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Mainstream American motorcycle culture tends to worship the shiny — tends to follow the new or the unattainable. That’s not all bad. Some modern bikes are brilliant, and I love a good custom bike as much as the next guy. However, I can’t tell you how many custom bikes I’ve seen at events like Bearded Lady that looked fantastic, and ran like shit. What’s the point of that machine if you can’t trust it? You wanna look good from the side of the road? I guess that’s something. I’d much rather ride a bike than push it, though, and I’ve done enough of both to have a definite preference. “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”
Maybe we’re biased because we’re mechanics, but as shiny or even beautiful as a bike might be, we’re far more impressed when that bike actually starts on the first kick. We like a bike where all you have to do is give it a touch of choke, a couple quick pumps of the throttle and then just give the starter button a stern look to get it running. We like a bike that will idle happily, unattended for 15 minutes while you finish talking to someone and put on your jacket. When your vintage bike can do that, it’s impressive, no matter how pretty it is.
It’s called a vintage “runner” — an old bike that most people wouldn’t give a second look, but is always good for a second ride. It’s a noble beast. They’re not usually glamourous machines by today’s standards, and probably weren’t even when they were new. But they’re great motorcycles because they’re healthy. Because they run. Because everything works, even if it’s a bit worn — even if the bike is a little rough around the edges.
Take for example my ’81 Honda CB750 Custom. This is not a flashy machine, but it’s a runner. It’s a bike I fit on comfortably. It’s a bike that starts every time I hit the button, and stops every time I squeeze the lever. It’s a bike I know I can trust. I know I can trust it because Robb helped me resurrect it from five years of barn atrophy. Sure, I changed the oil and rebuilt the carbs, but it was Rob who went top-to-bottom and fender to fender to sort out all the little things my big dead bike needed to be road worthy. From flushing and bleeding the brake system to chasing down the handful of loose electrical connections that were keeping the blinkers from working. Thanks to Robb’s efforts, I know that the carbs aren’t just cleaned, they’re tuned. The vacuum fuel valve has the crud cleaned out of it. The pins in the brake calipers are correctly lubricated. The suspension has been adjusted to accommodate me and how I ride. The fun I have riding this motorcycle is made better knowing that it’s in sound mechanical shape — knowing that it’s been taken care of down at BlueCat Motors.
This grumbly old CB750 is not a fancy bike, but thanks to Robb’s attention to detail, now it’s a runner. And while I assume that from time to time, this 30 year-old machine will probably show its age, I know that fundamentally it’s a bike I can have a relationship with. It’s a bike I can trust to pull away hard when I get on the throttle. I can trust it to stop forcefully when I need it to. I don’t have to second guess whether or not the brake light will shine when I step on the pedal. I dare say that makes this boring old CB750 a better looking bike somehow. Running well is fancy enough for me most days. Better to be full of go, than show. Have you got a runner? Want one?
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