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klaviator

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Those where the days my friend....

That was the title of a song by Mary Hopkin that came out in 1968. Yes some of us were around back then. If you remember this song then you are old! I took the liberty of modifying the lyrics a bit to fit this ride report.

… Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd ride and ride forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd ride and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days

I think many of you are like me. You have been riding for a long time. Its not the same as it used to be. Remember those days when riding was an all new adventure? Remember when we were immortal and would be able to ride forever?

I still remember.

I remember how it all started. It probably started the same way for me as it did for you, with a bicycle. Actually it was more than one bicycle as I had several. What a revelation. I could go much faster than I could run and I could go much farther. The problem is that pedaling could get tiring. Going up hills was no fun. Going downhill was much more fun. Why couldn't all roads just go downhill?

There was a solution. It was called a motorcycle. Wouldn't that be so cool. Some of us put cards on our bikes so that the spokes would hit them when we rode and it kind of sounded like a motorcycle.

But it didn't get us up those hills any faster.

Some kids in the neighborhood had mini bikes. You might remember them. Briggs and Stratton lawnmower engine, centrifugal clutch, no gears and only a rear brake that was very crude.

Something like this:

vintage-1970s-ruttman-mini-bike-minibike-tecumseh-4hp-americanlisted_29931619.jpg


One really lucky guy had one of these:

Honda-CT70-Left-Side.jpg


I really lusted after that Honda but would have been happy with a plain mini bike. My parents wouldn't let me get one. I guess those were not the days.....................yet!

Those days are coming up..........
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klaviator

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I had a friend who I will call Bob because , well, his name was Bob. He was even more into motorcycles than me but he didn't have one either. What he had was an old bicycle, a running lawnmower engine and some angle iron and miscellaneous nuts, bolts and tools. He figured he could build a powered bicycle and I was there to help. We managed to get that engine mounted on the bicycle. The hard part was figuring out some way to get the power back to the back wheel. We tried to rig a belt but after numerous tries we gave up. But Bob had an idea. We lived in a hilly neighborhood. We pushed that bike to the highest point around, started up the engine and he just coasted through the hood with the engine making plenty of noise. At least it looked like he had a running motor powered bicycle!

Bob's dad was a cop. One day he responded to a traffic accident. Some young guy had crashed his motorcycle. The guys dad was there and wanted the motorcycle gone so he offered it to Bob's dad who brought it home and gave it to Bob. Now Bob had a real motorcycle. It was a Sears 106.

sears+rightprofile.jpg


We were too young to legally ride it on the street but that didn't stop Bob. He gave me a few rides on the back cruising around the hood. We had some woods nearby. Today land is either private property or some kind of park or maybe national or state forest. I have no idea what this was. It was just woods. There were some trails in the woods. We went there and Bob showed explained the throttle, clutch, shifter and brakes and let me ride it. I think I rode it a couple of times for maybe 10-15 minutes each. It wasn't much but I got the basic idea of how to ride a motorcycle.

Some time later bob was riding around on the street and got pulled over for not wearing a helmet. Duh! That was real smart. Once he got pulled over they found out he was underage and had no drivers license. Since his day was a cop he didn't get into any official trouble but his dad got rid of the bike.

Bummer. My riding days came to an end when they had hardly started. Back to riding a bicycle.

I had no idea that some years later this would be me:

wknudsen_OLD%20PICS%20AND%20SCANS_fj5_zpsc825a8f1.jpg


Now those were the days my friend!

How did I get from a bicycle to an FJ1100?

Stay tuned.
 
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klaviator

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One day in the late 70 I was in a store and a motorcycle magazine caught my eye so I bought it. Soon I bought another.......and another. I started lusting after getting a motorcycle. Finally in 1980 I had some money in the bank and decided it was time to buy one. I thought a used Honda CB350 or Kawasaki KZ400 would be a good way to start. I looked through the classified ads in the newspaper. For you younger readers, back then there was no Craig's list, facebook marketplace or other online place to buy stuff. Why? Well the fact that there was no internet might have something to do with it.

The first bike I found was a 1976 KZ400. I went and looked at it. It wasn't really what I wanted. It was a dull black, had drum brakes and no tach. The asking price was $670. I should have looked some more but I was young and impatient. I didn't have a motorcycle license so I had the owner take me for a ride so I could see if it ran OK. I paid full asking price and he delivered it to my home.

It didn't take me long too get a learners permit and buy a helmet. Now I was officially a motorcycle rider. I wish I had taken more pics back then but in that day there were no digital cameras. You bought film, which wasn't cheap. and then once you took all the pics on the roll you had to take them somewhere to get developed. So I only got one pic of my KZ400.

1-X2.jpg


Note the "ATTGATT". I bought the helmet with a bubble shied from a local department store. I figured it would be more comfortable if it was a little loose. When I turned my head at speed the wind would catch that bubble shield rotate the helmet on my head.

Tennis shoes, jeans and T shirt completed my riding gear. If it was cold I added a nylon windbreaker that would really flap around in the wind. At least I was ahead of my time with Hi Vis yellow. If it was really cold I added some gloves and a sheatshirt under that jacket.
 

10-96

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I started off riding a Sears minibike with a rear tire scrub brake, in the late 60's. Great memories. We built a dirt track on a vacant lot and raced those minibikes year after year, until we got to big. Fun times indeed.
 

klaviator

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I started off riding a Sears minibike with a rear tire scrub brake, in the late 60's. Great memories. We built a dirt track on a vacant lot and raced those minibikes year after year, until we got to big. Fun times indeed.

Late 60s and early 70 is when I remember those minibikes being popular. They seem to be making a comeback as they are available at places like Wally World but I haven't seen hardly any. Probably people buy them if they have land to ride on or are in a rural area. When I was growing up i was in the Cleveland city limits and kids rode them on the street all the time. It was illegal but it was a different time. Those were the days! Today I rarely see kids riding bicycles around the neighborhood let alone something motorized.

Early this year we had some snow in Alabama and I rode to a local park. There was a guy there riding a poorly running mini bike. It brought back memories.

P1030168%20%282%29-X2.jpg
 

klaviator

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So I finally owned a motorcycle. By today's standards it wasn't much but keep in mind that it was my first bike and i wasn't spoiled yet. It felt incredibly powerful. Twist the throttle and hang on because it accelerated way faster than anything I was used to. The area I lived in had very low speed limits. Most of the roads around me were 25 - 35 MPH. At those speeds the KZ400 was pretty quick. Get on the highway and it wouldstart to vibrate like a jackhammer at around 63 MPH. Of course back then we had a 55MPH national speed limit so that wasn't that big of a deal.

I bought the bike to ride to the park and local roads on sunny weekend days. I was soon riding it every where. My cars sat in the driveway gathering dust.....and rust.:D

I was regularly reading motorcycle magazines. I read the articles and saw the pics of riders in SoCal riding around curves, leaned way over and hanging off the bike. So of course I went out and tried doing the same thing on the few curvy roads we had and of course those freeway on and off ramps:ricky

One day I was riding down one of the local 25MPH roads and of course I might have been going a "bit" over that speed and got pulled over by a motor cop. He looked at my drivers license and saw that I lived in that city so he just gave it back to me and let me go. The city I live in was notorious for ticketing out of town drivers.

I remember having a great feeling I got anytime I was on the bike. Where I used to look at motorcycle riders in envy as they rode by, now I was that guy. I was so cool, or so I thought
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Actually I think I was a squid in training but I don't think that word as related to motorcycling had been invented yet either.

Those were the days......
 

klaviator

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It didn't take long before I was lusting after bigger and better bikes. It's not that there was anything wrong with the bike I had but I kept reading those motorcycle magazines. I doubt that any of you can relate but that's how it was:lol3

Then my KZ400 started running badly. One day it just died on the road and my dad came with his old pickup truck. We managed to lift it into the truck without a ramp. We didn't have much to tie it down with. I think I put it on the sidestand and just sat in the bed and held on to it:loco

I was working at the time and had some money so this was the excuse I needed to start looking for another bike. One of the hot bikes at the time and the one I really lusted after was:

Kawasaki-GPz550-Right-Side.jpg


I went to the local Kawasaki dealer. The GPZ550s were all sold out. I asked about the KZ550 but they didn't seem interested in selling me one of those either:(

Time for plan B......
 

klaviator

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I headed over to the local Yamaha/ Suzuki shop. The people there were much friendlier than at the Honda/ Kawasaki dealer. The Kawasaki dealer was Rick Case who would go on to be a really big car dealer.

The salesman at the Suzuki dealer reminded me of Isaak, the bartender on the Love Boat:lol3 They had a Suzuki GS550E left over from the previous year that they were willing to give me a good deal on. I don't remember the exact price but it was under MSRP plus tax. There were no high fees like you find today. So I bought my first ever brand new machine.

What a Rocket compared to the KZ400. It was a four cylinder that needed to be revved. There wasn't much low end torque but once it hit the powerband it took off!

OK, it wasn't all that fast by today's standard but according to the Cycle World test it was as fast through the quarter mile as a Porsche Turbo of that time:wings

Was that important? Yeah, it was to me. It was cool knowing that that (theoretically) I could blow away just about any car through the quarter mile:deal

I added a Luggage rack and some lower handlebars. just like my KZ400, I rode the 550 everywhere; school, work, and fun rides on the weekends. I practiced hanging off on the inside just like I saw the magazine guys do.
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One day I took my favorite off ramp at my normal speed but without hanging off and quickly heard the dragging of metal parts on the pavement:
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I discovered that the hanging off was not just to look cool.

I did a lot of local rides but I was planning on a longer ride so I added some saddlebags later. The only pics I took of the bike were after I added the saddlebags.

Picture179-XL.jpg


Note my high end riding gear:lol3

Picture180-M.jpg
 

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This is a great story. Those were the days. I was on a similar rode. We lived on a corner and one of my first memories was a guy on a KZ650 wiping out in our garden. I thought it was the coolest thing ever and wanted a bike forever afterwards. (He lived). In 1980 with KFC dollars in hand I bought a new 1980 Yamaha RD400G. It was awesome and the Ladies loved it! After being run over by a '73 Newport I really badly wanted the GPZ550 but bought the Stupid, Stupid Yamaha 550 Vision in March '82. Ugg what a mistake. Afterwards I did the right thing and bought the '81 Yamaha RD350LC (which I still have). The 350 blew that stupid Vision into the weeds.
Many bikes followed, but the early 1980's were a great time. Every month the new Motorcyclist mag would rave about the new models that made your bike look like garbage.
Now when I start my RD350LC and smell the 2 stroke oil I am brought back to that great time I had in my late teens.
Those were the days, send me back!
 

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SandRdr

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As a poor broke working college student in the 80s, I lusted after that Gpz. Recently married, the wife knew I wanted a bike, she tried forever to get her dad's honda 450 that had been moth balled for years. She comes home one day and says an older teacher has a bike I can have for $100, just come get it. Low n behold I open her shed and here sits a 72 Yamaha XS 650, it had 300 miles on it, my life felt complete!
 

klaviator

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As I mentioned, the GS550E was my first new machine. I had only owned one car and that was used. While I lusted after the GPZ550, for the riding I was doing the GS was just fine. According to Cycle World it had a top speed of a little over 100. I tried to do that but I developed a bad weave in the high 90s so after a few attempts I gave up.
I loved the motor and how it came on the cam. The only thing I didn't like was that the steering was much heavier than the KZ. It wasn't has much fun at lower speeds.

In 1982 I graduated from college with a degree in mechanical engineering. The problem was that I really didn't feel I was qualified to actually be an engineer. I didn't have a clue what engineers even did

I had a friend living in New Orleans who told me they where hiring a lot of engineers in the New Orleans area for the oil industry and that I should come down there.

I had never been in the South and was ready for a change so I decided it was time for a road trip. My car was a rust bucket and two wheels would be much more fun than a cage so......

Picture181-XL.jpg


In the summer of 1982 I loaded up my Suzuki and headed south. Note the high tech luggage!

Before this I don't think I had ridden more than about 50 miles away from home. This would be quite an adventure.

I still remember a little from this trip. It was very hot. Most of it was just boring highway riding. I do remember that at the end of the first day I found a room at a motel 6 for $15.95. It was hot so I wore my full face helmet with the shield removed and some tinted safety glasses for eye protection. I had never done a really long ride before and the wind noise started getting to me. I think I used some toilet paper to made some crude ear plugs.

This was back before GPS. I'm sure I took some maps along. The route was pretty easy. Just a few interstates to New Orleans I do remember that when I got to Birmingham the interstate didn't do through and I had to detour on some regular roads for several miles.

I rode into New Orleans on day two in the middle of an intense thunderstorm.

So that was my first long trip on a bike. Not exactly what I would consider real fun today because interstates aren't my idea of fun riding. Back then it was a real adventure.
 

klaviator

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That had to be an awesome time in your life?
It should have been but......it actually sucked. I went to New Orleans because a friend who had moved there told me the Oil Industry was hiring engineers and I would have no problems finding a job. That might have been true in 1981 but when I went down in 82 the oil industry was in a slump. So I ended up working a couple of shitty jobs. On top of that New Orleans was a terrible place to ride. The traffic sucked, the roads sucked and the weather sucked. On top of that my bike was stolen a couple of months after I got there.

Did I mention New Orleans sucked?

I'm still glad I went there. I think my life would have turned out way different if I hadn't and I doubt I would have gotten into riding nearly as much. So bear with me. The next part of this ride report won't have many pics and much of it has nothing directly to do with riding but it leads me to a truly awesome time of my life and to riding far beyond anything I had dreamed or even knew about.
 

klaviator

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So I am living in New Orleans, actually I lived in Metairie a suburb and worked in New Orleans. I wasn't making much money and I was bikeless:( I needed to do something. I needed a real job that would get me some engineering experience. I decided to give the Navy recruiter a call. Maybe they needed engineers. I talked to the recruiter and he asked me some questions and then asked if I ever considered becoming a pilot? I said no and he said they didn't need engineers so I thanked him for his time. A few weeks before talking to the recruiter I had seen an interesting movie:

index.jpg


I remember think I was so glad I didn't have to go through the stuff in the movie!

Little did I know.............
 
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klaviator

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Over the next couple of weeks I started thinking about being a Navy Pilot. I mean how cool would it be to have a chick ask me what I did for a living and be able to answer "I'm a fighter pilot!!!" Hey, I was in my 20s so give me a break:lol3

So I called the recruiter back and decided to apply. I didn't think I would get accepted but I did really well on the test they give everyone and to my surprise I was accepted. I would go to Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS) and flight school after that. I was told my report date would be around November 1983. I quit my job a few months before that and went back home to spend some time there and to get in shape for AOCS.

Since I would soon have a good paying job and had some time on my hands I decided it was just unacceptable to be bikeless. I didn't want to spend much but I figured something small, used and inexpensive would do. This time I looked at more than one bike and didn't buy the first one I looked at. I remember being tempted by a two stroke Suzuki GT 250. I took it for a test ride.

It probably looked something like this.

Suzuki GT250-1973.jpg


I was tempted but ended up buying this:

Picture182-M.jpg
 

klaviator

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The bike I bought was a used 1978 Kawasaki KE175 with low miles and in good condition. It was a dual purpose bike but I mainly rode it on the street. I rode a few dirt roads and one time I briefly took it off road. Is still remember riding down an trail to a creek and then being pretty nervous riding back up a hill to get out.

It was only a 175 but was good for 70 MPH according to the speedo. Since the national speed limit was 55 it did just fine on the interstate. It was a fun bike and I used it to get around instead of my car which was a real rust bucket. I rode it to the beach in the summer and I remember riding out to the local ski area in the winter. Too bad I didn't take many pics back then.

Then I found out I wouldn't be going to AOCS that year. Congress had reduced funding so the number going to AOCS was cut. I could do something else or wait until the following year. I got a few jobs and made some money. I could'nt find a "real" job so I figured I'd wait and go top AOCS. In the spring I got a report date in August. I was making money and living at home with my parents. I would need reliable transportation to get to Pensacola for AOCS so I decided it was time to buy another bike:wings
 

klaviator

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1984 was a good time to be looking for a bike. There was a glut of bikes in the country. Yamaha and Suzuki in particular had brought in way to many bikes and they were discounting them heavily to get rid of them. I considered a bunch of bikes but narrowed it down to three. The Suzuki GS650 (I'm not sure if I was looking at the G or E model), the Yamaha Vision and the Yamaha Seca 650.

For what they were selling these models there was no point in buying used.

It was a tough decision but eventually......

wknudsen_OLD%20PICS%20AND%20SCANS_vision_zpsac34a0fd.jpg
 

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