I have friends who love vintage motorcycles, and by that I mean anything with points ignition, drum brakes, and valves you can adjust with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers, or maybe just a hammer. I also have friends who adore current machinery. If the warranty has expired, it’s too old. Time for Craigslist.
My vintage is 2005. What? Did anything interesting happen in 2005 besides the Chicago White Sox taking the World Series in four games?
There was no master plan, just a set of coincidences. Each of the three bikes whose pink slips are in my name fill a specific need, and were obtained used. Two might be considered boring and predictable, the third certainly isn’t. Quite by chance, they’re all 2005s.
It starts with a GSX-R. Suzuki celebrated the 20th anniversary of the GSX-R in 2005 and I was privileged to be taken into the factory and given access to most of the original designers and engineers, including Mr. Yokouchi himself. Kool Aid still dropping from my lower lip, I came home and ordered a special 20th Anniversary edition GSX-R750. Of all the sporbikes I’ve owned, it was the best—perfectly balanced, entertainingly fast, brutally honest.
Note the past tense. In 2011, my dear friend, David Bull, was aboard the GSX-R and had a serious accident on California’s Highway 58, on our return from MotoGP at Laguna Seca. David survived with grave injuries but the Suzuki did not. Because full-coverage insurance on a GSX-R is so costly, I ran liability only. I knew that I could buy the bike again every two years for what I was charged to keep Flo in pancake makeup.
David, alive and recovering but unlikely to ever ride again, offered his own GSX-R as a replacement: a 2005 GSX-R1000. I could not refuse the gesture, nor did I want to. As a matter of fact, I saw that bike come to life in early 2005 as David and I toured Suzuki’s factory. It was a special favor from Suzuki’s American PR guy to make sure David could buy the same bike he saw built. That history makes this Gixxer special even beyond the fact that many consider the K5, as it was called, to be the ultimate GSX-R1000—the best combination of low weight and seamless, overcome-with-torque power. A keeper.
Next is a Yamaha FZ1. I’ve long been a fan of the Fizzer, and can recall seeing one for the first time, down in the dungeon-like shop Motorcyclist used to have in our Wilshire Avenue digs. I thought it was kinda funny looking, weirdly angular and missing a few pieces of plastic. Then I rode it, and fell in love. I’ve owned quite a few bikes but it would be hard to imagine not owning a first-generation FZ1. It’s just such a good all-arounder, a comfortable long-distance runner with good fuel range, tremendous comfort (especially with the GYT-R low handlebar risers), and enough speed to be entertaining. But there’s something more: I’ve put so many miles on FZ1s over the years that I feel totally connected, like I can read the bike better than most. Almost nothing it does surprises me. I wanted to love the second-generation bike as much, but never got along with it. Yamaha made the original FZ1 from 2001 to ’05, so mine could be any of five vintages. I like the ’05 because of the blue (called Bruise by FZ1 cognoscenti) bodywork and black frame/engine combination.
Last on the list is a Suzuki DR650. Having caught the dual-sport bug, I went looking for a reasonably agile machine that I could ride to my local trails in some comfort. The closest is 60 freeway miles away. A DR-Z400 is a better dirtbike but substantially less able on the highway. With dual sports it’s all about the compromise, and given that I’m not a terribly proficient dirt rider, the DR is not holding me back much. That it, too, is a 2005 was an even more bizarre coincidence. Where the GSX-R was made in that form only for 2005-2006, and the first-gen FZ1 spanned five model years, the DR has been largely unchanged from 1996 to the current model. Any bike along that long timeline would have been fine. But the cleanest, lowest-mileage example I found locally just happened to be an ’05. I didn’t stop to wonder if there was cosmic significance when I paid the man and brought the DR home.
Still, you have to ponder: In 2020, will I own a trio of 2013 models?