Spending what I would consider to be a small fortune to buy my first new motorcycle was either incredibly deranged or the best decision ever. Frankly, the jury’s still out.
Buying your first new motorcycle can be a fraught experience, doubly so in a pandemic that meant demand outpaced supply. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one stuck at home, not knowing when this thing would end, jonesing to get and ride a shiny new bike. Indeed, last year was a surprisingly good one for road going motorcycles. Sales of street bikes were up 18 percent compared to 2020, according to data from the Motorcycle and Moped Industry Council of Canada.
Seek expert advice…
As much as I loved my first bike, a very-used retina-searing Suzuki DRZ-400 supermoto, I wanted something more versatile – a motorcycle that could do-it-all. A machine that could take me around the city, yes, but also further afield on longer road trips. The little DRZ didn’t feel much more substantial than a bicycle when I was riding it on the highway.
Naturally as a new rider, I turned to the CMG brain-trust for advice in buying my first brand new motorcycle – Zak, Mark, Dustin, Costa – as well as other motorcycle-riding colleagues from competing outlets such as the National Post’s David Booth. (Ed: For shame!) I’d never purchased a new vehicle before, so didn’t really know where to start. The gist of their collective advice was: “Be sensible, be smart, and don’t get in over your head.” Some said it more politely than others.
…then ignore it
Of course, I ignored their advice. Motorcycles aren’t sensible at all. Walking into a dealership to try bikes on for size, I felt like a kid in a candy store. A mix of excitement and trepidation, I was overwhelmed with choice but also had a lingering feeling that I probably shouldn’t be spending my hard-earned savings on a new motorcycle.
I remember Booth cackling as I tried (and nearly failed) to swing a leg up over a KTM 690 Enduro. Same with the Husqvarna 701 Enduro. I wanted that bike, not because it made sense, but because I liked everything about it. It seemed like it would be stupid-fun to ride a big dirt-bike around the city. Sadly, its 920 mm (36.2 in) seat height didn’t agree with my 31-inch inseam, nor with my lack of confidence as a new rider. I’m no Zak.
KTM’s 790 and 790 Adventure were just too ugly. Sorry. Yamaha’s Tenere 700 was certainly on my radar, but I couldn’t find one in any of the dealerships I visited at the time.
The Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled is marketed squarely at my demographic – gorpcore millennial avocado-toast aficionados – but the air-cooled motor would get scorching hot in traffic on summer days, and the long-ish reach to the handlebars didn’t feel “dirt-bike” enough for me. The BMW R nineT Urban G/S was a far cry from that 2016 Lac Rose concept I loved so much.
I’d seen the spy-photos of a blacked-out Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE back in 2018, and couldn’t get it out of my head. It got rave reviews. Booth said it was awesome. Costa even bought one. It’s always a big deal when a moto journalist who gets paid to ride brand new motorcycles spends their own money to buy one for themselves.
The numbers didn’t add up for me. At $16,650, it was too expensive. Its 870 mm seat height was too tall, its 200 kg dry weight was too heavy and its 1,200 cc engine was too powerful. The insurance quote I received was also outside my budget.
Getting both toes on the ground was just barely possible. Everyone told me I should get the shorter 1200 XC, but of course I ignored them. Again. The heart wants what it wants.
I sold the DRZ for roughly what I’d paid for it years ago and bought an ex-demo Scrambler 1200 XE on sale at Sturgess Cycle in Hamilton. None of it made sense, but I just had to have this lardy nostalgia-wagon. What could go wrong?
The waiting game
This was back in March of 2020. It seems like a much simpler time in retrospect. Canada had just shut down for a few weeks to “Flatten the curve.” Sturgess closed its doors too. Waiting for a new motorcycle is equal parts agony and ecstasy. Imagine the anticipation of waiting for an Amazon delivery, multiplied by more than one thousand.
That Spring, Sturgess partially re-opened but the half-capacity service department was overwhelmed since everyone was dying to ride that summer. There was a backlog of new bikes to get out the door, as well as spring tune-ups to manage. Somehow the amazing, patient, kind, and helpful crew had my bike road-ready for mid-May. I was excited and more than a little nervous.
Wobbly visions of Bud Ekins
I won’t try to recap two years of riding here. Suffice to say it’s been spectacular. There have been no mechanical issues to report. I’ve slowly been personalizing the Triumph to make it mine but it’s only the beginning. Not having a garage, my dad and I installed the tail-tidy kit from TEC Bike Parts on the street. Next up will be the exhaust, specifically the catalytic converter which gets molten-hot by my right knee. Apparently, the updated 2021 model fixes this issue by moving the cat.
Painting the tank and fenders in a bright colour scheme is part of the plan, as is getting some of the silver parts around the engine painted black as per my poor renderings. New turn signals and a shortened custom seat with cargo rack – a la Lac Rose concept – are also on the to-do list. I’d also love some desert-sled style bars with more sweep, but all the modern electronics and cabling on the Triumph means that may never happen.
Deranged after all?
The big bike and I are more comfortable with each other now. I’ve grown into it, and even earned my full license on it. It has succeeded in taking me further afield on longer rides than I’d ever done before. It has been my savior during this pandemic, allowing me to remain (relatively) sane.
For all the joy this motorcycle has brought me, it’s terrifying to think about what the bill would be. Motorcycle, insurance, aftermarket parts, gas, and gear all likely close in on $20,000. I suppose I could have spent it more wisely. I could have invested it, but to what end? Financial security, perhaps. But that wouldn’t have brought me nearly as much satisfaction and rather than enjoying my life on two wheels I’d still be daydreaming about it.
Buying my first new motorcycle has proven to be both deranged and yet wise. It makes no sense, and yet it makes perfect sense. Even if most people can’t, I trust you can all relate.