Friday, May 28, 2010

Miss Indestructible

On April 23, 1983, my fortieth birthday, I bought my next new bike for $2,340. She was a keeper. She was a 1982 Yamaha Virago. She was the biggest bike I had owned to date. It carried a giant 920cc V Twin engine with drive-shaft. She was the first and only Virago that came with an Electronic Instrument Cluster with an analog tachometer and digital speedometer that could display in kilometres per hour or miles per hour. Each time the machine started, a safety check illuminated coloured safety lights for battery condition; oil pressure, fuel level, and side-stand position. It was quite advanced but Yamaha Viragos returned to using clocks the following year. Let me share a secret with you, if I test drive it, I end up buying it, whether its cars or motorcycles. I liked her enough to buy her but I was not "over the top" in love with her. That came later.

She was no Bonnie but she had other assets. She had enormous low-end torque. That gave her powerful acceleration. She had so much torque I'm sure that if I'd wrapped a chain around her frame and attached it to the nearest tree stump, she would up-root it easily. But, she was designed for low-end power, not speed, even though I took her well over 120mph under controlled conditions. What impressed me most was her strength, dependability and superb engineering excepting her starter motor which was her Achilles heel. Sometimes, I referred to her rather unflatteringly as being built like a tank.

Over time, I began to evaluate her overall performance. I changed her mufflers to rat-tat-tat stubby mufflers like the ones I had on the Bonnie. I did this because I believe that a noisy bike is a safer bike bearing in mind that common sense and responsibilty dictates that you throttle right down when you get back to your sleepy surburban neighbourhood late at night. She had the braking power and the acceleration to get out of potentially dangerous situations with no problem at all. Riding two up made no difference whatsoever to her handling and performance. Her electrical system was perfect. I remember taking one trip from Ottawa to Bar Harbour, Maine. She ran great for ten hours fast riding per day. The only complaint was from my rear-end.

I gave her to my son in Vancouver for three years. He drove her to Mexico and back. On another excursion he drove her to Las Vegas with his girl-friend on the back. The Virago was always dependable. When he got seduced into buying a new sexy Suzuki Katana 750cc crotch rocket, the Virago was no longer required in Vancouver so I got my eldest son to drive her back to Ontario. She is still a toughie. That's when I fell "over the top" in love with her.

Twenty-eight years later she's still ticking along nicely with over 83,000 Kms on her clock. I still ride her today, just about everyday. She has become my week-day bike. I reserve my Harley for touring around on weekends. You can see why she deserves the name – "Miss Indestructible".

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