Skidmarks: Choices

Gabe Ets-Hokin
by Gabe Ets-Hokin
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Devil or the deep blue sea?

I must have a prodigious amount of mind; it takes me as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up!

I know motorcyclists that buy a bike new and then ride it until it’s ready for the junkyard, and even then they still don’t sell it. They’ll have the same bike for five, 10 or even 20 years, maybe secure and warm in the memory of riding the “it” bike for a while until it was eclipsed by the next big thing. But they stick with their ride, because if it met their needs then, it will probably meet their needs far into the future, right? I know a guy, Old Bill, who tallied almost enough miles to ride to the moon on his YZF-R1 before it was (mercifully) snuffed out by a wayward car while parked. He was actually sitting on a bench watching when this happened, which proves there is a God who wanted him to buy a new R1.

I am not that guy. I change motorcycles more often than I buy underwear. Two years is a long time for me to ride the same bike. After all, I’ve been with the same beautiful and patient woman for a quarter century (I’ve been with my wife a while too, har, har), so why not buy a new bike every season or two? I seldom buy new, so there’s little loss with each transaction, and I get to experience different engineering, new rider communities and fresh aggravations each time I switch. I’ve paid transfer taxes so many times I’m expecting a thank-you gift from the governor, and I am now expert at sourcing early-2000s regulator/rectifiers.

It’s coming up on new motorcycle time, and the choices are dizzying. I can spend a bunch of money if I want, but what do I get? Here’s the short list.

Yamaha FZ-07

skidmarks choices, No those are not ordinary sneakers They are actual RS Taichi moto riding shoes
No, those are not ordinary sneakers. They are actual RS Taichi moto-riding shoes.

I could go on and on about what an awesome value the FZ-07 is, how comfortable it is on long rides for a bike this size, how light it is, but the real reason I want one is because I made the rear wheel hop going into downhill turns on an FZ-07 when I rode it for a MO shootout, and it made me feel like a champ. What more can I say? Life is short and I don’t ride as much as I should, so shouldn’t every trip make me feel like a boss?

Then again, these bikes are holding their value very nicely, so it’s a seller’s market. I saw a used 2015 on Craigslist, all decked out in maximum mods n’ bling for over $6,000. Do I want to park that much cash in a bike right now? For something I sometimes only swing a leg over once a week?

Looney Tunes but Gorgeous 2006 GSX-R1000 Streetfighter

skidmarks choices, Oh Beast You terrify me but I can t stop thinking of you Be gentle with me
Oh Beast. You terrify me but I can’t stop thinking of you. Be gentle with me.

I first saw the Beast on a local motorcycle forum some months ago, and it’s like an itch I can’t scratch. On paper, it’s got it all: a clean, tasteful streetfighter conversion (note to Bay Area Craigslist motorcycle sellers: The line between “Streetfighter” and “Ratbike” is crossed when you use hose clamps to mount the headlight) with performance-oriented modifications made out of one of the most hairy-chested literbikes of all time, the second-gen GSX-R1000.

The bike looks great, and would be tits to ride, but the guy wants $5,000 and (unsurprisingly) it has a salvage title. I’m not saying the bike isn’t worth that much – to the right guy, that’s a bargain, if you ask me – but I am a serial monogamist when it comes to motorcycles, so I fear I’d lose my shirt when it’s time to part with this beast. I’ve also never owned a bone crusher like the Gixxer Thou before and am wondering if the increased insurance, tire, fuel and legal costs would be worth it. I think a test ride is in order.

skidmarks choices, Pete makes the Versys and mom jeans look good
Pete makes the Versys – and mom jeans – look good.

2012 Kawasaki Versys 650

Ironically, I just bought one of these. My goal is to start a motorcycle-rental business, and this is kind of my test mule. “Mule” is a good description for the Versys, and not in a bad way. Like a mule, it does everything you need it to, if reluctantly at times, is economical and I bought it cheap. I hadn’t ridden one for almost 10 years, and I’m once again in love with its handling and flexibility.

However, I don’t love the buzzing through the footpegs or wallowing back end, nor do I like its spongy seat. Those are things I can live with, but the bottom line about the Versys is that it’s the equivalent of a middle-aged person dressed in beige at the office holiday party. It’s pretty much invisible parked next to other bikes. I don’t think it could be my only ride. It’s like eating the world’s most delicious oatmeal – every morning for the rest of your life.

2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000

skidmarks choices, If Suzukis wore clothes they would totally rock white shoes and belts after Labor Day
If Suzukis wore clothes, they would totally rock white shoes and belts after Labor Day.

You may remember my “Dollars per Power” column, where the GSX-S came in as the undisputed champ, with the best dollar-per-power ratio of any new motorcycle. And now some local dealers are discounting the fluck out of leftover 2016s. How could I not want one? I’ll answer that question with some other questions: why do they still have 2016s? And why are they so cheap? Are they the motorcycle equivalent of the gray-hued 79-cent hotdogs turning endlessly on rollers in convenience-store display warmers?

2017 Kawasaki Z900

skidmarks choices, I m melting Melllll tiiiiiing What a world
I’m melting! Melllll-tiiiiiing! What a world!

I went into my friend’s Kawasaki/ Honda dealership and was noticing how sweet a deal the Z650 is, but he steered me right to the Z900. That thing is a killer deal indeed, and he can jam the price down even further. But see the FZ-07: do I want to tie up that kind of dough in a new bike? Plus, it’s kind of heavy… although not so heavy that the weight is a deal-killer. I like Kawasakis, but I like cheap Kawis like the Ninja 300 even better. Plus it looks weird. The back end sticks up like a stinkbug’s abdomen and the front looks like half of a 1950s support garment. IDK.

2001 Suzuki SV650

And then, last week, after riding my mule around, I hopped on my 2001 SV650. It’s got an anti-social M4 exhaust and a nicely-done GSX-R front end conversion. It handles intuitively and the suspension is just right. But it’s old and tired and needs work, plus it doesn’t start sometimes and gives off exhaust fumes like a World War I submarine. Still, that short ride was fun and liberating and reminded me that even if the SV650 isn’t the best bike ever (but put a few scotches in me and I’ll tell you with a straight face that it is), it sure does suit my needs.

In fact, it suits me so well that this is the fourth one of these I’ve owned. It’s not oatmeal every day, but I need more variety in my life. I can’t be that guy with 30-year-old bikes in his garage. Time to move on.

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Gabe Ets-Hokin
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  • Craig Hoffman Craig Hoffman on Oct 03, 2017

    Have had my current bike, an '06 FZ1, since new. Owning the bike so long has allowed plenty of time to modify and tweak it to my liking. The bike may be old, but it has a Penske shock, Akra full exhaust, Ivan flashed ECU and a PCIII on it. When I start to feel a little bored with it, I tach it up above 7K and pin the throttle It seems just shy of 150 at the wheel never really gets old. Side benefit, it was paid for long ago.

    There is something to be said for long term relationships. My wife would agree :)

  • Dean Hewitt Dean Hewitt on Oct 04, 2017

    Nice read.
    Now at the 69 age and being slowed down by bladder cancer I question my choice of a 2015 r1200r, discounted because it was a demo. I love to ride it, but it's harder then my 2007 street bob I sold before buying it. I realize I have less then 10 years or so riding left in me and don't want to waste a moment.
    My suggestion for all us riders, is keep looking and riding until you find the one. This isn't a girlfriend you hurt by leaving her. I'm old and still looking after about 25 bikes for the "one". Sometimes it's just the journey....