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Chick Bike

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					                                  Chick Bike
                             (previously published in BMW Owner’s News)


    One man’s struggle to reconcile his search for the perfect bike with his male ego


                                         By Ron Davis


  I didn‟t have to get it. I had a perfectly serviceable Beemer, a faithful 1980 R65. Sure, it
had 40K on it, but it ran like, well, any well-maintained BMW. It had everything on it I
needed: hard bags, double disks, windscreen, tank bag, even the obligatory Formotion
clock, but I felt conflicted. The R65 was 25 years old, but had exactly three scratches.
Being a high school teacher, I was continually waiting for it to get keyed in the parking
lot, or just as bad, to fall over because of melting asphalt or its puny sidestand (origin of
the three scratches). This would break my heart. It was stately, but, to me, heavy, a little
loud, and rampant with idiosyncrasies. There was of course that little dance all R65-ers
have to learn: swing off without putting the sidestand down, then lower the sidestand to
leave the bike in a precarious lean. And the famous acrobatic of getting it up on its lofty
centerstand, not to mention getting it off. I also heard noises. Was that a front bearing I
heard on sweepers? Did the valves always make that much noise? I couldn‟t deny it‟s
dependability, it had never let me down, but still I started looking around at other guys
driving beemers as old as mine, and they looked old. Was that me? So started my
fascination with the F650.
  I have owned a number of bikes and must say, once you own something from Bayerish
Motoren Werke, you stop thinking of Milwaukee or Japan. It‟s not that I‟m a snob--that
Suzuki V-Strom still beckons to me--but anything else seems frankly like a step
backward. My pitiful excuse for a bank account, the short stretch of my wife‟s
understanding, and the sale of my R65 would allow me to shop for an older 1100GS or a
newer F650, and there the dilemma arose. For my purposes, the daily seven mile
commute over, to be kind, “varying” road conditions (I live in the sticks) and my small
stature (but I‟m wiry) tilted me toward the F650. I had no plans for going from Dakar to
Paris, or even California, in the near future. It seemed like a logical choice. However,
then I started to talk to my riding buddies. “Chick bike,” snorted Ben, who had just come
back from the Ozarks on his oilhead. “Do you know it has a chain?” Erik, who is usually
quite open-minded, had just acquired a new Gold Wing, courtesy of the semi-driver who
had recently rolled over his old one. He narrowed his eyes and said, “One cylinder? Is
this for you or your wife?”
  Why was it a chick bike.? To it‟s credit, BMW is one of the few cycle marquees that
features women Riding their bikes, instead of posing on the saddle backwards in a thong.
And, in their brochures, often it was the F650 they‟d be riding. Granted, it‟s the lightest
beemer at around 410 lbs. or so, and has a lower inseam, but it sure felt manly enough
when I took my first F650GS for a spin. I decided to do some research.
  Any present owners of 650‟s who haven‟t visited F650.com are missing basically
everything. I was directed there through the BMWOA site, and after hours spent perusing
maybe one percent of the information there, I must say it has to be the definitive site on
this bike. There are seven pages on changing oil. There are ten on windshields. But most
important, at least to my male pride, there were trip stories. Guys, GUYS who did Boston
to Alaska, twice, with camping gear, two up! (in fact, it‟s considered the bike of choice
for the AlCan since everybody up there speaks Rotax). Four corners guys, Iron Butt guys,
SF to NY in ten days guys. This might be a bike chicks (okay, I‟d never actually use that
term in mixed company) could ride, but it sure weren‟t no “chick bike.”
  I started looking around for a deal (the IBMWR site is great and, most important, free).
But I didn‟t tell my buddies, except Ralph. Ralph is the guy I ride the most with, and I
felt Ralph could handle it. Ralph is non-judgmental. He‟s retired. He bought an old
Airstream just because he likes them. He listens to all of my notions, squints his eyes and
nods. If he wants to wear the same canvas pants three days in a row, he does. He drives
an orange and white-tanked Triumph Bonny with black fringed saddle bags. His daughter
calls it “that gay bike.” This amuses him. He smiles and says nothing.
  I finally found a prospect, five hours away in Minneapolis. It was a “Classic” F650,
1999. After that, BMW ushered in fuel injection and some other changes. The owner had
bought it for his wife (I don‟t usually mention that) so she could come along on his
sojourns down the River Road on his RT. She got pregnant and didn‟t feel she‟d be riding
for quite a while. Ralph and I filled a thermos and headed north. It was red. My jacket is
red. Obviously that was a sign. Heated grips, Givi bags, centerstand, a decent windshield,
and a throttlemeister—I started signing over money orders. Ralph went for a walk.
  Plated and titled a week later, for a maiden voyage I took the 650 on a quick, 300 mile
sweep through southwestern Wisconsin, which is about as close as you can get to bike
heaven. (If you don‟t believe me, ask Peter Egan.) As we carved through Wildcat State
Park the bike seemed to be calmly saying, “Are you sure you don‟t want lean over more?
„Cause you can, you know, I‟m just saying, I‟ve got more before you‟re anywhere near
my hard parts…” We cruised the straights smoothly with the bike only politely
suggesting fifth at 60. We poked through Amish country, and tooled up a few gravel
roads to break out my pack rod and exploit some prime brown trout hiding places. For the
final leg home to central Wisconsin, we traced the Wisconsin River valley with county
trunks. Unfortunately a cold front was moving in with a vengeance and we had to
contend with 30-40 mph winds. That wind, frost heaved blacktop, and irrigation pivots
with an uncanny ability to douse us conspired to end the trip on sour note, but I donned
my rain gear, plugged in Steely Dan and the 650 purred right through. We were friends.
  Just above the F650 emblem on my bike there is the word “Katalysator.” Rusty on my
German, I figured it was some sort of nickname for this model, and I started calling her
“Callie” for short. Since then I‟ve learned katalysator means “catalyst” and probably
promotes the bike‟s catalytic converter. But I still like the term: the bike takes me where I
want to go, when I want to go, and has already been the catalyst for all kinds of
adventures. Since the F650 and I have become one, I think I have finally overcome any
feelings of its inadequacy. If I go a day without a ride, I feel incomplete. All things
considered, for me, for right now, it is the perfect bike. If it‟s some people‟s idea of a
“chick bike,” so be it. From now on, I‟ll simply adopt Ralph‟s strategy: smile, say
nothing. I think I know something they don‟t!

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posted:7/8/2011
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