The Two Percent

You’re absolutely sure you know where I’m going with this.

I’m just as sure you’re absolutely wrong.

This isn’t some tale of the ‘More-Money-Than-Sense’ Club.

It isn’t some paean to how the other half — OK so the math has changed — the other whatever the percentage is now lives.

No, I’m just like you, buddy. No Thurston Howell III action, here.

Its not the 1% with all the money vs. the 99%.  That 1% isn’t growing and is never going to get any where even remotely close to 2%

It’s something else altogether.



Shopping for motorcycles is a very personal thing.

If you’re like me, the process is highly revelatory in a multitude of surprising ways.

The process of “what-is-it-on-two-wheels-that-i-like?” will shine a light on your engineering sensibilities, your personality, your sense of aesthetics,  your personal economics, the core of you that somehow balances function vs. form, the spiritual vs. the material, the part of you that embraces and envelops a tool and makes it a tranparent part of you — a thing that you operate without having to think.

And if, like me, you’re doing this with an eye towards a bike for one’s precious son,  it picks up another dimension. Some accomodation for his aesthetic. Simplicity. Tractability. Ease of use.

And there ain’t a lot of that about.

About 2%, by my estimation.




Another Day. Another Craiglist scan.

Most of it is just crap.

“Sick, Sick, Siiiiick R1. Custom Flat Black Paint Job.”

A crasher.


“Harley Davidson FLHXTRMUI Ultra Custom”

Lead sled blingy dresser.


“Stretched Slammed Rodded Ruckus. $9K”

Drag racing scooter, asking double price of new.

Nope and Nope.

A million japanese plastic wrapped sportbikes, high end euro tech tourers and ADV bikes, a million Harleys of various stripes. How many GSXRs and Hayabusas can there be, and why are they ALL for sale?

When my son Finn first saw a new Royal Enfield Continental GT, it was as if a great big relay had slammed shut, and delivered the full voltage of the elemental motorcycle experience to someone who had never really taken any notice of motorcycles previously.

Imagine it: A deeply finned chunky single cyinder air cooled engine, two spoked wheels, a long low tank, painted red, and a 3/4 saddle with a cafe style bum stop. You can see blue sky by being able to look straight though to other side of the bike, all around the engine, and above the rear wheel. Everything is made of metal.

continental gt

When the word ‘motorcycle’ flickers through your mind, this is the picture that flickers in with it. Two Wheels, handlebars, tank and a motor. If there’s some sort of International Signage Symbol for ‘motorcycle’, this is what it looks like.

Think Norton Manx.

There are so very few motorcycles that look like that any more.

More importantly, there are very few motorcycles that work like that anymore. Single cylinder or small displacement twins –high torque engines. Low weight and low width. Minimal electronics, and simple mechanical systems — easy to visualize, access, repair and maintain.

So if, you’re cruising the tubes of the global internetwork, most of what you see offered for sale is so much pure crap. Thousands of tons of plastic, chrome and electronics that might as well be a chest freezer or a game console before it will be something that will find itself stuck under the bum of anyone named Shamieh.

But all is not lost.

Only about 98% is.

If you keep clicking on things, eventually you’ll find this — what looks to be a fairly complete, original, straight appearing, unmolested, running 1966 Honda dream.



Probably nearly perfect to learn on.

How much money and garage space do we have? How much do we love ignition points and drum brakes? And who will attempt to explain this to Sweet Doris from Baltimore?

Serious questons all.

Let’s see what else is out there.

(Significant time elapses. Myriad plastic and blingy things are discarded.)


More Honda Flesh.

This one a 1973. Really pretty. Stylish High Pipe.

More money. Still a points/drums bike. Better be on the lookout for a Dyna electronic ignition kit.

cl350Repeat. How much money, etc.

Let’s see what else is out there.

(Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Be one with time. )

A 78 Suzuki. A GS series twin. Doris owned one of these for a little while. It was nice and quick. Perhaps too quick for ‘the littlest one of all’. Hmm.  Still, this one looks really nice. Has disk brake! Still more money, though.

GS400Roll on.

(Pages from the calendar fly away, as if blown by the wind….)

Ohhhh, my.

Honda again — a 1984. This could be a really easy bike to live with and to keep running.  My college riding buddy Doug had the 700 cc version of this motor — a modern, 3 valve engine with auto-adjusting valves.  Light, narrow.  I think I’m in love.

VT500Is it too quick for my puppy? Am I being over protective about this? Am I being underprotective by not being willing to be a hypocritical jerk about the idea of Finn riding?

More serious questions.

(Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. That is the sound my boxers make when they’re up on the pipe out on the highway. )

Ooooh. Pure bike porn. Red. Shiny.

KRSWhat the hell is that doing in here?  Focus, man. You’re departing from the thread.

No bikes for you. Bikes for Boy.

(Theme music up and under.)

Hmmmm.  This prolly fits the bill. A CT100….complete and a runner. Like the C90 that Ed March has been riding around the world. More than once. Not sexy, but functional. Puppy friendly. Easy to understand. Indestructable.

ct110Have you ever seen the Discovery Channel’s “10 Greatest Ever Motorcycles”? Number 1 is the Honda Cub.

Spoiler alert. They throw one off a building. It still runs.

Did I menton it’s cheep? And it is,  against all odds, located in my very small rural town.

I dunno. Maybe we could get the CT100 and the Ascot.

And the KRS.


How much money do we have?

And who the hell is going to try to explain this to Doris?

Very serious questions, indeed.


4 thoughts on “The Two Percent

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