Farewell Buttah

buttah_0006q70We’re on the cusp of the 2007 spring season, with many of us poised to open our checkbooks and sign on the dotted lines for the latest objects of our affection.  It’s only fitting then that freelance motorcycle journalist John Flores, of http://www.twowheelsgood.us, joins us in saying goodbye to a long-time companion…

I stood there in the gravel driveway as you left. You still looked sharp in the mid-afternoon light, the sagging turn signals the only signs of age. I didn’t think that it would end like this – you, tied down and hitched to another man. And me, left with nothing but memories, wondering where it all went wrong…

Isn’t it funny how someone can grow attached to a bike – an inert assemblage of metal, rubber, and plastic, motivated by little more than three dollar a gallon dinosaur juice? This particular bike – a Honda CBR600F4 – and I have traveled down lots of roads, 20,000+ miles of interstates, country lanes, city streets, and race tracks.  When it was first released in 1999, it was the sensible 600cc supersport. Like its stable mate, the Honda VFR, it was a do anything bike for all seasons, a black and yellow Labrador retriever wearing Dunlops.

True to its reputation, CBR600F4 did everything I asked of it – getting my knee down for the first time, carrying birthday gifts to my niece and nephew in Maryland, into New York City for Thai food, with saddlebags and camping gear in the Canada, and everywhere in between. It was a fixture in the office parking lot, eventually enticing two other co-workers to get their motorcycle licenses. It was a fixture in my garage as well, as other vehicles came and went.

In the end, it was too perfect. Too willing. Too able. It was the only bike that I ever needed, a Jacqueline of all trades. It wasn’t the only bike I ever wanted though, and it was the space between need and want that caused me great consternation. There, alone in the driveway, or there alone in the parking lot, it still looked great. But wherever bikes gathered – at a bikenight, or with friends on Sunday morning ride, or in the pits – it started to lose its luster. This year’s models were always slimmer, sleeker, more new and more now.

The opportunity to try other bikes opened my eyes even wider. An Alpine adventure on its successor, a CBR600RR, made the loyal F4 feel like a raked-out chopper when I returned home. Where the RR was thin, the F4 was not quite so. Where the RR was fast, the F4 was a hair behind. Where the RR was agile, the F4 was just less so. Where the RR was silky smooth, the F4 was satin. Taken individually, the differences were minor. Added together though, and it was clear that the Honda engineers and designers had not been resting on their highway pegs.

Finally, a test ride on an Aprilia superbike created a major moral dilemma. If the F4 was the gracefully aging high school sweetheart, the Aprilia was a full-on porn star. With looks that could make men do silly things and an engine forged in the depths of Mordor, the Aprilia spoke to me in a way that typically costs $.99 for each additional minute. Never mind the Latin disposition – the extreme riding position, the heat convecting through the seat, the non-functioning rear brake, and the contempt for any speeds less than 80mph, I had to have her. And I did. And that was the beginning of the end that culminated in the start of this story.

I still have the memories though. Of you getting me through thunderstorms and down dirt trails to campsites and out-braking Ducatis into turn 1. And I still have the photos of friends and I in faraway places, with adrenalin-fueled smiles, you idling patiently in the background. In the end you were always there, always what I needed. So believe me when I say this, “It wasn’t you, it was me.”

– John Flores

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