What Motorcycle Do I Want to Buy? According to the Ride

There isn't a motorbike that is perfect for all riding styles, whether it be touring, cruising, sport riding, commuting, or riding in the mud, in the real world. Of course, a motorcycle's attraction extends beyond its usefulness. A bike's aesthetics, exhaust tone, and overall feel all contribute to the whole experience, but these factors are subjective, thus one may not always be superior to another.

I enjoy riding motorcycles that put all of their technical complexity on show, but I can also appreciate the elegance of a Ducati 916 from 1994 to 1998. I enjoy the sound of a large V-twin engine, but the full-throated screech of an inline-4 is as seductive. Additionally, your priorities for a bike may vary over time.

Harley-Davidson Road King from 2003
What Motorcycle Do I Want to Buy? Harley-Davidson Road King from 2003

When I was younger, sportbike power and cornering ability were everything, and my 1984 Kawasaki Ninja was the best bike I could think of. Nowadays, I'm less interested in that style of riding and would much prefer take a ride on my 2003 Harley-Davidson Road King.

The motorbike that does it for you at a specific time and location is the closest thing to the ideal motorcycle. However, there have been occasions during journeys when I wished my motorbike had the same capabilities as another bike I had had; combining the greatest elements of both vehicles would have created an almost perfect motorcycle.

I owned a 1988 R 100 GS, a BMW adventure bike pioneer. I got it so I could commute, go on other vacations, and go exploring in the South Jersey pine barrens. The large Beemer handled and drove well on the road, but its weight and 50/50 dual sport tires made it difficult to maneuver on the trail.

Yamaha YZ250, 1975
What Motorcycle Do I Want to Buy? Yamaha YZ250, 1975

Then, my ideal GS would have been a machine that handled the dirt as well as the 1975 Yamaha YZ250 I owned when I was a teenager. The MXer seemed to glide over the sugar-sand tracks because to its unique long travel monoshock suspension and complete knobbies, which were less than half as heavy as the BMW at just over 200 pounds.

When I traveled the whole length of the Blue Ridge Parkway with three buddies, I would have enjoyed less weight. I was driving my BMW K 1100 RS from 1994. For the most of the journey, I was unable to think of a better motorbike due to its comfort on the highway, ample storage space in the factory baggage, and sufficient capability on the winding bends of the parkway.

Kawasaki GPz550 from 1982

What Motorcycle Do I Want to Buy? Kawasaki GPz550 from 1982

But it would have been more enjoyable if the Beemer could have lost 150 pounds and transformed into a virtual K-bike that was as light and maneuverable as my 1982 Kawasaki GPz550 had been when we went into the really tight stuff, like the Tail of the Dragon, with its 318 bends in 11 miles. The GPz was the go-to bike for club racers of the early 1980s because it was the lightest, quickest, and finest handling bike in its class. It was my first street bike, and of course I was eager to upgrade to a bigger model. Later, I would be grateful for that 550's agility.

900 SD Ducati in 1978 Darmah

What Motorcycle Do I Want to Buy? 900 SD Ducati in 1978 Darmah

My 1978 Ducati 900 SD Darmah was the base model of the illustrious 900SS. It was a delight to ride or simply admire, with its Tartarini design, bevel-drive V-twin engine, gold Campagnolo magnesium wheels, and loud Lafranconi exhaust. However, dependability and quality control for Ducati in the 1970s were not as high as they are now. In fact, Cycle World magazine had a test bike arrive in the early 1970s with a fly cast into the fiberglass tank! Instead of the many oil leaks, electrical gremlins, and other issues that plagued the actual Darmah, my virtual Darmah would have matched its Italian elegance with the rock-solid reliability of my BMW R and K motorcycles.

I occasionally accidentally snick the shifter down into what I believe to be first while transferring from one of my "regular" left-side shift motorcycles to my 1971 Norton Commando 750 with its right-side shifter and one-up, three-down shift pattern, which causes the bike to stall. This always happens when I'm stopped at a traffic signal. Then, like the rest of my motorcycles, my virtual Commando would maintain its classic bike simplicity and still have the "electric leg" button, saving me from having to kickstart it with all those horn-blaring automobiles behind me.

Norton Commando 750 from 1971

What Motorcycle Do I Want to Buy? Norton Commando 750 from 1971

The perfect motorbike is now only a dream. The motorcycle's development has consistently curved toward further specialization. But who knows what may be feasible in the future given the rapid developments in electronics, computing, and electric power.