“Wow, that’s a lot of kilometres,” a then-friend said when he saw the number on my odometer.
“Is it?” I replied.
I started riding in September 2021 and chalked up 1,500 kms on my brand new 2020 Yamaha V-Star 250 in eight weeks. That all came to an abrupt end when I collided with a curb and broke my wrist. One hundred percent rider error, BTW.
As soon as the street sweepers cleared the way in spring 2022, I was at it again, going round and round, mostly solo, in ever-expanding loops.
Now it was late July 2022, and I had added 10,000 kilometres to the 1,500 I began the season with.
“Yeah,” the friend said. “Eleven thousand five hundred kilometres is more than respectable. Especially for a new rider.”
“Oh,” I said.
Up to then, I hadn’t paid much attention to kilometres other than for the purpose of knowing when to change the oil. But as soon as I started tracking the distances I travelled, it added another dimension to my two-wheeled adventures.
I rode an additional 11,000 kilometres in 2022, despite a second collision – this time with a car and very definitely not my fault. The longer and further I rode, the more knowledgeable, experienced and aware I became. It didn’t take me long to notice that TheFox, which is what I named my little 250, started to ‘vibrate’ at around 90 kph making it difficult to keep pace with traffic, even on the non-400-level roads I generally frequented (and still do).
I also discovered that when something needed fixing, such as a flat tire for example, she might be out of commission for up to a week while repairs were being done. When that happened, I was frustrated at not being able to get out every day as I had become accustomed to doing. Furthermore, there was something wrong with TheFox’s front brake; it grabbed unpredictably and caused her to lurch and wobble. That meant I rode most of 2022 using the back brake only (except for emergency stops of course).
To feel comfortable at over 100 kph, I decided I would need a bigger – but not too much bigger – bike to ride in 2023. It was a safety issue for me. Being too slow is as dangerous as being too fast in my opinion.
I sat on a bunch of 650s; they all felt HUGE. I looked at a Honda Rebel 500. Didn’t like it. As the Rebel was pretty much the only ‘new’ 500 cc-level cruiser I knew of, I started to scour kijiji for an older model. I finally found a 1996 Virago 535 (Yamaha’s precursor to the V-Star). I brought a rider acquaintance (thank you Tony Fenske) with me to check her out. When Tony gave her the thumbs up, I bought her and had her trailered from the vendor to my place and then to storage where she stayed for close to a year. I eventually christened her ‘Blue.’
This spring, someone I knew from one of the FB groups I belong to decided to sell her 2020 Yamaha V-Star 250; it was was identical to mine. I wasn’t convinced that what I had been told lay behind TheFox’s brake problem was actually the root cause (stay tuned for more on that story), and I felt I needed a back-up ride in case I should be proven right.
Against the advice of two mechanics (“You don’t need A THIRD motorcycle,” they said), I bought the second V-Star in case TheFox’s brake issue should persist. I called this new-to-me 250 ‘TheTwin.’ She had only 1,700 kms on her odometer compared with TheFox’s 22,500.
I rode TheFox a little over 10 K at the start of this season before the front brake started acting up again (surprise surprise) and she had to be put out to pasture for awhile. Good thing I had the backup Twin! I rode her until Blue finally got safety-ed, insured and plated in late-August.
Once I was on Blue, my friend and riding partner James A. kindly swapped the front wheels between the 250s, which immediately solved TheFox’s braking issue. Now she rides beautifully and TheTwin is out to pasture with the malfunctioning front wheel.
When I bought twenty-seven-year-old Blue in September 2022, she had 56,511 kilometres on her odometer, which means her four previous owners had collectively ridden her an average of about 2,100 kilometres a year.
Between August 26, when I started riding her, and October 28, when she went to her winter home, Blue and I clocked 12,792 kilometres together – an average of 1,421 kms/week.
Which brings me to how far I’ve ridden my three bikes to date in 2023. I say ‘to date’ because there’s a chance I may go out again with TheFox before the end of the year if there are any more what I would consider ‘ride-able’ days and there’s no salt on the roads. That prospect is looking less and less likely but I haven’t given up hope yet.
TheFox and I did 12,801 kms in the spring. Then TheTwin and I rode 12,545 kms. With Blue’s 12 K + the 2023 season’s total comes to 38,138 kilometres. Not bad for a beginner.
I love to ride and I go out every day I can. Tracking how far I travel gives my motorcycling additional meaning. I can’t speak for anyone else who keeps a tally but I can tell you why I do it: because it gives me a sense of personal satisfaction as well as a feeling of control in a world that seems increasingly chaotic.
I’m happy to say I rode an even longer way, baby, in 2023 than I did in 2022.
I wonder what lies in store for ’24…
© 2023 Susan Macaulay. I invite you to share my poetry and posts widely, but please do not reprint, reblog or copy and paste them in their entirety without my permission. Thank you.