I finally got a real motorcycle after more than 3 years of not having one
I moved to Austin last week. The first order of business was finding a new mode of transportation. Public transportation just doesn’t cut it in Austin. What would be a 12-minute ride in a car is over an hour and three transfers on the bus.
Austin has average annual precipitation values ranging from 32 to 36 inches per year, which means a lot of sunshine. Sometimes, weeks can go by without a single drop of rain.
Everyone complains about how terrible the traffic is. Being from NYC, however, it’s not that terrible. Sure, it sucks, but in some places, it’s worse than others and in Austin, it’s what you expect for a city growing so quickly. I work two jobs remotely, so I’m only in the office part-time, which means I don’t deal with rush hour.
With that in mind, I decided to get a motorcycle as my primary mode of transportation.
Below are a few examples of what I mean by “real” motorcycle
In 2015, in my first day in Hanoi, I bought a 110cc motorbike from a Vietnamese guy wearing a bandana named Stone who was standing outside my hotel, I assume, waiting to sell someone a motorbike.
I asked the general prices of motorbikes and he said that $250 is a decent price. I said OK. He called a friend who came on his motorbike and picked me up. After about 10 minutes, with enough turns that made me forget where I had come from, we stopped in a crowded ally full of motorbike repair shops. He showed me the bike pinned up against a cracked concrete wall. A green bike, the mark “Honda” on the engine.
I looked at the bike for about two seconds and said, ‘It looks good.’ Then I inspected it all around, pressed the brakes, engaged the clutch, rolled the throttle, turned it on—cold start, but it started immediately. I even took it for a spin around the block. I came back and said I would buy the bike, though the steering wheel felt a little too stiff. I’d find out about that two weeks later when I tried to sell the bike.
I brought it back to my hotel. Later in the evening, as I was bragging about my new purchase, a man would tell me that I had bought a Hunda, not a Honda, and that I probably didn’t see it because one side of the engine said Honda (the cap), while the other side (the actual engine component) said Hunda.
I said ‘Shit.’ I sulked in a noodle shop later with some friends, I felt stupid for not having seen it, and worried about all the mechanical issues that could be wrong with the bike. Then I thought some more and told myself if I wasn’t looking for the adventure I wouldn’t have come to Vietnam to buy a motorbike in order to ride across the entire country.
I rode the bike to Ho Chi Minh City the very next morning, a little over 2000 kilometers south of Hanoi.
That same year, I stayed with a friend of a friend in Bali for over a month and a half when I ran out of money and when I was just too exhausted to continue my world trip. I rested mostly on a private beach and a studio apartment without a kitchen that cost 60 dollars a month to rent.
The owner had three motorcycles. One of them was a custom bike that he let me ride from time to time, named Bob accordingly, because on the bike was a portrait of Bob Marley, another 110 cc (or I think, this one may have been 150?) motorcycle that was lacking all basic attention to safety.
Bob would constantly shut off, as I was rolling the throttle. He couldn’t go past maybe 50 miles per hour. He had a straight pipe, on a single cylinder engine, that ruptured my eardrums.
The seat felt like I was sitting on a tall stack of looseleaf papers. At one point, the chain flew off while I was riding on the highway in South Bali. I slowly wheeled myself to the emergency lane while our Cafe Racer friends stopped to see what was the matter. We managed to get the chain back on, but a few kilometers down the road, it flew off again.
In another instance, gasoline began pouring out of the carburetor. Something that my friend told me was “normal.
I had been living in Colombia for several months and soon my friend from New York was going to come and visit, we had agreed to ride out to Medellin from Bogota, and I was to find us a pair of motorcycles that we could use.
A local referenced me to a guy an hour out of the city center, Chapinero, who rented 160cc motorcycles out. He told me that the bikes were not ideal for a 10-hour road trip to Medellin. I told him they would do just fine. My friend agreed that the bikes would do just fine also, more interested in the adventure and the story than anything else.
We began our trip at noon, having been advised that it would take at least 10 hours to arrive in Medellin and that leaving any later than 9 am would mean that we would be riding in the dark.
The sun began to set as we were still several hours away from Medellin. Luckily for us, there is one straight industrial road that leads to Medellin from Bogota. This road is incredibly dangerous, more than once I was driven off the road by speeding large trucks overtaking other cars behind curves I could not see.
The bikes were slow and wouldn’t dare to break 90 kilometers per hour, even going downhill with winds pushing us forward. The bikes would decelerate on second gear with the slightest incline in the road.
After a few hours of riding in the dark, it began to rain, we were ascending into the mountains of Medellin for the first time and our fingers began to freeze. I could barely reach for the clutch.
I gave up and stopped on the side of the road, my friend stopped a few dozen meters behind me. He asked me what was wrong, I said I just needed a few minutes to stretch my legs and warm my hands. We had only stopped twice before that, once to eat a quick packaged snack and another time to fill up with gas. We shut off our headlights, the road was entirely black. My friend, standing a few feet in front of me, was completely invisible. The raindrops pelted us, we were soaked. I had put the hood of my sweater over my head and put my helmet on top of that to help with the cold.
The blood went back into my fingers and I could move them again. The ride was miserable, I didn’t want to get back on the bike but when I did the feeling felt more natural than standing. I turned on the tiny engine, clunked into first gear, the headlight illuminated the tall dark green trees swallowing the road to our left and the jagged boulders to our right, and took off.