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What's the lure of vintage bikes?

First bikes can bring back vivid memories
First bikes can bring back vivid memories
Tom Batchelor

Walking the grounds of an organized motorcycle event such as Daytona, Laconia or even the garden-variety local gig puts the hard-core biker enthusiast into vintage recon mode. Seems that this sensitive radar which scans the corners of our vision for that illusive vintage Harley, or RD400 Daytona is developed over many years but is inherent in pretty much all serious riders. It gets us thinking, though, as to why these vintage models are so luring. What's the draw? Why do they evoke such emotion?

Psychologically speaking, emotions have various theories to help explain their matrix and Psych students probably will recognize James-Lange, or Cannon-Bard, or Cognitive theories. Most of us, however, aren't planning on getting our shrink licenses so this matters not. What does matter is the fact that; a) seeing an old friend makes us happy; and, b) seeing an vintage bike makes us happier. Certainly, it's a chemical thing quite possibly accentuated by environment, smells, certainly sights; sugar rush from an elephant ear and/or the three or four beers consumed while ambling along.

It's clear that memories and emotions, at least where old flames and vintage bikes are concerned, go together. A simpler time with simpler days, simpler pleasures, simpler technology. No cell phones or traction control, no ABS. No digital displays. There was an anolog tach and speedo -- and this particularly choice road (perhaps a particularly choice girl, too) -- burned into the gray matter. It pops back up into the forefront of our daily thoughts based upon a stimulus. Raise your hand if when you smell two-stroke smoke, this doesn't happen. You won't see many hands. Spying that old Harley that sweet wife of 40 years and yourself took on that honeymoon week back in the day, grab a napkin because the emotions will be thick.

Recall, that awesome scene in the movie "Field of Dreams," where James Earl Jones' character was talking about baseball: "The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces." And that's exactly what happens when our shuffling about at the motorcycle festival, or swap meet, or gathering, puts us face-to-face with that memory. That KZ900, CB750, H1 or H2 triple two-stroke smoker, an old knucklehead, perhaps a thumper single first bike; maybe even a minibike.

What's the lure of vintage bikes? Memories, plain and simple. Where we started, where we learned along the way. Sometimes, accompanied by a burning or aching in the pit of the stomach, the same feeling when that first love walked away with a guy in law school. There's desire there, want, perhaps even lust.

But what are memories? Things we did, fun we had, troubles overcome, events that were once in the present but are now history. Isn't that occurring this very day? Sure is.

It's OK to salivate over that KZ, Seca, XT, CB, Jawa, Penton, Cannon, Husky, Beemer.... but keep it in perspective. Shelling out copious amounts of coin to own a piece of your history might not be the best idea. It's never going to be as good as it was, period. You'll never get that exact feeling back just by slinging a leg over an old ride.

Best to make new memories and savor the old ones than to apply for a do-over with retirement money.

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