Monday, August 19, 2013

Last ride of the Valkyrie

In August 1997, I purchased a Honda Valkyrie Tourer with 0.8 miles that has been involved in most of the personalized posts on this blog. In August 2013, 16 years later, I made a relatively uneventful 150-mile ride down to Yorktown, VA and sold it with about 145,500 miles on the odometer. Saying it was a sad day because it's gone is being a bit melodramatic and suggests an emotional bond I tend not to have with inanimate objects. But it is fair to say I am going to miss that bike.

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The Valkyrie has been one of the most reliable vehicles I've ever owned, it never left me stranded. I put 7 sets of tires on it. I changed the oil 33 times. I replaced the throttle cables twice (it used two to operate the two banks of 6 carburetors). I put on 7 sets of front brake pads--it had the original, nearly like new, rear brake pads still on the bike. I had the front forks rebuilt twice and the rear shocks replaced once. I replaced the timing belt at 97,000 miles and put a new drive shaft and u-joints on it a 115,000 miles. It had the original Lexan windshield, pitted and scratched so bad you could barely see through it, but I had cut 2" off the top about 10 years ago and looked over it so I didn't care. When it was a year old I installed a 6-into-6 exhaust system that made the Valkyrie sound like a 60s muscle car without being obnoxiously loud to neighbors and pets. 14 years ago, I jerry rigged an aftermarket automobile cruise control from J.C. Whitney that worked great providing all of the typical cruise functions including set, accelerate, decelerate, and restore and it cost only $100., versus $600. for the factory unit. The bike wasn't cheap, the parts and maintenance weren't cheap, but the memories are priceless.

The first 3 years I had the bike I averaged nearly 10,000 miles a year. Then I got serious and upped my game to over 17,500 miles per year and crossed 100,000 miles less than 4 years later in 2004 on a ride back home from BikeWeek. I can't remember precisely, but I think it was in 2002 or 2003 that I commuted to and from work nearly everyday driving a car less than 5 times that year (we had an unusually mild winter). So, before I had the Valkyrie 7 years I topped 100,000 miles. That makes it a little embarrassing to admit I didn't get half that mileage in the subsequent 9 years and saying I was also riding another motorcycle--I purchased a Ducati in late spring 2004--is not a valid excuse.

Once, I conducted an experiment to see how low the temperature would have to get before I felt it was too cold to ride. One morning it was 17o when I left for work. A few seconds down the road it felt like my eyeballs had froze. Despite using my electrically heated gloves, my hands were so cold when I got to work I had for force them off the handgrips. My feet were so cold I couldn't feel the ground as I slowly trudged to my office from the parking lot. I spent several minutes in the restroom holding my hands under warm water while I cried. It took most of the morning before I felt I had thawed and I had to admit riding that day might have been an indication I had gone insane. After that, I never rode when the temperature dipped below 32o.

The October after I had the Valkyrie for one year I rode to Daytona Biketoberfest. I was blown away by all of the motorcycles. My wife and I went back to Daytona to attend BikeWeek the coming spring and we kept going back until 2005 when she bought her trike from one of the many dealers that vends at that rally. Despite attendances of over 500,000 motorcyclists, and having to stay almost 50 miles away near Orlando because all nearby hotels were booked, we always enjoyed the bikes, riders, events, vendors, demo rides, racing, buying stuff, and, of course, the motorcycle riding. We attended other rallies over the years including several Honda Hoots, Honda Factory Homecomings, Americade, Rolling Thunder, and even a trike rally held in Sikeston, MO. 

I remember one year when my wife and I took a Saturday ride to Frederick, MD where Buell Motorcycles (Harley's experiment several years ago to lure a younger demographic by selling sport bikes with Harley engines which were noteworthy for their short wheelbase and light weight), sponsored an event where a rider rode through a timed course marked by cones consisting of numerous sharp right and left turns, tight u-turns, circles, and figure 8s. This event was designed specifically for the smaller Buell sport bikes and I was eyed suspiciously when I entered my Valkyrie. I think the sponsors thought me a fool to try that course with a full sized cruiser. I was elated to win my class. I choose to ignore the fact that I was the only entry in my class. (Even so, I was less than 8-seconds slower than the fastest rider.)

In May 2009, I entered an Iron Butt Organization endorsed Saddlesore 1000. The idea was to ride 1000 miles in 24 hours. This was sponsored by a local military affiliated support group and the plan was to leave Chantilly, VA at 5:30am and ride down to Richmond, then to Hampton through the tunnel to Norfolk around to Chesapeake, back up towards Richmond and then west to I-81, south to Bristol and then make a u-turn back to Winchester and then east returning to Chantilly. The bottom fell out in the wee hours of the morning raining so hard I had to pull off the road for fear a semi truck wouldn't see me and put an end to the whole thing. After about 30 minutes or so, I couldn't shake the feeling the clock was ticking so I got back on the highway and rode the rest of the way back to Chantilly in the rain. The ride was cold and miserable. I finished with several hours to spare and picked up my decal attesting to being one of the World's Toughest Riders!

There are many more memories to share but I'm tired of writing.

You may wonder why I didn't keep the Valkyrie. In 9 short years, the Valkyrie would have been an antique vehicle in VA by definition. But I wasn't sure if I had the time or if I could muster the energy required to keep the bike running for 9 more years. The Valkyrie was already starting to niggle me to death fixing this, repairing that, replacing the other thing. I didn't want my memories to sour because I didn't have the time or energy to keep it running reliably. I'm going to miss that bike, but I look forward to my memories taking a hyperbolic trajectory to greatness as they so often do with age. No doubt I'll have future posts of great Valkyrie memories. :)

Here are 17 photos, 1 from each year I owned the bike and a final one before I rode south to sell it.