The Broken-Down Bike Blues

I've been really enjoying my windows lately. Last year I had some new windows put in, easy open and close, all the screens in, perfect for letting in the fresh air and summer light. I've gone all summer so far without even turning on the A/C—sure, it's gotten a little warm, but I'm okay with that. The way I work now, it's nice to sleep in, breathe the cool morning air, get up, start the coffee, have some breakfast, and let my day begin while listening to the marvelous outdoors speaking to me through open windows.

As nice and enjoyable as it is, there's one thing I'm having trouble with as well. You see, I live just a few blocks away from the highway, and I hear motorcycles coming and going all day, every day. I hear them all. Since I was a kid, I've been able to guess what brand the bike is without seeing it. Just need to hear it running.

Most of the late '70s, early '80s inline fours sounded different from one another—I could always tell a Kaw from a Suzuki, etc. Nothing sounds like a Hog. I hear them day in and day out; shovels sound the best. I can always tell if it's a metric cruiser—some of them sound pretty good, but none make music like Milwaukee. All the rice rockets sound the same, DILLIGAF—however, I have high hopes for enjoying Yamaha's new crossplane motor. The sound of a "thumper"—a single cylinder bike, usually dual sport—is cool, always brings back memories of my youth.

It's like being a house dog, staring (listening) through the windows at the cats and squirrels playing outside, knowing I can't get out there to chase them. I've got the midsummer no-bike-to-ride blues. Got 'em BAD. I've not had my daily dosage of gas, oil, and skin to the wind at all lately.

I've actually got two of my three bikes almost roadworthy. The Buell is not one of them—it runs, but has a "terminal illness" that will require a motor swap. I'm probably gonna have to relearn how to properly ride it by the time it gets done. My beloved Lowrider has a freshly rebuilt motor and had been running superbly for 600 miles—until the wiring harness decided to cook itself. The day that happened I was very lucky, as I had a riding buddy with me who kindly let me ride passenger back to my house so I could get my truck and go rescue the bike. Nothing humbles you more than breaking down out in the middle of nowhere and having to depend on a "bitch" ride back home. (It's better than walking, though.) Hopefully I'll have the Shovel back soon, just waiting on that phone call from my good wrenchin' buddy.

The third bike wants to run—it's an Airhead BMW after all—but after sitting a few years and despite a thorough cleaning of the fuel system, it still has some bad congestion in the right carburetor. Nothing is more frustrating than to be rolling on time, for the first time, to a local BMW MOA meeting... the last moment running perfectly, the next moment, sputtering and slowing down on the shoulder of the road.


Being a biker means figuring what happens when you break down. Bikers are brothers (AND plenty of sisters, too) who always look out after our own. One time I broke down on the side of the road, a dude driving a greasy old work truck pulled over, and after about 15 minutes helped me get back rolling. Didn't remember his name, but that's not the point. I've tried to repay the favor, do right by folks I meet, and hope for the same, if ever again I'm in need.

Sitting at my desk at home, watching/listening to the birds party at home out in the yard, dusting themselves in the driveway, feeling the breeze through the windows at home, always good stuff. It's just not the same as gearing up, givin' 'er a little gas, pointing the front wheel, letting out the clutch, and rolling, knees to the breeze.

This is my incurable illness, a beautiful addiction to life lived rolling on two wheels. I just need my fix.

P.S.: The Airhead is for sale, to a good home. My good buddy Crow can tell you about it. If interested, get in touch:

J. Brad Hardin is a rider from "Mur-vil" Tennessee, who may or may not have sold you your bike once upon a time. Ridden them all, from a Moto-Morini moped at age 12, through all kinds of rice, to his current rides: a '77 Shovel, an '82 Beemer, and an '05 Buell.