I always say shopping is cheaper than a psychiatrist.

—Tammy Faye Bakker

I just bought me a new motorcycle, and man do I feel good.

I feel good settling into my new ride, learning about what it can and can’t do, what it needs to be better, and how much time, money and hassle it’ll take to get there. I feel so good, in fact, that I’m surprised I haven’t bought more new motorcycles over the last few decades. Sure, I’ve bought dozens of used bikes, but used-bike high isn’t the same as new-bike high, unless it’s your first bike, in which case it’s first-bike high, a different thing entirely. But why does buying a new bike feel so good? And why don’t more people do it? There would be a lot less murder and mayhem in the world if they did.

Folks used to be really into buying new cars and motorcycles. In Olden Times, you were a Buick Man or a Chevy Man or a Studebaker Man (ladies let the big strong man do all that complex car-selection brainwork) and you would buy a new car every year or two. My great-grandparents, Abraham and Ada, would take the train from Vallejo to Detroit every other year, buy a new Cadillac, and drive it home. Amazing, right? They were born in tiny, muddy shtetls in Hungary in the 19th century. Talk about class mobility; it’s like Beverly Hillbillies, but with Jews.

On the other side of the family, Grampa Louis would buy his new Caddy with similar frequency, not only to show that he had made it (“it” as in achieved success – he didn’t build Cadillacs, although if I was a factory worker that made Cadillacs, I would definitely buy a Cadillac so I could say, “Look, I made it!” and confuse people) but because he was a terrible driver and very hard on his cars. He would eat ice cream cones and other messy foods while driving and throw trash into the back seats, and his first act as a new-car owner would be to park close to a telephone pole or parking meter and swing his door into it, giving his new purchase a sizeable dent. “Ha!” he’d say to whatever grandchild had witnessed this crime, “now I don’t have to worry about it.”

Oh skylark/Have you seen a valley green with spring/Where my heart can go a-journeying/Over the shadows and the rain – Lyrics by Carmichael/Mercer

My mom’s dad, Grampa Carl, was a Buick man through and through, and I don’t remember seeing him drive anything more than a few years old. Those must have been the days to be a car salesman. I can just see Grampa Carl, toothpick in the corner of his mouth, brown Sears Action Slacks and yellow short-sleeve button-down poly-blend shirt as the salesman, resplendent in checkered slacks, white loafers (with a little gold chain on each one) and bright sportcoat walks up to him, long salt-and-pepper hair and bushy sideburns waving in the hot, dry Sacramento breeze.

Carl flicks out his toothpick, kicks a tire and asks, “Say, does the Skylark come in beige? Or just taupe? How about sand?” The salesman puts a chummy arm over Grampa’s shoulders and says, “Well, let’s head to the office and crunch some numbers.” Soon he would be driving to his wholesale carnival-supply store in his new Skylark, doubtless filled with that new-car high.

I don’t get new-car high at all – in general, cars suck compared to motorcycles. But I understand why we used to buy cars so frequently and why the U.S. automotive market verged on collapse in the ’70s. Reliable, cheap, sturdy and fun-to-drive imports arrived, and suddenly cars lasted for 10 years or more. Same for motorcycles, too, by the way, although it took about an extra decade for Japanese motorcycles to be as seamlessly reliable as Toyota and Honda cars. Some ’80s UJMs stayed on the road for 30 years with minimal maintenance, way too long in the case of the Suzuki Madura. Like roaches or Dick Van Dyke, they won’t die and there’s no reason to replace them.

This Madura ad from 1985… where do I start? What does the hot dog mean? Why the golden retriever? Why is the ground wet but the rider dry? I have so many questions! The accompanying ad copy wrote that the Madura would “hurl you into the future of motorcycling,” although I’m pretty sure most motorcyclists hate being hurled. I know I do.

So now drivers and riders aren’t getting new-car or new-bike high every couple of years, but fortunately medical science has stepped up and provided us with chemical mood-stabilizers like Prozac, Lexapro or cheap (yet drinkable) Trader Joe’s brand blended Scotch. No longer burdened with the need to buy new every two to feel good about themselves, American consumers keep their rides longer. I know guys who have never bought a new motorcycle, probably thanks to medicinal marijuana.

I’m no stranger to chemical mood enhancement, but I think I like new-bike high (NBH) more. NBH suffuses you with a feeling of invincibility as you exploit your new machine’s strengths. Suddenly you can accelerate like the Flash, or ride comfortably all day, or lap Laguna Seca three seconds faster without breaking a sweat. You become an A-list celebrity amongst your riding buddies and passers-by. “What’s that! I didn’t know they made motorcycles! Is it fast?” The other night I just sat in my garage and stared at my new purchase and all I thought was, ‘Wow, that’s mine.’

Of course, much like kittens, that euphoria will fade and turn into an actual relationship, one that will require work and commitment. It may not work out at all – the other bikes I’ve bought new had new owners in a few years – or it may last until the bike is sold at your estate sale. But sooner or later you’ll choose: Another new bike? Or more Prozac? Prozac is cheaper, but NBH is a unique rush that can’t be beat. Ask your new-motorcycle sales representative if it’s right for you.


Gabe Ets-Hokin is VP for consumer self-testing at Merck Pharmaceuticals.

  • Old MOron

    “cheap (yet drinkable) Trader Joe’s brand blended Scotch”

    Amen. And if you like Islay malts, try the Finlaggan. It’s my favorite bargain whisky.

    Oh, but to get back on topic, yeah, NBH is a wonderful thing.

    • I did like that Finlaggen, but one day, for some reason, I hated peaty aftertaste so much that now I can only drink highlands. Sometimes I think I like Jameson’s best of all. I know, heresy.

      • Old MOron

        No, not heresy, Hennessy.

  • JMDGT

    Nothing like it. Good going. Gave up scotch. Sticking to vodka. Congratulations.

    • Gabriel Owens

      Gave up scotch. Sticking to red wine.

    • Old MOron

      Clan Donald?

      • JMDGT

        Headaches.

  • Gabriel Owens

    Its like Beverly hillbillies but with jews…

    • Larry Kahn

      Capital “J” you putz.

  • Gabriel Owens

    Jeebus Gabe, of you keep writing em like this un, youre gonna be my favorite MO.

  • Gabriel Owens

    Now people just wait for next years new iPhone, which is exactly the same as last years but they change the number at the end.

  • Starmag

    Congradulations Gabe. NBH can induce Carpel Tunnel Syndrome from the repeated waxings and Sleepy Eye Syndrome from all the staring so be careful.

    • Lee

      You can’t buy happiness but you can buy a new Ducati or KTM and that’s pretty much like buying a headache.

  • jjjjjjay

    Congrats on the cool acquisition. Now you can bring it along on comparos? Which laps faster, this or a GSX-S?

    Also, I wonder if it’s “the” bike high? The best of all available options for you at that moment… I recently made a purchase, & took into consideration factors like bling, performance, lust, and value. So although the moto was used, it sure has done the trick so far.

    I’ll likely partake of the showroom again later, not saying I won’t…

  • Jon Jones

    That Madura ad is one of my over-the-top favorites.

    Congrats on the new bike, Gabe.

  • Sayyed Bashir

    I bought a brand new 2018 KTM 500 EXC-F today. Best street legal dirt bike. Dry weight is only 240 lbs. Six speed. Upgraded to a 4 gallon gas tank for 220 mile range. Added a Rekluse auto clutch so you don’t have to feather the clutch and the engine never conks out. Seat height 37.8″.

    • John B.

      Congratulations! Enjoy!!!

    • John A. Smith

      I’m seething with envy! Enjoy and ride safe!

    • Mad4TheCrest

      37.8″
      My nose is bleeding and toes are dangling

      • Sayyed Bashir

        Once you sit on it, the seat goes down a bit. It is easier to get on and hold up the bike than my 1190 Adventure R which has a seat height of 35″ but the seat is wider and the bike does not go down. I have to use the foot peg to get on the 1190 R but can’t do that on the 500 because the kick stand is not as strong. Once I get on the 500, my feet almost touch the ground and the bike is so light and narrow that it is easier to handle and turn around.

    • Craig Hoffman

      I’ll just drop this here. I hope your KTM takes you to awesome places like this with good friends. Nothing better in the world than dirt biking with your buddies.

      Now get yourself a pink girl’s bicycle horn so you can be cool like me – haha… 😛

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/911f784b76c701e263a642de4341beaeb2d04ae3ba1dbd04181c77b02df02570.jpg

      • Sayyed Bashir

        Craig, thank you for your good wishes! I have two groups of friends I ride with. One is a sport bike group and the other is a adventure group. The adventure group has seasoned dirt bike riders who now ride adventure bikes like BMW R1200GS, Husky 701 and KLR 650. I cannot keep up with them on my KTM 1190 Adventure R because it is too tall and top heavy on gnarly trails. That’s why I got the 500 EXC-F, to improve my dirt riding ability and sometimes take it for a ride with the group. The best things I like about it are the very low weight and the Rekluse auto clutch which eliminates feathering the clutch or stalling the engine. I like it so much I just bought one for the 1190 R too. Where was the above picture taken?

        • Craig Hoffman

          I live in Colorado, that pic was taken at an area called Red Cone. It is really 4×4 trails, most of my friends don’t like to ride there as it is rocky. I don’t care, because it is scenic and amazing, and has fun riding, and I don’t mind rocks. Just go faster and they smooth out 😛

          The weather is nuts though, in the high country, storms often roll in around 2PM. Have had a few epic rides cut short racing back down the hill to at least get below the tree line. You don’t want to be up there when there is lightning around. All that just adds to the adventure eh?

          This is my favorite photo from our rides, taken in Taylor Park on my then new ’10 Husaberg FE450 (which has a plate – snuck it by the DMV). I still have that bike – ride the 300 a lot more these days, but the slant engine ‘Berg is a cool machine… https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bbb96d006fe9e9dd2b950c7a1a90a7acc30896a77cf237cea5aaedeaa0a3ccf2.jpg

          • Craig Hoffman
          • Sayyed Bashir

            Nice bikes and a great place to ride! I am sure there are lots of nice places to ride here in the Sierra Nevada but so far I haven’t gone there on the 1190 R. Are you sure the fuel pump failure was not due to bad gas? Many people have that problem when off the beaten path. I would be afraid to go that fast on a rocky or downhill trail. Don’t want to break the bike or my bones. I am surprised you have a hard time picking up the Husaberg. I have picked up my 1190 Adventure R at least 10 times all by myself (570 lbs with fuel, engine guards, pannier racks, tank bag). When one is desperate, one ignores the pain. I like adventure but I am not a risk taker. I usually ride with friends.

          • Craig Hoffman

            The early ‘Berg fuel pumps had too tight a clearnance at the impeller. Run it low on fuel so the gas got hot, and they would bind. The trick then was to let it cool, then smack the tank to vibrate the pump while cranking it. Had to replace it after that as once they stuck, they were prone to sticking again.

            Ya, picking up the FE450 is nothing like picking up an ADV bike. I am spoiled by the 300, which weighs next to nothing 🙂

          • Sayyed Bashir

            Yes, I love the 500 EXC-F with its 240 lb dry weight. I haven’t dropped it since it is so easy to ride with the soft suspension and the engine never stalls because of the Rekluse auto clutch. It is the best bike for exploring the local area with its narrow hilly dead end roads that lead to beautiful scenic overlooks.

  • John B.

    Congratulations on the new motorcycle Gabe! Enjoy it!!

    Among pharmaceuticals, it’s the dreaded opioid drugs that best simulate NMH, and no one wants to expressly or tacitly recommend opioids for recreational use.

    Prozac and Lexapro are SSRI’s used to treat, among other things, depression and anxiety; i.e., they are not mood stabilizers like Lithium and Lamictal, and they don’t compare to NMH. Scotch is a depressant and nothing like NMH, or any other high, though I recommend it highly; in moderation of course…. unless you’re driving, pregnant, depressed, or on antidepressants.

    Rigorous exercise four hours a week, eating healthy food (nothing that comes in a box), eight hours uninterrupted sleep per night, and a couple healthy relationships with human beings promotes good physical and mental health. But why do that when pharmaceutical drugs are so readily available?

    Our society would be much healthier if more people rode motorcycles and skipped the drugs.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Did you read my column comparing superbikes to fentanyl? Doing the research about synthetic opioids was quite horrifying. I try not to make light of the drug-abuse problem, but it’s hard when pharmaceutical companies make fentanyl lollipops (raspberry flavor, no less) and then are shocked, SHOCKED I tell you when their over-prescribed, incredibly dangerous and adictive products are abused.

      • John B.

        I did read that article Gabe, and I agree the pharmaceutical companies have acted (and likely continue to act) unethically in how they market and distribute opioids. When the manufacturer finds itself making more fentanyl lollipops than all the terminal cancer patients could possibly use, who do they think is consuming the excess product?

        Your writing typically has a jocular tone, but when reading the article above I couldn’t help but think you wanted to compare opioids to new motorcycle high, but didn’t want to joke about such a serious subject.

        Years ago, while visiting my parents for the holidays I popped a couple discs in my back while playing pickup basketball. The doctor prescribed opioids to help me manage the pain.

        It was the best Christmas ever! I took the pills, sometimes with a little wine, and drifted in and out of nirvana (way better than NMH if I were honest). I’m pretty sure that was the most content I have ever been as an adult. I can’t imagine what fentanyl must be like.

        I’m guessing motorcycles would need about 1,200 HP to be as potent as fentanyl.

        • Thanks for reading my dreck and all your thoughtful comments, John!

          • John B.

            You are welcome Gabe. I look forward to reading your articles because you write well, and see the world in ways that would never occur to me. Definitely not dreck….

        • Lee

          Drug companies make opioids to treat pain. Unlike non-opioids like Viagra and Hep-C cures and bladder problem drugs, they don’t market them to the public and there’s very little marketing to doctors. They have absolutely no control over what happens to their drugs once they’re legally distributed to drugstores. You can blame a lot a shit on pharmaceutical companies and you’d be right about most of it, but we have an opioid problem in this country because of the demand for it, not because there’s a legal supply chain that’s there to help people with broken bones, post-surgical pain, chronic pain, and pain from cancer. Why not focus our energy on why so many Americans want narcotics?

          • Auphliam

            I read something along those lines the other day, regarding our Nation’s continued misguided (albeit well intentioned) attempts to address what has really become a grotesque phenomenon at this point. The author pointed out that, for addicts, heroin and opiates/opioids aren’t the problem, they’re the solution. As someone with more family members than I care to mention dealing with this issue, it really struck a cord with me. We focus all of our energies on ever tighter regulations on drug companies and doctors, and shutting off every possible source of the “solution”…yet nobody wants to ask what the problem is.

          • Lee

            Interesting perspective – problem and solution have been switched. I agree. What makes it worse is taxpayers funding the expensive and entrenched DEA bureaucracy which despite decades of failure continues to play whack-a-mole – get rid of heroin, here comes meth, get rid of meth, here comes fentanyl, try to get rid of marijuana, here comes legal marijuana.

          • John B.

            “… they don’t market them to the public and there’s very little marketing to doctors.”

            When brand name opioids first hit the market, the pharmaceutical companies marketed the hell out of them directly to doctors and otherwise. Sales grew geometrically as doctors vastly overprescribed these drugs. Once people become addicted to opioids no more marketing is required.

            I would agree the opioid crisis is a multi-faceted problem, and I am NOT an expert on the subject. Nevertheless, your attempt to exonerate big-pharma from its obvious role in the crisis is either misguided or disingenuous.

          • Lee

            Not misguided or disingenuous, just wondering how far back you’re going and not dealing with the situation today. Brand-name opioids hit the market decades ago and shortly after that the DEA built a database tracking opioid prescribing behavior for every health care provider with a license. The database raises a flag when a threshold is reached. So you’re right, years ago that happened, but today’s opioid problem is mostly black market. We should be past the point of railing against big-pharma.

          • John B.

            “Other factors fueling an increase in prescriptions
            included aggressive marketing by the pharmaceutical
            industry, the promotion of opioids by numerous
            physicians and a call for for the increased use of opioids
            in the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain by myriad
            organizations.” https://tinyurl.com/ycuuxxq5

            Big-Pharma, AMONG OTHERS, played a critical role in this humanitarian crisis, and, I’m merely calling them out for unethical business practices that precipitated widespread human suffering.

            Do your own research and decide for yourself. I am not trying to tell you what to think. Your thoughts and beliefs are your own.

  • Rick Soloway

    Fun article! Very amusing. You’ve obviously attended the John Burns School of Automotive Journalism. Well done.

  • Allison Sullivan

    “… although I’m pretty sure most motorcyclists hate being hurled. I know I do.” I just laughed for five minutes.
    Congrats on the new bike! New and shiny things are always fun.

  • Ross Phelan Daigle

    Love it! Great articulation Gabe! I agree 100%!

  • G D

    A new EBR? You really HAVE made it, at long last! My Shuberth’s off to you, my very deserving friend. Interesting, though meaningless, that the badge of your success is also a sad symbol of failure in our little insular world.

    To mildly paraphrase an oft paraphrased Patrick Henry Pearse apothagm, “…from the graves of great engineers springs a great carriage of exultation.”

    May your new carriage deliver endless merriment and fond memories to last a lifetime!

  • Correction! I read this to my older brother and cousins, and they told me Grandpa Louis would dent his car so he could find it easier.

  • kenneth_moore

    Where are the hookers and fireworks?

  • StripleStrom

    As a third generation Buick man and a motorcycle enthusiast, I thoroughly enjoyed your article. My Dad tells me that at one time my Grandpa used to have over 10 56 Buicks. I guess he really found that one model that he loved. I should be so lucky with motorcycles. I want one of every model. It’s a sickness, really.

  • mog

    EBR 1190 SX, 4 u?
    Vid pls.

  • Douglas

    Gabe….? You bought a new motorsickle instead of one of the new hitech scooters? I’da thought you’d wind up w/a GTS or the new BMW400 (when it’s available), or at the very least,a Yam X400….what gives?

  • Lee

    Hey Gabe, where’d you get that stand and what’s it called. I’m still trying to figure out how Kawasaki can sell a bike with no center stand when the only way to check the oil and adjust/lube the chain is with the bike upright. Should anyone sell a bike that takes 2 people just to check the oil?

  • Mad4TheCrest

    NMH is a wonderful feeling, and it’s something that can be experienced over and over (finances allowing) without guilt or worrisome repercussions, unlike New Romance High (NRH).

  • Joshua Michael Davis

    So … What’d you get?