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My twisting road to BMW Motorrad

Thursday, May 30, 2019   (3 Comments)
Posted by: Matt Wank #217542

The influence of motorcycles in my family is probably typical for America. Some of my great grandparents rode before I was born, along with an uncle here and there that rides. My dad even had a Honda 350 of some sort that he played around with until he flipped it while trying to do a wheelie. Not wanting to mess up their plans to have children, that bike was long gone before I was born. Overall, motorcycles were far from my day-to-day life or interests growing up.

It remained that way until 2010 when a good friend of mine decided to join the Army and wasn’t sure what to do with his 2010 Honda Shadow 750. After buying it, he rode it around the country and satisfied all of his motorcycling dreams. He mentioned that if he could find someone interested, he’d let that someone use the bike to keep it running. Just like that, the hook was set, and he removed one of the most significant barriers to anyone considering committing to riding. A month later I was a licensed rider, courtesy of the Virginia Rider Training program. I can’t praise these types of programs enough for giving me the entry skills and knowledge to start my motorcycle career safely. A month into riding around on his bike, I was hooked, and even though I worked less than a half mile from my apartment, I rode there every day. I knew I had to have my own bike.

Cruising Skyline Drive in Virginia

My First Motorcycle...not a BMW

I had cut my teeth on that Honda Shadow 750, a big, slow and comfortable easy-going cruiser. Even if I tried to ride aggressively, it wouldn’t let me. Naturally, when I set out to buy my own bike, I ended up with a sport bike. Wait, what? Hear me out: It’s not that I didn’t want a cruiser, but the Shadow was underpowered. So, who makes the baddest cruisers? Harley-Davidson. After checking just one price tag, I aimed a little lower. Perhaps a Harley-Davidson Sportster? Something used with low mileage was much closer to my price range, but still too much to commit to without getting some experience in the seat. When some friends planned a rafting trip 300 miles away, I rented one for my first real motorcycle road trip. Six-hundred miles, a gas station emergency eye rinse station visit, and one painfully vibrated rump later, I decided the Harley-Davidson premium simply wasn’t worth it.

It was at this point that I made my toughest motorcycle decision: I was going to buy a crotch rocket. Yep, I was going to become one of those people. The cost of a super low mileage, used sport bike was just too reasonable, and the more I researched, the more excited I got. I quickly identified Yamaha R6s as my best option, and after carefully waiting for the right (trustworthy) bike and seller to come along, I was the ecstatic owner of a 2008 Yamaha R6 with just under 2,000 miles.

I love my Yamaha. I always will, it is my baby. Though I may have cut my teeth on a Honda Shadow, I truly learned how to be a proper motorcycle rider on my Yamaha. The streets of any city, especially Washington, D.C., will force you to do that and quickly. While my buddy's bike made me fall in love with motorcycles. The R6 made me fall in love with riding.

My first track day at Summit Point, West Virginia

My First BMW...Rental

I've done a couple of day rides on my Yamaha over the years, and they were borderline torture by the end of the day. I knew the R6 would never satisfy my long ride cravings. I now primarily use it for the thing it was designed to do: track days.

I was fortunate to have a good friend living in Austin, Texas, who had taken an interest in motorcycles after playing around on dirt bikes as a civilian contractor while in the Middle East. In 2015, he bought a 2009 BMW 650 GS, and it wasn’t long after that we agreed we needed to experience a real tour. I wasn’t going to ride my Yamaha out there or on any lengthy trip in general, so I found a local Austin guy that rented motorcycles out of his garage. Having experienced Harleys enough already, and wanting to appear as a team, I rented a factory-lowered 2011 F 650 GS. This was also one of the extremely rare occasions where I checked a bag for a flight—18 days of gear packed in a giant duffle, including smaller bags, which I then transferred to the makeshift cases and strapped on the back. Nine states and more than 4,000 miles later, I had found my second love.

Somewhere in Nevada

My Second BMW...Rental

Although I knew I wanted to own a BMW adventure bike, I wasn’t yet in the position to buy one. Nonetheless, the opportunity for adventure continued. In the summer of 2016, a friend was getting married in Seattle, and I decided to take the scenic route. I flew to San Francisco, rented a standard suspension 2012 F 800 GS from EagleRider and made the breathtaking 1000+ mile Route 1 and 101 ride to Seattle. On that ride I found out how difficult it was to find a hotel room in any California beach town over Memorial Day weekend. How did I not realize it was a holiday? I eventually found an older, but lovely inn with stunning sunset views in Fort Bragg, California. This was the first of many amazing experiences which included camping at Gold Bluffs Beach, riding through a redwood tree, staying at the lodge by Crater Lake, Oregon, taking a ski lift up Mt. Hood, and taking a ferry across the Puget Sound after riding around the Olympic Peninsula, among others.

This trip further inflated my love of BMW adventure bikes and confirmed that my 5’9” size was more comfortable with a lowered one.

The North end of California Route 1

My Third BMW

...Is not a rental. This past fall I was finally able to get serious about buying a BMW. The most common question I’ve gotten is "Are you keeping your Yamaha?” The answer is an undeniable yes, I never even considered selling it. I chose to wait rather than sell. The R6 is my first love! I did the same level of research as my first bike purchase and concluded I could afford a typical used F 650 GS with low miles. I quickly learned, however, that these aren’t growing on trees around me like sport bikes. I expanded my search to the entire United States. Why not fly somewhere, buy a bike, and immediately take it on an adventure home? Before I had the chance to go down that road, a pristine 2012 F 650 GS with 3,000 miles popped up at a local dealer. One week later, it was mine, and shortly after, I joined the MOA.

Finally, one to call my own!


Dave Ickes says...
Posted Monday, June 17, 2019
Great article stay safe and all the best.
Kenneth Jamrozy says...
Posted Sunday, June 16, 2019
Love it.
Wayne D. Landry says...
Posted Thursday, June 6, 2019
Congratulations on the new to you F650GS. Welcome to the world of Adventure motorcycling. See you out on the road or trail someday.

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