I did something I never thought I would do. I ended my 14-year run of owning Suzuki V-Stroms, by trading my 2017 DL650. Not because they were not good. To the contrary. Excellent bikes. I think I just wanted something different.
And so, on March 1, I rode the V-Strom to Cadre Cycle, in Blue Ash, Ohio, and traded the bike on an inventory clearance, Moto Guzzi V85tt Adventure.
I never thought I would find a bike that I would like more than my V-Stroms, but I have. It fits me perfectly, and the performance is wonderful.
Since March, I have put about 2,000 miles on it. I rode it to the Horizons Unlimited-Virginia event in April. That was about 1,000 miles round trip. I was glad to have the heated grips riding through the mountains of West Virginia in 40-degree weather with snow on the side of the road. And, the cruise control came in very handy blasting home on the Interstate. It’s a keeper.
While at HU-Virginia, my friend Chris Smith and the Moto Photo Adventures crew did a short video of me and the bike. Here is that YouTube video. https://youtu.be/IjU5Y3qxMWA
I took a hard look at this bike because of owning the Moto Guzzi V7iii Rough, the Urban Scrambler. It is just a blast to ride, but not necessarily a touring bike as such. The V85 has the bags and utility for long distance or trips to the grocery store.
Do I miss the V-Strom? No. I was ready for something else. Do I like the Guzzi? Absolutely. Both of them. I guess I have become an old man on a Moto Guzzi.
I have been somewhat of a history buff when it comes to motorcycling, travel and highways. I love to ride historic highways and trails, to see the history. So, it makes plenty of sense to me that I would love to read about the history of highways. I find it fascinating.
When I found a book recently published, I had to have it. America’s First Highways, by Stephen H. Provost, is a great read for understanding how our country arrived at our highway system.
I understood how many of our roads were originally Native American Trails, and one can see that from early 1700 and 1800 maps, but I discovered a few things about how our highways were developed.
In the late 1800s, as towns and cities began to grow, it was the bicycle industry that called for better roads, although mainly in urban settings. By 1900, there were “321 bicycle companies churning out an astonishing 1.2 million a year.”
City streets began to improve, but the roads between cities were still primarily dirt, and as automobile manufacturing began and started to grow, the need for better roads between towns grew with it. That gave rise to the automobile and highway associations, and efforts to improve the rural roads. Building better roads gave rise to the real idea of “If you build it, they will come.” Tourism and commerce demanded better roads with the rise of automobile manufacturing.
Early on, the Federal government had no part in the development of highways. It was all local and regional. But there was a need for major roads from border to border and coast to coast. Hence, the idea of national highways like the Lincoln Highway, Yellowstone Trail, Dixie Highway, Old Spanish Trail, and the Lee Highway, just to name a few, grew in popularity but not without easy consensus. Which towns would these highways go through? What would be the final route?
Finally, in 1917, the Federal government created the Bureau of Public Roads, but its efforts were minimal. It was not until 1926 when the Feds designed a numbered highway system to replace all the named highways. For interstate highways, there were to be 10 east-west routes ending in zero (10, 20, 30, 40, etc.) and 11 north-south highways ending in the number 1 (1, 11, etc. to 101). The numbering system brought an end to the named highways, but many of those names still exist, and a few are marked, like the Lincoln Highway and the National Road.
I have touched on a few key points of this book, but there is so much more detail. If you are interested, read the book.
That’s what is exciting about finding a book like this. The richness of these early highways, and the development of towns and the road are all waiting to be discovered.
The weather forecast for the last couple of days of 2021 are a disappointment. Not good for riding. So, the mileage numbers are pretty much complete for the year, and that is somewhat disappointing also.
I decided to analyze my riding to see if a pattern emerged.
The first thing I noticed is that I rode my 2020 Moto Guzzi V7iii Rough twice as many miles as my 2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650. Really? Yes, really. The V-Strom is my third DL650, and I have loved each of them, but the Guzzi has overtaken the mileage. It is so easy to ride, to throw a leg over. And frankly, it is soulful.
I decided to look back to 2008 for motorcycling mileage. That’s when I bought the first V-Strom 650, and really started to really travel on two wheels. I put 66,386 miles on that yellow bike before trading it on a new 2015 V-Strom 650. That first one took me to many places and most of my 48-state rides.
In 2013, a distinct change occurred. I had one long tour to the southeast to work on my fill-in-the-states map, and that was one of my worst travels. I rode 2,400 miles round trip, five of the six days in rain. I was charged by a pit bull while taking a picture of crossing into the Georgia state line. Missed being involved in a multiple car accident by split seconds in Augusta, Georgia, because I was in the right lane and could take to shift to the highway shoulder. Took a bee sting in the face while traveling at 75 MPH next to a semi-truck and trailer on I-75. There were other incidents, but by the time I arrived home, I told my wife, “It was horrible. I’m selling that bike.” In her wisdom, she told me to wait a while. Smart woman.
In 2012, I started volunteering with an organization that serves disabled Veterans. Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc., is an incredible asset. The program teaches disabled Veterans all aspects of fly fishing—fly tying, casting techniques, rod building, and takes them fishing. As a Vietnam Veteran myself, I could relate. I got involved serving others. Sometimes, I would ride the motorcycle to events. It’s clear in my analysis that PHWFF was more important than long-distance motorcycling. I served for nine years, six as the program lead for Cincinnati.
Then there was covid and the pandemic. We hunkered down, and got our vaccinations as soon as we could, but we still practiced caution and did little traveling or socializing. Thank God for Zoom to stay in touch with motorcycling friends.
I started riding at the age of 15 in 1965 on a Lambretta scooter that my dad bought. More than 50 years of motorcycle ownership, and one at a time. There were a few years of non-ownership. I owned a 2004 Honda Shadow when I wrote a few articles for Road Runner Magazine. Since purchasing that 2008 V-Strom, I have owned a total of nine motorcycles, but never owned more than two at a time. Here is the list in the order of purchase and the miles I put on them:
2019 Moto Guzzi V7iii Special (2,296 miles) (traded)
2020 Moto Guzzi V7iii Rough (3,001 miles)
My current rides, the 2017 V-Strom and 2020 Moto Guzzi V7iii.
So, here are the numbers. Since 2008, I have ridden 103,897 miles on two wheels. The years 2008-2012 totaled 57,434 for an average of 11,487 miles per year. The years 2013-2021 totaled 46,463 for an average of 5,162 miles per year. The year with the most miles was 2010 with 13,637 miles and the worst was 2015 with 3,551 miles, the year my Mom passed away.
Clearly, something or life choices made a huge difference in my motorcycling starting in 2013. Was it that horrible tour to the southeast? Or, was it refocused interest. For the most part, I think it was life choices and the opportunity to serve others that replaced my long-distance two-wheeled travel.
Good question. Now what? At age 71, I am not ready to quit riding. I have ridden to and through all 48 states—all on V-Stroms. Looking at the numbers, it does not make sense to buy a third motorcycle when I would just be splitting miles with three bikes. And now that my PHWFF duties have changed, I have more time to get away. The easy decision is to make smaller two and three day rides and fishing trips, and that would be perfect for either of the bikes currently in the garage, the V-Strom and the Guzzi. In fact, I really want to take the Guzzi for a tour. It’s the perfect bike for two-lane highways.
Ed. Note: March 21, 2021 is International Poetry Day.
Spring air coaxes me on as I lean into the curves. The park is filled with families, kids in the playgrounds. Overhead, an airplane tows a glider, ready to be released to near total freedom, but it must return to earth. The motorcycle awaits. It is the total freedom machine.