The little bikes that could.

Honda Super 90.” width=

Photo: ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
A little Honda Super 90 motorcycle, similar to the one that hauled my
co-worker and his wife from california to Arkansas.

When I was in college, I worked at the Shoe Factory in DeWitt, Ark., during the summer. There was a guy there who had made the trip from somewhere in California to DeWitt with his wife on a Honda 90. This guy was about 6 feet tall and rail thin, not weighing in at more than 120 pounds. His wife, on the other hand, probably tipped the scales at close to 200. They came from California on that little bike with everything they owned. He always dressed in wide-brimmed cowboy hat and boots. His belt buckle weighed as much as he did. He looked like a 1950s TV cowboy. I’ve kept that mental image in mind for years. While I admire his gumption, it had to have been a comical sight.
That memory was called back for me when I read a post on the Valkyrie board. The person posting had a business trip coming up and was considering making the 570-mile trip on his bike. He only had one day for travel and, would have to be presentable and rational enough for the business meeting the next day. The advice he got was mixed.
One of the people who responded was a lady who told of going from Fort McClellan, Ala., to Detroit sometime in the 1960s on a 50cc scooter. She said it took her three days and 8 gallons of gas. She didn’t give any details about why she made the trip, but I’d imagine they were similar to the guy at the shoe factory. I doubt it was a simple joy ride.
I wouldn’t mind making a long trip on my Valkyrie. We’re talking about a big and comfortable, 1500cc cruiser. Yet I don’t think I’d risk a business meeting on my ability to endure almost 600 miles in a day on it. I might still make an endurance run in the next few years, but it will be something that won’t jeopardize my job. It will be something I try for fun. If it hurts too bad I’ll quit. A little more than a half-century of living has taught me that some things are important and worth suffering for, while other are not. I’ve made the conscious decision that I ride motorcycles for fun. When a ride stops being fun, I’ll shut it down in a heartbeat and save my suffering for other, more important battles.
But there’s a special place in my heart for those heroic little bikes that delivered so much for their owners. In some parts of the world, they are still little bedrocks of dependability that keep some families afloat. So here’s a tip of my hat to the little bikes that could, and the ones that still can.

- Guy Wheatley

2 Responses

  1. Don Nix Says:

    My first motorcycle was a Black Honda SS 90 just like the one in the picture.I never made an epic odyssey,but then riding to school the first time and parking it so everyone could see it was better than riding to California.
    From that point on I was one of the guys who rode motorcycles.
    That SS90,in my mind anyway, was just as cool as a 53 Indian and I could ride anywhere in the world. Then came Bronson and Easy Rider were johnny come latelys with thier Sporsters and pan heads, that SS90 was cool.

  2. Guy Says:

    “riding to school the first time and parking it so everyone could see it was better than riding to California.”

    I remember the feeling. Even though the bike wasn’t mine, I felt like a biker when the girls saw me on it. Too bad they weren’t nearly as impressed with me as I was with me.

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