For those of you who have owned more than one motorcycle or who have
been involved with riding for several years, or who have taken grief
from your friends, family, and co-workers about how dangerous your
hobby is, do you ever wonder how it ever got this crazy? How you
ever get started in this foolishness?
I was in the garage the other day, looking at my motorcycle payment,
sitting there quietly, waiting for me to climb aboard and take him
for a ride, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel guilty. How in the
hell did it ever get to the point where I would pay more for a motorcycle
than for several of the cars I’ve owned? Looking back, I think I
remember how it all started. Below you will find comments on motorcycles
that I’ve owned, wanted to own, or that influenced my life. I given
each their own separate link so you can pick and choose which ones
you want to read about. In the beginning...
1952? Cushman Motorscooter:
It was 1956 when my good buddy, Gordon Wells, and I were just graduating
from the eight grade. Gordon owned a small Cushman motorscooter and
we decided to skip graduation and ride around town on his motorscooter
instead. Hey, we were just 13 years old; I didn’t say we were smart
For those of you who think that all motor scooters are called Vespa’s,
be aware that once upon a time, there was another. Cushman was the
name in motor scooters with a Briggs and Stratton engine that you
started with a pull rope like a lawn mower, or a kick peddle in the
front or side, depending on the model. I had just turned thirteen
the previous week and my mother had given me a portable radio for
my birthday. Portable radios were much less portable than they are
today, and I carried that big sucker around my neck with a strap while
riding on the back of that Cushman motorscooter and holding on for
Gordon and I would trade off driving with Gordon getting more time
in the front seat since it was his motorscooter. As you know, you
put your feet in front of you on a motorscooter. The gas tank was
usually under and behind the seat somewhere and they got about a million
miles to the gallon, which was good since we didn’t have much money.
Damn, that motorscooter was fun. Helmets? We don’t got to wear no
stinking helmets? Looking back, I do believe that riding Gordon’s
Cushman may have planted the seeds in the fertile soil of my imagination
that would eventually bring forth six motorcycles over the years.
I’ve included a picture from the Internet of a Cushman much like the
one Gordon and I rode around town on our graduation day. You can see
it was a real trick staying on the back of that thing. Kids anyway!
1956(?) Cushman Eagle Motorscooter:
About two years later in 1958, I’m 15 years old and Dave Strollholland
is riding up and down our street on a black, Cushman Eagle. A Cushman
Eagle was a motorscooter with a tank in front, and you straddled it
like a real motorcycle, but it had the small tires and engine of a
motorscooter. Because you threw your leg over the frame to mount
it, you could talk yourself into believing you were riding a motorcycle.
By that time, I had ridden several times on the back of old Harley’s
with the suicide shift-lever on the left side of the tank. They were
bigger, heavier, much more powerful, and noisier that any motorscooter
could be, but that Eagle made you feel like you were having a motorcycle
experience. The two-speed shift was even on the left side like a
Anyway, Dave let me ride that scooter all around the neighborhood
and then he told me he wanted to sell it for a hundred dollars and
I was hooked. I dearly wanted that Cushman so I ask my dad if I could
buy it with what little money I had in the bank and a loan to be paid
back in sweat. He looked it over and found an excuse not to let me
buy it. I found out many years later that he did not want me to own
a motorcycle or anything that remotely resembled a motorcycle. He
had owned a Harley in 1936 and had dropped it on a country road and
was fearful he might lose his only son on that Cushman. Just like
a teenager, instead of killing the desire to ride on two wheels, I
vowed to someday own a real life, kick ass, loud, motorcycle. I got
on with my life and Dave continued to give me rides on his Eagle until
he finally sold it. (The picture above is of a Cushman Eagle in
red, taken from the Internet.)
1964 Honda CB150 Dream:
I got out of the Navy in 1963 and started Junior College in 1964.
The early 60’s was the heyday of the Triumph Bonneville. It was definitely
the E ticket ride. I wanted one badly, but they cost far more than
I had to spend. I had bought an old ‘57 Ford when I got out of the
service, painted it 56 Dodge Royal Blue, put baby moons on it, and
started courtin’ the various young ladies around town. I was only
making a $1.75 an hour working at the Post Office and most of that
went for living expenses and dating, which is a redundancy. I was
young, I was free, I had a few bucks in my pocket, I had a sharp car,
I still wanted a motorcycle.
At college, there were several guys (since you rarely ever saw
a woman driving a motorcycle back then), who owned the new Honda
250cc Scrambler. I couldn’t afford one of those either, but by 1965
the desire for a motorcycle drove me to look for anything I could
afford, which turned out to be a used 1964, Honda 150 Dream; one of
the ugliest motorcycles known to man or beast, and I paid $350 for
the privilege of owning it. Desire has always made man do silly things.
I drove that white elephant for a year to Junior College and then
40 miles each way to Cal State Hayward.
The Honda 150cc Dream only had 16 horsepower, just barely enough to
be freeway legal and not enough to get out of its own way. While
I was commuting to Junior College, it wasn’t a problem. I just took
back roads and my freeway jaunts were for very short distances. That
was fine with me since I liked the back roads, a trait that is with
me still. But when I started Cal State, I was on the road with some
serious traffic and some even more serious drivers. They rode my
butt most of the way on the freeway, sometimes honking to let me know
I shouldn’t be there if I couldn’t keep up.
My poor little Dream turned into a constant nightmare as I pictured
myself being run over by eighteen wheels and a load of bricks. That
little Honda was straining to do 65 mph and I was straining right
along with that engine, trying to command five more mph out of her.
I needed a bigger motorcycle. Good fortune was about to help me in
my quest. (This picture is from the Internet. It looks just like
my old Dream, except mine had a black seat.)
1965 500cc Triumph Tiger 100 & 650cc BSA Lightning:
There was this skinny, little fella named Stan, who worked with me
at the post office, and one day he rode up with a brand new, gold
and white, Triumph Tiger 100. Stan weighed maybe 125 pounds, soaking
wet, and he was riding on a 500 cc, 400 pound motorcycle which looked
and sounded like a real motorcycle. I, on the other hand, was packing
my 170 pounds around on a 150cc bike that weighed half as much as
that Triumph, and mine was ugly enough to stop a fart in progress.
Something was wrong with this picture. Each day I had to go out to
the parking lot to mount my Honda, which was always parked right next
to that beautiful Triumph. Talk about torture.
Stan and I talked motorcycles, of course, since we were the only two
who rode bikes, and he pretended I was not pathetic. I liked him,
even if he did act superior about his ride. Then again, it may have
just been my inferiority complex kicking in. After about a year,
Stan came into work one day and announced that he wanted to sell his
bike. By this time, I was now a newlywed but newly wed to a wife
that worked. I cried poor, which we really were, and finally convinced
him to let me take that Triumph off his hands for $500, which I borrowed
from my dad. (I always admired him for loaning me the money even
when he didn’t want me to ride motorcycles.) This was considered
a really good deal at the time, and I felt like I had taken advantage
of Stan. I got over it.
About this time, that little Dream developed problems with a crankshaft
knock from being ridden so hard, and I sold it to my wife’s uncle
for $100. He traded it in for a white, 305 Dream. Better him than
me. I, at long last, had my Triumph.
I commuted back and forth to Hayward from Concord for about three
years. Now I took the freeway and any other road I wanted to ride.
No more being pushed around by traffic, this thing would get up and
go. I believe it had 36 horsepower.
How I did like that Triumph. It handled well, it sounded good, and
it looked even better. The only problem with Brit bikes was the Lucas
electronics (forever known to Triumph owners as the Prince of Darkness),
which were a piece of crap. That and the fact that my beautiful English
bike leaked oil. Of course, in those days everybody’s bike leaked
oil. Well, not my Honda, but we suspected the Japanese were cheating.
I was always blowing taillights, and the headlight wavered in intensity.
Today they have those modulating headlights as a safety feature.
Those things would have nothing on Lucas Electronics except I didn’t
think a wavering light was a safety feature. Go figure.
My buddy, Terry, had a BSA Lightning, red with chrome tank panels,
and he kept it shiny as a new penny. It was 650cc and he was faster
than my Triumph. He had 45 horsepower to my 36, and riding his bike
made me want more of the same. I started looking at a Norton Atlas
with 60 hp, but that’s another story.
I took my first really long trip on that Triumph. I rode south to
Laverne, CA (near Los Angeles) from the Bay Area, going down
the coast on Hwy 1. It was a great 12-hour ride for scenery but that
Triumph would never be called a “touring” bike. Then again, in those
days no one used the term, “touring” bike. The Harley had the Electra
Glide, which was called a “full dresser” or something like that, but
whatever you rode became a touring bike, or a cruising bike, or a
sport bike. Life was simpler then.
Riding down the coast, my butt hurt when I sat down and, after a while,
it hurt when I got up. There was no position that made me comfortable.
Of course, I was stupid in those days, (no comments, please)
and rode the tank almost out before getting off the bike, which meant
I stayed on that hard saddle for way too long. To add insult to injury,
my hands would go numb from the vibration and you would get a tingling
sensation in your hands and wrists. You know, now that I remember
back on it, I’m not quite sure why I liked that damn Triumph so much.
I think its because almost all bikes were like that in those days.
The smoothness of a four cylinder or a counterbalance was not yet
known. (pictures from the Internet)
1969 Norton Atlas:
At some point, and the order of things has gotten fuzzy over the years,
I was between motorcycles. I wanted to get another bike and like
many young riders, I wanted more horsepower. I looked around for
the best deal and found that a dealer in Oakland was closing out a
couple of 1969 Norton Atlas’ and I could get a brand new bike for
$900. The old Atlas was being replaced by the Commando, which had
a rubber-mounted engine that the Atlas didn’t have. I put down a few
bucks to hold it and went to the Southern Pacific Credit Union, to
finance the rest. Low and behold, they turned me down. Not because
I had bad credit, on the contrary, but they said they didn’t loan
on motorcycles. I ask them why they cared what the loan was for as
long as I was a good risk to pay it back? No dice, no money for a
motorcycle. Man, that pissed me off. It made no sense. Fortunately,
today most lenders are more understanding since motorcycles today
are so expensive that only those with a good job can afford the damn
That Atlas was 750cc, 60 horsepower, black in color, and I wanted
it badly, but I decided I would try to find something else, maybe
a 650cc Bonneville, used. Linda pointed out that she was pregnant
with our second child and it might make more sense if we got a little
bigger car. Never did get that Norton motorcycle but I did pick up
a used 1969 BMW 2002 sport sedan for the “family.” It turned out
to be the most fun I ever had driving a car until I got a 1995 Integra
many years later. (picture from the Internet)
1975 Honda CB360:
After being without a motorcycle for a few years, I talked Linda into
getting another under the guise of economy. This is a good way to
go fella’s, during these times of high gas prices. Look like it’s
a burden on you to even think of getting a motorcycle, but you’ll
be willing to sacrifice comfort for economy. Let your face look
kind of serious, and look with despair at your bank book while you
say something like, “ Damn, the price of gas just keeps going up.
I don’t know what we’re going to do if it doesn’t stop soon.” Then,
just run the hell out of your car so your gas bill really goes up
and then say, “You know a motorcycle gets about 55 mpg and is a lot
cheaper than a new car. I might be able to get one used and save
even more money. It would sure save us on gas, although it won’t
be comfortable in the rain. Still, I can put up with it to save all
that money on gas. We could sure use the extra money for the kids.”
Trust me, it works every time.
Anyway, I actually did use that little 360 to compute to my teaching
job at a local Intermediate School, and to the liquor store where
I had a second job. In the ten years between the Triumph 500 and
the Honda 360, the Honda had about the same horsepower as the Triumph.
Ain’t technology wonderful?
One late spring afternoon when I had finished teaching school for
the day and was on the way home, this CB360 allowed me one of the
few times that a teacher got the better of a couple of smart mouth
It was about 5:00 p.m. and I was on my way home. Since I had been
working late, the school was empty except for the custodians. When
I rode the Honda 360 to school, I kept it parked in a little enclosed
courtyard, across from the front office. It was out of site and safe.
Just as I was coming out of the outside walkway/corridor, two 6th graders on bicycles came riding into the corridor. Since teachers
are always on duty, I said to the boys, in a friendly way, “Walk your
bikes fella’s, you don’t want to run over a custodian.”
Well these two young men looked around and realized that I was by
myself, there not being anyone else in sight. To improve their chances,
I was afoot while they were a horseback, so to speak. They yelled,
“Fuck you!” and headed off down the corridor, loudly laughing at my
inability to catch them. Since I already had my keys in my hand,
I quickly ducked behind the wall, ran over to the courtyard, opened
the door and grabbed that little 360. I fired that puppy up and headed
down an access road that ran down the side of the school as fast as
that Honda would go in such a short distance. As I came around the
building into the back parking lot, they emerged from the corridor.
I came skidding to a stop right in front of their unbelieving eyes!
I pointed my finger at the boys and yelled, “Get over here! What
did you say to me?!!”
“Nothing sir,” came the meek reply.
“What are your names and what school do you go to?” I must admit
I was doing all I could to keep from laughing. These two kids could
just not believe that one-minute I’m walking at one end of the school
while they commit the perfect act of defiance. The next minute, I’m
in their face, on a motorcycle, no less.
They just knew I was going to take them home, call their parents,
or find some other way of making their lives miserable. And they
knew they deserved it. I let them off the hook and told them if I
ever saw them riding their bikes on campus again, I’d confiscate them.
If I ever heard them swearing again, I make sure they got suspended.
I couldn’t really do that, but they weren’t so sure.
I rode home that night laughing all the way just remembering the look
of disbelief on those two kids faces. It still brings a smile to
my lips, these twenty-five years later. That incident probably makes
me think better of this bike than it really deserves. It was pretty
standard fare for its day. (picture from the Internet)
1977 Suzuki GS 550 Four:
About a year after I sold the Honda, I wanted another motorcycle.
I wanted to get back on something larger but it had to be used to
stay within my budget. What I wanted was a Honda CB750 Four. Well,
as my daddy used to tell me, want in one hand and s… in the other,
and see which one fills up the fastest. After looking at a lot of
Honda 750 Fours, it became clear I wasn’t going to be able to find
one at the price I could pay, time to go to plan two.
Looking at the want ads, I saw this Suzuki GS550 Four for less that
a $1000 bucks. I took a drive over to see it and it was indeed sweet,
all black with light blue pin-stripping on the tank and oil cover.
Mileage was relatively low and it was smooth as a baby’s butt. I
I used the Suzuki for several years and it was the only motorcycle
I ever dropped. One day I was driving to work at the school where
I taught 7th and 8th graders, a challenging
age. I only lived a mile or so away from school, and drove the bike
almost every day. Anyway, taking the same route that I had taken
a thousand times before, making the same left turn onto the same street,
I rode over the same manhole cover I had ridden over many times before
and fell right on my complacency!
There I was, laying in the middle of the street, trying to get up
and turn my bike off, when a nice lady in a green station wagon stops
to ask if I’m OK. She was coming in the opposite direction and had
seen me fall. I told her I was fine when her son, one of my students,
leans out of the car window and says with great glee, “Man, Mr. Whitehead.
You sure looked funny when you crashed!” Great, a witness who knows
I turned around and went home to change clothes and put a band-aid
on my skinned elbow and by the time I got back to school, it seemed
like almost every student had heard what had happened and let me know
just how funny they thought it was. Junior High school kids don’t
even give you a break. Fortunately, there wasn’t that much damage
to the bike, a broken left-turn signal, scrapped left peg, etc.
In 1980, I traded that Suzuki in for a new pickup truck. I now realize
that because I always considered it a commuter, I never got a picture
of that bike. That’s the only one that I’ve owned that I don’t have
a picture. (picture from the Internet)
1995 BMW R100RT Classic (Airhead):
This is the motorcycle that got me back into motorcycling. If you’ve
read my stories about my Western Loop Trip in 2001, then you know
this is the bike that took me about 4500 miles, through nine states,
without a hiccup.
I bought it after wanting to buy a new 2001, Triumph Bonneville.
I had put a deposit down on that Bonnie and was hanging out at the
dealership, waiting for my new bike to be built, but that was projected
to take almost six months.
One day I happened to see this bearded fellow taking pictures of this
really clean Beemer. After talking to him for a while, I found out
he was selling this 1995 Airhead because he also owned a 2000 R1100RT.
I got his name and number and two weeks later I bought my first BMW.
I‘ve ridden it over 8000 miles the first year. I like this motorcycle
but I have since bought another, bigger bike, the GL 1800 Goldwing,
so I’m now selling this one.
2002 Honda GL1800 Goldwing:
This is my present ride. Without a doubt, the best motorcycle I’ve
ever owned. Smooth, powerful, quiet, and comfortable. What more
could you want. Most of the stories on this website feature this
I had no plans to buy a Goldwing since I was perfectly satisfied with
my Beemer. I had even planned a 8900 mile trip on the RT for the
summer of 2002. One day Linda says to me, “ Ed, it doesn’t seem quite
fair that your using up all of your vacation and we won’t be able
to have any time together until you retire in June of next year,”
or words to that affect.
“Well,” says I, “you can come with me on the back of the Beemer.”
I have no interest in riding 360 miles a day all the way to Florida.
Maybe if you were taking a shorter trip, I could go,” she said. She
also had that look that said, “Figure something out.”
How much shorter?” I ask, not knowing where this conversation might
I don’t know. Maybe 200 miles a day, so we could get off the
bike once in a while,” she says with determination. Now here’s
the part where my male buddies fall off their chairs, “Of course,
you’ll have to get a bigger bike so I can be more comfortable.”
What can I say? I try to be a good husband, really I do. If my wife
wants me to buy a bigger motorcycle so she can be comfortable, then
I will try and do what I can to accommodate her wishes. After test
riding several big bikes, we ended up with a 2002, GL1800 Goldwing.
That six-cylinder engine is smooth as Canadian whisky and cranks out
118 horsepower. I’m finally satisfied that I have enough.
2006 Kawasaki KLR 650:
This is my newest ride. I bought it in late June for my Alaska trip in July. I wanted to go “off road” and was told by a KLR owner from Texas that they are fun, cheap, and reliable. What more could I ask from a bike. I bought one, did the 9000 mile trip and it worked beautifully. My only complaint was the seat was really uncomfortable after about 200 miles. It was also the second most popular bike we saw in Alaska behind the BMW GS’s.
I hope you enjoy my stories. That’s all the bikes I’ve owned, been influenced by, or have wanted to own. Well, that’s not true since I want to own one of almost everything. Keep dropping by and I may actually add more to these pages, who can tell. I wouldn’t mind having a Harley or that new Bonnie, but that’s down the road a bit. Thanks for dropping by.