (don't laugh - 100cc bikes are the most popular in India, and you don't really need more power than what they give you, and you can really use the good gas mileage). The Yamaha RX100 was the most powerful among the 100cc imports (Kawasaki Bajaj KB100, Hero Honda CB100, TVS Suzuki 100). It was a 2 stroke single cylinder bike - only 3 speeds, max speed of about 120 Km/hr (about 75 Miles/hr). Of course, the newer ones had 4 speeds, but this one only had three. Not that it made much of a difference though, since the second gear handled a pretty broad range of RPMs quite well.

[RX100]

I didn't have it for a long time, but it was enough to first give me the thrills of riding, especially during the ride from Dehradun to Mussoorie (about a 35 Km one way up the hill at about an average 15 degree gradient). I was doubtful if the RX100 can make it, but it went straight up without a hitch. Here is a picture from the trip - about half way up the mountain, at an overhang, with the friend (Chayan) who was riding with me. The ride took us about two hours going up, going at somewhat of a steady speed of 30Km/hr on second gear - we stopped a couple of times on pull-overs like this one to take some pictures. This was the summer of 1991 (long time ago - can't you tell from the picture?) Coming down was easier and faster, although it was somewhat more scary as well :-)


First bike in the US

1980 Yamaha SR250 "Exciter" - 4stoke single cyl 250cc - 1993-1998

After I came to the states, I still wanted to have a bike pretty badly, but it wasn't until the summer of 1993 that I had enough money saved up to buy one. I tried some of the bigger ones, but at my height, it was difficult to manage them - I still remember an embarrassing incident with a Ninja 900 (!) that I laid down while taking a U turn and couldn't pick her back up :-(

Anyhow, so I decided to start with a smallish bike, and with my good experience with Yamaha's, I went for another Yamaha, and boy am I glad I did! This was a 1980 Exciter I. Although manufactured in 1980, when I bought it, the bike only had about 4000 miles on it - over the five years I have put on another 13,500 miles, and it still is going strong, although I probably should sell it soon, before I get too attached.

[Yamaha Exciter I] This bike (shown in the this picture) is pretty similar to my RX100 that I had in India - it is also a 4 stroke, single cylinder bike. It is 250cc and has 5 speeds, with a max speed of about 85Mi/hour. Its not a big bike by any means, but it does have good pickup and a very nice upright riding posture.

The most exiting ride I took with this bike is my 1994 internship trip to Philadelphia. From Bloomington, IN to Philadelphia, PA is about 850 miles - a pretty long ride even on a car. Obviously, I did not even dare do this in one day, so I planned my trip, spaced it out over three days, and took my time. I took as few interstates as I could, using backroads and state highways instead, and enjoyed the ride for the first couple of days. At the end, however, especially the leg from Pittsburgh to Philly - things got tiring, and I just wanted to get it over with - coupled by the fact that SR40 was closed - I decided to take the Penna Turnpike and just "get there". It was tiring, but I think it was worth it. The most unfortunate thing about it all was that I did not have my camera on that trip, since my bag was already too full and I just could not strap anything more in the back seat :-(

Everyone said I was crazy, doing the interstates on a 250cc bike, and I probably was crazy back then, but I loved it. I probably wouldn't mind doing it again, but I don't think I will ever have the time and energy.... [Exciter I, alternate view]

And here is another view of the bike (slightly overexposed, sorry :-(

Some specifications from the owner's manual: (well I had good intentions of copying all that stuff down here, but before that happened, I ended up selling it). So sorry about that. Like I said earlier, it wasn't a big fast machine, just a regular 4 stroke 2 cylinder engine, 250cc, about 250lb dry weight, 5 speeds. Thats about it. Oh by the way - this bike had a horn that was louder than even my car!

It wasn't a dream bike by any stroke of the imagination, but it served me well for almost five years, and stood by me in good and bad times, and other than one scary incident on the Penna turnpike where the rear brake totally lost its braking power (obviously, an almost worn shoe which took about $40 to fix) it never ever broke down on me. When I sold it, the rear tire was almost worn and needed replacing very soon, and the chain only had one notch to go. But these are just from use, and I did use it well. I don't think I will have another bike for that long. Thank you, exciter!

To whoever bought the bike - if you are reading this - I hope you will take good care of it :-)


My Bandit

1992 Suzuki GSF400 "Bandit" - 4stroke 4cyl 400cc - 1998-2000

Well, I still haven't gotten around to selling the Exciter, and I still ride it, but a month ago I decided it was time for something bigger and faster, so I indulged and got myself my new bad boy Bandit. This is the Suzuki GSF400 Bandit. It is truly a more exciting bike than my exciter, and although so far I haven't really taken it for any exciting rides even close to the ones I took my RX100 and exciter, I hope some day I will have enough time to do that, maybe once.

If you went to the GSF400 page above, you probably know how this bike looks like. Frankly, I don't know if it comes in any other color, since all the pictures of this model I have seen are in the Suzuki cherry red. Just to satisfy your curiosity, though, here is a side-on picture of the bike.

I bought the bike from someone who had not used it for a long time (possibly around 6 months). So when I got it, it was in a pretty bad shape, in spite of having only about 3.2K miles on it! The battery was dead, the carbs where plugged, and the gas tank was pretty badly rusted inside! I wonder if the tank ever took in water. Anyway, after cleaning out the tank and replacing the spark plugs myself (have never seen spark plugs so black in my life before), and obviously putting in a new battery, the bike would start, but it would have a lot of trouble revving up to 8K RPM, first gear was really jumpy. So I decided to have the carbs cleaned, and I am glad I did, although it cost me $175 (!). Oh well, but the bike runs real smooth now, and revs straight up to the 10K mark with no hitch (although I hardly ever go beyond 8k - don't want a ticket you know :-). Last month one of the front forks started leaking oil, so I had to spend another hundred to get it sealed. Trouble with this bike is that any time I take it to the shop, I end up spending over a hundred bucks :-( - unlike the exciter, the max I spent was probably $80 on it when I got the brake replaced and oil/filter changed etc. Oh well.

Either way, this bike IS a lot of fun. It has a very smooth pick up, and goes as fast as I legally can go. The wind is kinda bothersome at high speeds, but the bike rock stable, almost zero vibration. Although it has a very nice sporty look, it is very well designed, and has almost an erect sitting posture, with the fuel tank carved for the legs! The console has the regular indicators with oil, temp, turn, neutral and high beam indicators. A single turn indicator is a little sloppy, with both my last two bikes having double turn indicators, but I am not complaining. The meters are circular and look a little old-style, but they are nice - a tachometer and a speedometer with odometer and trip-meter built-in (pretty standard).

One nice feature on this bike is the side-stand detector - although the console does not have an indicator for it, if you put the bike in gear with the side stand down, it will kill the engine. A little pain sometimes, but adds a lot of safety to the bike. I hope to add a fairing on the bike some day, but I think that will damage the nice clean look of the bike, so I am not sure if I will.

The main gripe about this bike that I have is its lack of internal storage areas, even for things like registration etc. The toolbox is under the rear seat, which needs to be taken off by getting a couple hex-screws off (obviously you will need a hex screwdriver for that, but how are you going to carry it? I ended up attaching a pocket under the front seat to store important papers, and of course a hex screw driver :-) The exciter was quite nice in this respect. A nice almost water-tight compartment under the seat that could store the manual and other papers, and a very easily accessible toolbox. I guess you can't ask for and get everything....

But, given everything, This bike is a lot of fun. Of course, it is only fun as long as you are safe. To me, safety is very important - always wear decently protective clothes and shoes, always wear a helmet, and be careful. People do not see bikes very well - so be prepared for unexpected behavior from other drivers. Most accidents usually happen not because of your fault, but because someone did not see you or thought they could make it before you got there.

Here is me, on my bandit, on our driveway. Does this look like I am having fun?

....................................

Years have passed since I wrote the above, but unfortunately the beautiful bandit is no more. I never thought this love affair would end in a tragedy, so I never had the drive to write about it, but now somehow I have the drive again, so here goes.

The "Accident" - Feb 17, 2000

In my 9 years of riding my bikes, I have laid a couple of them down a couple of times, I have had a few scratches and bruises, but I guess they are occupational hazards or riding :) But I had never laid my bandit down - and during my very hard days, the Bandit was a true friend. But when I moved to Atlanta and started riding it regularly on the interstates to and fro from work, I sometimes would think this may not be such a good idea, until it became a reality on Feb 17, 2000.

I was coming home from work - about 7:30 PM - Thursday night - typical Atlanta rush hour - merged into the interstate, and hoping to get to the express lane - I was still at the rightmost lane on the 75-85 connector (at downtown that is six lanes of traffic each way), with exits probably about every third of a mile. Unfortunately there are people who don't believe in going to the next exit, and then turning back if they miss an exit, and I guess this blue Pontiac right next to me realized she had to make her exit and so switched right to my lane. My front wheel made contact, and at that speed (35-40 mph I believe - traffic was bad, so we weren't going speed limit - thankfully) that was a pretty rough blow. My handlebars started shaking - I braked but then my rear wheel started fishtailing, and at that moment I had realized that my life was more important than my bandit, so I jumped off, rolled off the interstate to the ramp, and watch in my horror the bike screeching across the connector.

Well, I was okay thanks to all my protective clothing, only broke one finger in that fall - called 911, and the paramedics were quick to come and right away strap me up on a stretcher, in spite of my telling them I was fine. I guess they had a job to do. The police came and took my statement - the other car had stopped, but somehow in spite of the witnesses who stopped, no witness statement was taken, and no fault was established, so Progressive had me at the wrong end of their stick, they gave me what the bike was worth in the market, and that was the end. They first thought that the bike was repairable, or so it looked, but the garage said apparently the computerized measurements revealed the forks were bent and they had to replace both of them.

When I realized I was not getting her back, I went to the garage to see my bandit one last time, took some of these pictures, and kissed her goodbye. Even at the end she looked beautiful. I thought that would be the end of my motorcycling life....

Goodbye, Bandit.

















The GSF500

2001 Suzuki GS500 - 4 stroke twin cylinder 500cc 2001-?

Well, although I thought the Bandit would be the last bike I would ever own, through a strange bit of life's tricks, I came back to Bloomington, and found myself strangely hankering for the years of biking here. I lived 7 years in Bloomington before leaving, and during six of those years I had a bike. So... I bought myself a birthday present and got a brand new GS500K1 - probably its blue color reflect some of my moods.

Although bigger than the bandit, the GS500's air-cooled twin cylinder engine with a six-speed transmission is about the same in specification as the Bandit. Its probably the only bike I test drove that was a sporty bike with a fairly erect sitting posture (I hate leaning so far on the modern sport bikes). So I liked it when I tried it out, and so there you go - bike # 4. Its a fairly nice bike, although not nearly as exciting as the Bandit, which is might as well. I bought it when it had 0 miles on it, and now it has about 700 miles on it, but nothing exciting or out of the ordinary yet. But its a fun machine - have taken it to all the lakes in Bloomington, and the Yellowwood state forest. Its all about nostalgia I guess.

I guess the story is ongoing - I will write more when things happen.


Last modified: Sun Dec 2 10:55:53 EST 2001