First, the story of how I came to own a motorcycle with an engine larger than that of my first car, and then some details about it in case anyone would like to buy it. Heck, everyone should like to buy it, as it’s blindingly comfortable. And then maybe some thoughts on pickles.
My Motorbikes And I
As a teenager in England, I naturally gravitated towards London. I told myself that one day I would live there, and when I did, I would ride a motorcycle. I saw the motorbike couriers driving through the stalled cars, weaving in and out of traffic, and decided that sitting and waiting in line was not for me. I took a course, passed my test and paid 300 large for a Honda Superdream – a 250cc twin that would only splutter into life if I ran down the street with it and jumped on it while letting go of the clutch.
I read Motorcycle News and oggled over photos of urban tiger fireblades, and even read an article about a man who rode a bike across the Sahara. I also read that at the age of 28, motorcycle insurance premiums went down, and vowed to own a fireblade when I reached that ancient risk bracket. And then forgot all about it.
Soon enough, I lived in London, even sharing a home with a motorbike courier by the curious name of Charlie Coutts. He had several bikes and drove like a man possessed through the gritty streets. I progressed from my stalwart 250 to a 400, and finally fell in love with big trail bikes. A single cylinder 600cc beast made it easy to see over cars and to anticipate the London cabbies doing near fatal U-turns with no warning.
I ended up riding a Yamaha XT600 across the Sahara myself, with no real training in off-road biking. I ended up realizing that I was 28 and rushed out to buy a CBR929RR while living in San Francisco. I ended up hiring a Harley Davidson to ride to Burning Man like a yuppie. And I ended up buying a Honda Shadow to drive back to Texas from Florida. I sold the bike and remained four wheeled for five years.
Cross Country on an ST1300
On hearing that my Uncle would be visiting us, I decided to buy him a motorcycle to let him tour the region on. Or that was my excuse to by an ex-police bike from an auction and fly out to South Carolina to pick it up in the same week that my son was celebrating his birthday and we were closing on our house. I made it back in time, covering some 1300 miles in three days, thanks largely to the comfortable seat, the easy riding position, and the holiest of holies – the adjustable screen.
There is definitely a strong community around this type of bike. I asked people about my route, what to pack, and how far to go, and was overwhelmed by the kindness of the people over at the ST1300 Owners Forum. They shaped my journey, my food choices, and my experience and I’m very grateful.
I had always sneered at large armchair-like bikes with their waterproof matching luggage. But suddenly they made sense when hurrying across country. A similar trip on an un-faired Honda Shadow had made me realize that 55mph was plenty, and that the vibrations from a day’s ride could affect your ability to surf channels on the motel TV.
The adjustable screen of the ST1300 made the journey through the Southern states quite pleasant, even in the sticky humidity of May. With a flick of the switch you could change your whole outlook. You could choose loud and breezy if you had to slow down. You could choose silent and cocooned if you wanted to go fast. In the up position, your head is sucked slightly forward into the calm air behind the screen and there is no need to hang on to the handlebars and fight the air. You just chill, and sip water from the camelbak strapped to the tank (which I really need to trademark and market).
And then you arrive at a motel in fairly fine fettle, and you remove the enormous amount of clothes and tools you brought in the detachable waterproof white luggage, and mince into your room. I wasn’t exactly full of beans after 400 miles on the road, but I wasn’t dreading getting back on in the morning either, actually waking up well rested before dawn eager to make progress.
Some riders go tank to tank – some 250 miles or more – without stopping, and I rarely attempted more than 120 miles. Generally as I’d run out of water, or wanted to walk around a little or clean the bugs off the windshield. For the most part I eschewed the back roads, preferring to hammer it home so as not to miss birthday parties and such, and I could ride at around 85mph with little effort, occasionally bursting up to 120mph just to wake me up, and to see if there was a speed limiter on the bike (there was).
I rode through rain, fog, hot sunshine and clouds in that 1300 miles, and the bike coped with it all admirably. The comfort of the adjustable windshield made sense to me, and when I finally did get onto the backroads so as to avoid the horror that is IH35, I enjoyed the change of pace. Speeding up and slowing down for small towns on practically deserted roads made for a refreshing end to my trip. The engine makes a kind of cool warbling noise as it chucks you forwards – as if you were whistling into a kazoo. It’s an addictive feeling, and one worth slowing down to enjoy again and again.
Now that my uncle has been and gone, I can’t really justify having another vehicle sitting in the garage. The weather has just shifted in Austin, and while I yearn for the open road and a long journey, I have other fish to fry right now. I still go out for a quick potter about under the guise of keeping the bike serviceable, but don’t plan on any road trips this year. I have tasted the comfort of a bike whose dry weight is 665 pounds, and now it is time to get back to freedom from possessions.
Things you should know about my Honda ST1300 [sold]
- The Honda ST 1300 is also known as the Pan European, though it does Transamerican quite well
- It was born in 2009 and has graced the planet with 29,300 miles of brilliant riding. Probably more miles by the time you read this as it’s 79°F outside.
- I am the second owner
- I am the first owner who isn’t a police department
- It is white and has some cool chrome bars in case you want to mount flashing lights on it to scare motorists
- Police motorcyclists will wave at you when they see you riding it. Even half blind car drivers will see you, which is not true of all motorcycles.
- It has a V4 engine – 1300cc of warbling gristle that acts as a stressed member in the frame, and keeps you from being at all stressed no matter what teenaged cell-phone using muppet changes lane on top of you in his Nissan Cube.
- It has waterproof luggage that have kept things dry for me in extreme torrential rain. The luggage, as they say, swallows helmets whole. Very accommodating.
- It has ABS in case you really want to stop and hadn’t really planned on doing so ahead of time. My uncle added new front and rear brake pads a few hundred miles ago
- I put in a new battery in 2013, and have since added one of those little connector things that you can use to keep it trickle charged with
- We put a new front tire on in 2013, and that has maybe 500 miles of use tops.
- It has heated hand grips which I did actually enjoy on the rainy ride from South Carolina. They meant I could wear by summer gloves in the rain and still feel my fingers.
- It is speed limited to 120 miles an hour. This sports tourer type of bike can corner very quickly in the right hands as seen in this video. (not my bike)
- It has adjustable shocks
- You can adjust the screen height. A. Mazing.
- You can not ride a bike for 5 years and then buy it and drive 400 miles a day without a hitch.
I took some pretty poor photos in a hurry a few months back, and here they are:
How do I buy this magnificent motorcycle in Austin Texas?
[Edit – it’s sold now]