A boy and his bike

By Frederick Freudenberger | Jun 28, 2010

I wonder how all the great romances started? Picasso and a brush, Arlo Guthrie and a six-string guitar, Winston Churchill and cigars, Ted Nugent and a bow, and the list goes on. I am not nearly as influential as these men but, like them, I have my passion: motorcycles.

I can't say exactly when I knew I wanted to ride but I know I was young. However, there wasn't a single defining moment in my life when I knew I needed to hop on a motorcycle and take off.

I know my motor-lust came from my father. He has been riding motorcycles for decades. I know he has had a few Harleys, a 1967 Moto Guzzi V7, and probably some others along the way. So, being my father's son, I took up an early interest in bikes.

My mother, naturally concerned for my safety, did not like the idea of me on one. However, she was surprisingly cooperative with the entire affair when I got older and I think understands my interest now.

Back to the genesis: It was the Guzzi that started it.

Growing up, the thing just sat there in the garage. I would look at it each time I went out and thought how cool it would be if it ran; it still doesn't.

I would sometimes sneak out and take the cover off to just stare at it. By today's standards its 700 cc engine isn't huge and the bike is not a beast, but as a young child, the thing was a monster. My 10-year-old brain couldn't comprehend how it worked or how to use it but I knew I wanted to be on it. I still do.

When I was a teenager I kept trying to convince my dad to teach me how to ride. Of course, it was difficult enough because I was still learning to drive. However, I thought I was ready and kept harassing. Eventually he either became tolerant of the idea or tired of my nagging and my persistence paid off.

I was 18 and came home one day to a surprise. Dad had gotten a 1985 250CC Honda Rebel. It was red and white, small, and a perfect machine to learn on. There were no bells and whistles; it was just a good little bike.

That day we took my first ride ever. I was on the back and he was driving. I remember being terrified and to this day I still don't like being on the back of a bike.

That didn't matter because it had been decided that after years of dreaming, I could learn to ride.

Even though I almost crashed, the first time I got on the bike I knew it was going to be a love affair. I lurched slowly along the gravel driveway in front of our house, trying not to tear the throttle open and lose control.

I wanted to impress my father with natural talent but it turned out I didn't have it. Fifty feet down the road I tried to practice stopping so I pulled in the clutch and the front brake. However, I also managed to twist the gas. The front wheel locked and the back went spinning to the right.

While pulling a 360 would be my idea of fun now, it wasn't then and I was fully embarrassed. I had almost dumped the bike three minutes of starting it.

Needless to say, I eventually got a feel for the Honda and grew to appreciate it.

The bike wasn't a powerhouse or the epitome of class but, at age 18, it was a motorcycle. I tried to take it whenever I could, which, thanks to my father's protective eye for both me and the bike, wasn't very often.

The good thing about the Honda was that it was easy. It is a little over 300 pounds, low to the ground, and comfortable. I never had much of a problem saving it from a drop if I messed up, and it was a great bike to commute with.

Also, according to its literature of the day, it got about 80 miles per gallon out of the factory. Take that Hummer.

My favorite memory of the bike is when I drove it to my high school on graduation day, where I soon proceeded to chase one of my favorite teachers around the track as she did her workout. High school maturity at its finest.

Gradually I took the bike farther and farther and my father started to trust me with it. Of course, by the time he trusted me, I was ready for a bigger bike.

I remember going up mountain roads, hearing the model-airplane whine of the engine pumping out a whopping 19 horses of pure power. At that point I wondered if the bike would make it and it always did.

Later on I would move to a father-son built 1967 Harley Sportster then my 2004 Triumph. I would call those better bikes but there is a special place in my heart for the little Rebel. However, I still wonder why we haven't fixed the Moto Guzzi.

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