Bova Reminisces About When His Motorcycle Journey Began

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November 26, 2012 | By: Don Bova

Do you ever miss being a new motorcycle rider?  We all have different stories of how and when we rode the first time.  Some of us were pre-teens, some of us were teens, some in our 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and beyond.  We all had different reasons for why we started to ride and we all had different levels of instruction (or lack of instruction.)  No matter what stories we have to tell, there are things that every single one of us has that can’t be taken away or changed, and those are our rookie riding experiences.

What a rush being a newbie was!!  Sometimes I force myself to think back to those times –  when everything about motorcycles and riding them was exciting and new.  Yep – those times those wonderful times. I remember – it was….

It was late 1969 and I had just returned from serving in the Army.  During my two year absence, my best friend growing up, who had also been my next door neighbor since we were just little guys, had started riding motorcycles.  I believe when I returned home he was riding a Norton.  It was winter in Michigan, so I didn’t see him ride, but going over to his house I did see the bike a lot.

Fast forward to early March of 1970 and we were experiencing one of those pop-up “warm” days that come along in late winter or early spring.  For those of you who live in the northern states or in Canada you know what I am talking about.  The temperature gets ALL THE WAY UP TO 40 degrees (somewhere between 4 and 5 degrees Celsius) and we would think that it was the middle of summer.   My buddy, Larry, came riding by.  He sure did look like he was enjoying himself………..and I’m sure that he was!!

There I was 21 years old, single, with money in my pocket watching my best bud ride off on his motorcycle.  So you can pretty well guess what I did next.  I didn’t pass GO, I didn’t collect $200, but went straight to the local dealer.  I remember that Anderson’s was a little store/shop located just outside the downtown area of Pontiac, MI. As nosey teens, we used to go in and look at the four or five Triumphs and/or other bikes in the front while the salesman/parts man/repair guy (pretty much all the same guy) was in back working on bikes.   This was; however, right after the “You Meet The Nicest People On a Honda” campaign, and during a booming economy, so Anderson’s had a big, brand new building on the main drag near Pontiac.  It had a huge showroom with colorful rows of Hondas and Yamahas.  There was a real honest to goodness parts counter and a bustling service area.

I walked in and ran into an acquaintance from the neighborhood who was one of the sales people.   He didn’t have to do anything, but stand there and wait for me to tell him what I wanted.  It was kind of like one of those movies where some little kid is looking at dogs at the shelter.  They love them all and then, wham, it happens.  They see THE dog and the rest just disappear.  It was the same with me on that dealership floor.  I was looking at all the shimmer and shine and the rainbow of colors and, WHAM, it happened.  The little, orange, Honda CL350 Street Scrambler stole my heart.  All the other bikes in the room were no longer there.  I HAD TO HAVE THAT ONE!!

I made my way to the sales desk never taking my eye off the bike and I knew the bike was watching me as well and was just as excited about going to its new home as I was to take it.

But, I was facing one little problem.  I had only been on the BACK of a motorcycle once in my life and I had NEVER driven one.  I worked a different shift at General Motors than my buddy, so he was at work and I couldn’t call him.  So I called Ron, a friend I worked with and someone I knew was savvy about how to ride a motorcycle.

A few days had passed since that balmy 40 degree day we had experienced earlier. The day I purchased the bike and had Ron come to help out was a dismal, gray, Michigan March day with temps in the high 20’s at best.  Being the trooper that he was, Ron rode the bike the five miles from the dealership to my house and I followed in his car.  It was there in the front of my house that I received my “Motorcycle Training.”

After thawing out about 10 minutes in the house, we returned to the sidewalk where the Honda was waiting. And this is almost exactly how the instruction went: “Get on the bike….ok…..this is the throttle, this is your shifter.  From neutral to first gear is one click down and you click up to shift to higher gears and click down to get back to first gear.  When in first gear you gently toe up to neutral.  Don’t worry about it if you have to search for it because you’ll eventually get the feel of where it is.  Here is your clutch.  This pedal is your rear brake and this lever is your front brake, but don’t ever use your front brake.  Ok, pull in the clutch and start it.”

That is how a frozen acquaintance teaches motorcycle 101.

I started the bike.  Holy Horsepower Batman!!!  What a feeling.  I felt like I never had to move and only had to sit there with the bike running beneath me.  I would be happy forever, but Ron wanted to go home, so he wanted to make sure I could move.  I knew how to drive a stick shift so I was able to make the bike move and after a couple of tries I even got to second gear.  Man I was happy.  Who cared that it was only 28 degrees out (well, Ron did!!)?  My progress, so to speak, was good enough for Ron and he was gone.

During the next two weeks I spent much of my free time riding up and down the street and around the neighborhood getting a feel for the bike.  Then one day it was bright and sunny and warm (sort of), so I headed out for another neighborhood ride.  I started the bike and went down the street into the neighborhood, around the block, and headed back towards my house.  I had done that same thing 20 or 30 times over the previous couple of weeks, but this time something was happening.  I felt different.  My house was getting closer, but I wasn’t slowing down.  My eyes were focused on the highway a block further up the street.

I pulled up to the  stop sign……looked to my left….no cars…..gas, clutch out…..WAHOO!  I was riding!!  I rode up to the local shopping center, pulled in, rode around the parking lot, back on the highway, and home.  I knew that everyone was watching me and were thrilled at seeing the guy riding by on that motorcycle.  I stopped at the light, down shifting as I slowed, and putting my feet on the ground….WOW!  I eased out the clutch and zipped past block after block toward my street.  Did I turn in?? No way.

I rode for a good hour before I pulled back into my yard.  Only then did I realize how cold I was.  I dismounted the Honda and bubbled over with excitement and pride.  I was already excited about my next chance to ride again.  And you know what?  I still feel that way.

That was nearly 43 years ago.  There are grandparents out there who weren’t born yet when I had that experience.  Nixon was president, there was no such thing as a self-serve gas station, and we only had four channels on the ONE television in the house.  Am I still riding? You bet!  I have gone through several bikes since that first little Honda.  I live in Florida now, and on average, put 13,000-15,000 miles a year in the saddle.  I ride to Michigan at least once every year. I have qualified for two Iron Butt certifications and I ride to work EVERY DAY.  I have 43 years of riding stories.  Only you, all my brothers and sisters in this wonderful motorcycle fraternity, can understand that looking at your motorcycle, climbing on your motorcycle, starting your motorcycle, and riding your motorcycle……IS STILL A RUSH!!!!

When and where did your story begin?

Comments (11)

Wow, your story brought back memories, I was 15 that year, got the CL175 in the same color as yours also purchased Anderson’s. I lived about 15 miles north of the dealership and rode that bike everywhere, work, school, dates, a big wooded area where the Pontiac Silverdome sit now you name it. I moved up to a CB750 and now on my second Harley, a 99 Ultra Classic that my wife of 39 years and I enjoy every chance we get. I Just retired , so its on the road next spring for more wind in the hair and smile on the face.

Sounds like a lot of folks started on a Honda…Mine was a 69 CL90 Scrambler. (not the girls bike style) I was 14… My cousin Billy owned the bike… I remember the day like it was yesterday… Funny how you remember these details… We were visiting my Mom’s family in Tawas City MI and went over to Uncle Bills house with my Dad… The bike was sitting in the garage and of course I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it… Cousin Billy wasn’t at home and Uncle Bill asked me If i wanted to ride it… I told him I didn’t know how to shift it and he said neither did he… go ahead and try anyway… I got on the bike and proceeded to figure out how… I kept pushing down on the shifter and almost went over the handlebars a number of times… downshifting when I should have been upshifting and vice versa… after 2 hours my dad said it was time to go and of course i had to say..”just one more time around the block,OK” I finally figured it out on the last trip around the block…one down, three up! Man was I proud… Before we left to go back to the U.P. my Dad bought me the bike for $100… a lot of money for him back then… That started years of riding… Next up 73 CL350, 73 Yamaha 360, 75 Norton High Rider… Nortons version of the banana bike with ape hangers and a banana seat… 92 Sportster that steered me into the front of dump truck and walked away to tell about it, numerous Fat Boys, and finally what I call my last NEW bike…04 Screamin Eagle Electra Glide… Still have that, a 94 Fat Boy in the remodeling phase, and hardtail frame ready for the Zippers built EVO sitting on my bench… gotta tell ya… it never leaves your blood after that first ride!

Rode in dirt, 5 years on jap bikes. Hil- climbing ,mx, enduro. Then ready for pavement , I bought a ’73FXE HD Super Glide used in 1977 Feburary. Never looked back. FLH Evo now still motoring, any chance I get. But , I am glad that people like J&P came along,because aftermarket mc parts was so thin . Now you can stay on the road! In the wind , with more choice’s of great parts.

I started out on a Honda 90 when I was 13. Wasn’t supposed to ride on the street as I didn’t have a drivers license, But what the heck–did anyway.

After a couple years, I moved up to a Honda 160 Scrambler with straight pipes. Thought I was way cool until engine seized and had to push it home. Over the next few years, it was one Honda after another, each bigger than the last, but all seemed to have the same problems with engine seizure.

Switched to a Triumph 750 Bonneville that burned the valves at only 1,400 miles and I almost threw in the towel forever on motorcycles.

Across the street was a Harley dealer with a used ’75 FL with 38,000 miles on it already. Traded the Triumph for the old Harley and rode that bike all the way to the tip of South America and back. She had 275,000 miles when I traded for a new one in 2008, and we already have over 100,000 miles.

Been riding for over 50 years and guess I could be called a road warrior. Saw every state including Alaska, and a bit of Europe on my Harley over the years, and finally feel like I am a true biker.

If I could, I would not change a thing in my life, as I can say I’ve lived and seen the world in a different light on the motorcycle. It’s been a good life.

I too bought a Honda ‘street scrambler’ in 1970, only mine was a 450 CL. Same color, though! I should have said ‘is’, because I am still riding it. I have to tune it once in awhile, but it is still my everyday, dependable ride. Paid $895 for the bike brand-new. Not a bad investment.

I don’t miss being a new rider at all! Six months after getting my first bike ( 750cc Norton) a car pulled out in front of me and I ran smack into the passenger side. Flew over the car and landed on the pavement about 100 feet down the road. My jeans caught the handle bars and ripped all the skin off everything between my legs and when I landed I broke my left elbow. Spent a week in the hospital and had to have surgery on my elbow to have a screw inserted to hold the bones together until they healed. Still have the screw. I had a cast on my arm for 6 1/2 months. The arm still bothers me today, more then 40 years later.
Given the same circumstances today with 40 years of riding experience I would have avoided the collision entirely and at worst yelled harsh language at the driver. So NO, I don’t miss those newbie days at all.

When I was 15 I had a 1972 blue/white CL350 that my dad and I bought from Anderson’s also (we went in halfs, as I had a paper route). What a blast that bike was! I even rode it on a couple of trips to northern MI. I still ride a lot (have a Roadglide and VTX 1800) as does my dad (he is 85 and has a ’73 CL350 at his cottage up north). This article brought back great memories!

The frist bike i got in 1966 at age 16 ,it was a 1947 Harley ,165cc. A classmate of mine sold it to me for 50.00. As a kid, about 8 or 9, my mother would take me downtown to see a motorcycle club ride into town some weekends. I loved that sound of power, and they looked so cool ,riding their Harley’s with their hat ,gioves, jackets, boots,and chaps. I had to have one. I’ve had a lot of bikes sense then ,(no Harley’s), until now. 43 years later i have my last bike, a 2007 Harely Streetglide, and i’ll ride it until God calls me home.

Suzuki DS100. Good all-purpose bike for a 13-year old kid out in the country.

Mine was a kh400 triple two_stroke. Red man I loved that bike. But the clouds of smoke.

I started on a non running Cushman scooter when I was 13 . It did not run and with info from Cushman in Nebraska ,and the knowledge from my dad ,I fixed it . I turned all the wrenches to make it run . Have rode a lot of diff. models since ,raced flat track, hound and hair , motocross, . I still ride today . I have a 2009 Heritage Softail putting out 107 on HP and right at the same for torque. The Harley shop has been a big help in all this . I have 17,000 miles on it now and runs just great . In 09 I put 3300 miles on a trip to Alberque ,Vegas,Denver, then home to Topeka,Ks ..Was so cool .

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