Folks that know me well know how long I’ve been plotting and scheming to find my youngest son Finn a motorcycle to ride.

Finn is the first of my three children that wanted to learn to ride badly enough that he lobbied both me and his mom to let him complete the MSF Beginning Rider Course, which he totally aced.

This development more or less put paid to any remaining flimsy excuses the parental units may have had to derail the Motorcycling Finn Locomotive.

So the hunt had been on in earnest for more than a couple of weeks.

My spec for a bike for the precious boy was fairly straightforward.

First, it had to be a smoking deal. In a perfect world, we’d have just plonked down 5 grand for a new Yamaha SR400, but that number is somewhere above 5 times our effective budget.

Second, it needed to be no more than two cylinders, and no more than 500 ccs displacement.

Third, it needed to be what people used to call a ‘standard motorcycle’ or, failing that, a dual sport. No cruisers, no racetrack refugee sportbikes, and no plastic wrap of any kind.

Lastly, it needed to have a disk front brake. Finn had tasted my drum-braked Slash 5, and made the icky face after that little taste.

Given that ‘Standard Motorcycles’ are as endangered as ‘Station Wagons’, ‘dial telephones’ and ‘film cameras’, I’d spent a lot of time looking at 60s, 70s and 80s Hondas like CB360s, VT500FTs, CM450s, CX500s and other oldies, like bunches of GS450 Suzukis, that fit the specification.

It had been a total horrorshow of ‘it ran when I parked its’, piles of rust described as projects, and people that thought that their pile of crap was worth 3 to 5 times the NADA book value.

Finn finally provided, as he usually does, concentrated Wisdom.

“I don’t need a project. I just need a motorcycle to ride.”

My virtual riding brother, Abhi Eswarappa, the Los Angeles-based publisher of Bike-curious, had turned me on to the essential riding goodness that is the Buell Blast. The Blast is a small, lightweight 483 cc single made from half a Sportster motor that features modern wheels, brakes and structure. Buell had created the bike to provide Harley Davidson dealerships with Fleets of unthreatening little motorcycles to use for their rider training courses.  Abhi had also featured one seller — as it turned out, one of many — that had purchased entire dealer fleets of 20-30 bikes when the program came to an end.

Against all odds,  Abhi’s featured seller was a Tag and Title Business in Joppa, Maryland — about 70 miles from my house and about 12 miles from my in-laws, where I find myself fairly frequently.

I’d spoken to the seller to construct the bones of a deal.

The next day, Jefferson had 38 inches of snow. That kind of balmy weather put thoughts of any motorcycling other than ice racing on hold for several weeks.

Last Thursday,  the weekend weather report showed Sunny and 65 for the coming Saturday. I called Dave the Title Guy and tried to set up an appointment for Saturday, when he was normally open from 8 am to noon.

“Naah. I’m not working Saturday this week. Give me a few more days advance notice and we’ll set something up.”

In short, he flaked.

When you have more than a few Buell Blasts to sell, and someone that wants to buy one, you should probably make the time.

Just sayin’.

In kinda a fugue state, I went back to the local Craigslists, and took a quick pass through the newest listings.

And in the Harrisburg Craigslist, there was a fresh listing for a 2002 Black Blast with 1790 original miles. It was bone stock, unmolested, uncrashed, and running. The seller was asking $1500.

I sent him a quick e-mail, sharing I had planned to buy a 2007 Blast for $1100, which was what Dave the Title Guy and I had discussed. I told him that my seller had flaked, and this bike was 5 years older, and that NADA was between $600-800. If his bike needed nothing to get through inspection, I’d go as high as $900.

Ten minutes later, my cel phone rang.

Saturday afternoon, I was standing with Finn, Sweet Doris from Baltimore, and Steve the Seller in a K-Mart parking lot in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, looking at this.


It looked like the bike had never been wet in its life.

The engine cases were so clean they looked like they’d never left the showroom floor. No road mung, no dirt, no seepage.

There were some minute scuffs on the plastic bodywork where folks had failed to get their boots across the tailsection when mounting, and a few more on the plastic tank cover, but other than the tank decals being missing, the bike was as delivered.

I asked Steve the Seller about the decals.

“They were purple, man.”

‘Nuff said.

I took the bike for a quick blast around Chambersburg. Throttle response was a little fluffy, but the bike shifted much better than I expected from Sportster bits, the brakes were excellent, and everything electrical worked.

We shook hands, exchanged an envelope with $900, and signed the papers.

I pulled on my ‘stich and rode it home.

On about 30 miles of interstate, it seemed happiest at around 63 mile per hour. Figuring that if you were a motorcycle that had averaged 127 miles a year during your lifetime, and had a tank full of varnish, I shouldn’t push my luck.


I got home without incident, got Finn geared up and chased him around the neighborhood on my Slash 5 just to give him a chance to ride his new bike.

Sure enough, he looks a lot more steady and lot more in command than I would expect from someone who has only ridden on the practice range and passengered on the back of my bike.  His posture and corner entries are sharp, and his overall control looks pretty good.

Unlike the near disowning my first motorcycle brought me, I hope to share what I know with him, and am really looking forward to riding together.

Finn doesn’t look the slightest bit displeased, either.


This morning I checked a few local dealers to try and get an inspection completed, and only Harley Davidson of Frederick works Mondays.

The bike, upon checking, had been a little low on motor oil, and I topped it up.

I finally ran all the stale fuel out of the tank, and replaced it with about 2 gallons of BP Premium.

With fresh fuel and enough oil, the Blast was transformed. It really thumped right along on throttle, and was able to keep pulling top gear as fast as any Blast ought to go.

The Inspector at HD of Frederick was amazed.

“You just don’t see these in this good a shape. Ones that have been sitting the auto-choke usually gums up from the bad fuel. Most of them have spent a fair amount of time on their sides. This one’s perfect. You’re one lucky dude.”

I don’t know about that.

But Finn certainly is.


7 thoughts on “Score!

    • Well, a couple of reasons.

      First, think of it as a form of purely analog traction control. 😉

      Think about the difference between the power delivery of an SR400 and a FZR400 and you’ll start to get some insight into my thinking. For the same displacement, every additional cylinder adds output and puts more output on the top end. To a brand new rider, that top end rush can be the difference between a proper setup for the next corner and performing non-scientific corn sampling.

      Second, Finn actually wanted a single. The lad is a bit of a different drummer dude like his ol’ man, and his first inclination was bikes like the SR and the Enfields.

      Last, there’s a bit of an open secret about bikes with lower horsepower numbers. Big motors make it easy to be really lazy in the corners — entrance speed too slow? Just whack the freaking throttle. As somebody that developed my real open road skills on a stock R75/5 — 50 HP on its best day — one realizes that good riding means conserving momentum from corner entrance all the way through exit. One of my favorite overused jokes is that old BMW guys don’t worry too much about speeding up coming out of corners because they know enough to never slow down on the way in.

      All up though, the intention was to de-emphasize horsepower and speed and provide an environment where things were not happening too quickly — to make the rolling physics problem work for him and not against him — and give my son a chance to figure out how motorcycling works without concern for tire smoking wheelies. There’s a very good reason why the UK and Japan use a tiered licensing system — I get it completely — this is mine.

  1. Finn, you are one lucky Dude to have a granpa to move you along to the motorcycle world I wish my Pop would have me get into the world of motorcycling with his blessing when I was kid. I have been riding for 50 years, it’s been the best part of my life. Be safe and have a blas. check out the green mountain rally in sept yea, bring the old man along;-00.

    • Thanks Ted. Gotta say that I really got gas about being called ‘Granpa’ 😉

      Finn is my youngest son.

      My dad basically disowned me when I told him I’d bought a motorcycle.

      I figured that if the boy was going to ride, better that I taught him as much as I can, than worry about him figuring things out the way that I had to… ouch! yow! etc… 😉

    • Today yes.

      Armored Jacket to follow.

      Also have two old ‘stiches afflicted with inexplicable shrinkage problems. Will send best one back to Duluth for rebuild. 😉

  2. Great choice for a 1st bike. When my son turned 16 we got him a Buell Blast (orange) for many of the same reasons. He had grown up on the back of a mc or in a sidecar. He had taken the MSF course, had full gear and was ready to go. Did a fair amount of local riding (Louisville, KY). His 1st real trip was when we trailered to South Dakota as a prelim to the Gillette Rally. Three days in SD. The smile on his face is forever engraved in my mind. He is now 24 years old, 6’2″+ tall and has long outgrown the Blast. Moved on to a GS. But he was ready for the larger bike because of what he had learned on the smaller bike. Hope he really enjoys it.

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