Back from the Dead

In early 2017, I first experienced ocular symptoms of myasthenia gravis and by the end of that summer I felt that not only my motorcycling days were over but my driving days might be too. Double-vision is a show-stopper and not being able to even keep my eyes open reliably put the icing on that cake. Four years later, my Mayo Clinic neurologist has fine-tuned my medications (with prednisone being the real driver in my situation) so that those symptoms are vanishingly insignificant.

Last week, I took the bold and completely irrational step of buying another motorcycle, after pretty much reassuring my wife that I was “done with that.” Monday, I took the even bigger step of riding the damn thing. In fact, based on this motorcycle’s history and odometer, I might have ridden it for its first 75 mile, highway speeds trip. I needed to go the the Minnesota License Center in Hastings to change the title and get new tags, so I had a good excuse. I took the “scenic route,” past the Casino and through a moderately hilly and twisty county road between Red Wing and Hastings.

On the way out, I had the weird thought that this is the newest bike I’ve owned since the 70s with my Rickman ISDT 125 and Suzuki RL250 trials bike (the only new motorcycles I have ever owned). Not long afterwards, I realized that all of my street motorcycles (2008 WR250X, 2004 650 V-Strom, 1999 Suzuki SV650, two different 1992 Yamaha TDM 850s, 1986 Yamaha XT350, 1984 Kawasaki KLR600, 1982 and 1983 Yamaha 550 Vision, & 1979 Honda CX500 Deluxe) have had less than 1,000 miles on the odometer when I bought them from the original owners. Some, like the V-Strom (dropped in the driveway and totaled by the insurance company) and the WR250X (mangled by the original owner with a hacked pipe and intake), were in less-than-pristine shape but all of those motorcycles were barely broken in when the original owners handed them off to me for a fraction of their original cost. The TU is probably the newest looking of the lot, though. All of the scratches and dents it will have when It leaves my hands will have been put there by me.

Mostly, I think it is fair to say that whatever skills I once had aren’t spectacularly deteriorated, even after a two-and-a-half year layoff. Red Wing no longer has a MMSC training range, so I detoured through Rosemount to the Dakota Tech School parking lot where the ranges are nicely marked off. I made a few passes through the more difficult exercises, rode all of the BRC endorsement exercises, and left feeling pretty good about myself. I even drug both pegs riding through the 135 degree testing curve. I wasn’t even trying to be fast. So, my dreaded “baseline test” turned out to be no big thing, so far.

I did have to get used to some new stuff, though. First, for the last 37,000 250cc miles, I’ve been on a 6-speed. The TU250X is a five-speed and I constantly kept trying to fine that non-existent last gear. Two, the TU’s wheels are steel and so is the frame and the ground clearance is substantially lower than the WR. That means I don’t have to run stoplights or get off and press the pedestrian crossing button. That was a pleasant surprise, to say the least. Three, for the first time since the 1970s, I can stand flatfooted (both feet) when I stop. Swinging a leg over the TU is easy, off and on. Four, the downside to that low seat height is the lack of suspension travel. Twice I was in the middle of a turn at an intersection and hit a pothole that I wouldn’t have even noticed on the WR and got my bell rung pretty good with the impact. That will take some getting used to. My WR and V-Strom had high-end rear shocks and terrific front suspensions and I have more than a cumulative 100,000 miles under my belt on those two bikes. All of those good things and a couple of mediocre issues added up to a really great ride this morning. Of course, being me I had to screw something up. So, when I rolled into my (slight downhill) driveway leading o the garage, I mindlessly put the bike in neutral, put the sidestand down, and swung my leg off pulling the bike slightly forward and off of the sidestand and ending up sitting on a landscaping log with a TU250X in my lap.

I must have some genetic connection to whatever Native American group it is that always puts a defect into everything they make so not to offend their gods. No damage done, not even a bent lever, and my already pretty beat-down pride barely noticed the latest hit.

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