Returning to a Brand: A Story of 2 BMWs and 1 Jack

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I don’t like salesman Jack much; my inner voice has already dubbed him Jack, which is short for “Jackass”. Having told him what I was looking for in a bike, mostly on road, a little bit of off and relatively inexpensive to maintain, he’s proudly walked me over to a bike that he said, “would be perfect for me.” It is a KLR 250. A 250. I repeat, a 250. This is despite my introduction including the fact my former ride was a BMW R1200GS. So what’s delivered me into the hands of the sexist now HOLDING THE HANDLEBARS FOR ME? As if I, a girl, couldn’t possibly hold the meagre 250 up by myself. The near instantaneous symptoms of moto-withdrawl upon the sale of my R1200GS of course.

There was a break in the clouds on the day I sold The Beast. It lasted just long enough for the new owner to cinch the straps down on what used to be my 2008 BMW R1200GS. As he pulled out of the driveway I thought of how that was the first time the bike had ever been in the back of a truck since I purchased it. Peeking out my window the rain started falling and a voice deep inside my head screamed, “What were you thinking! Why did you sell that, you idiot!” It’s not the first time that annoying voice had screamed at me, and I can rest assured it won’t be the last. This time, that voice was right. Without a bike for mere seconds and all I could feel was regret. How long it would take me to find a replacement? What would that replacement be? The Beast wasn’t even out of my driveway and the search for its replacement had begun.

Before The Beast I had a 2001 BMW F650GS in titan blue with a lowered frame. It was a yo-yo history with the F650GS, I sold and then re-bought it twice previously, before finally selling it to buy the Beast. I kept telling myself I needed more power, shamed by my boss’s wife before even passing her rider’s test when she bought a Yamaha FJR1300 and made me, with years of riding under my belt, feel like a wimp. So, without a test ride on the R1200GS and just a whim, I bought The Beast. Though discovering I couldn’t touch the ground easily, I got the lowered seat before leaving the showroom.

On the day I picked up The Beast I marveled at how big it was and a theme that has been ever present in my motorcycle life came once more, “What were you thinking?” Buyer’s remorse lasted the length of the parking lot. Once I rocked The Beast off the center stand and pulled into traffic I was hooked.

The tiniest twist of the throttle and I was off like a rocket. Whereas the 650 simply plugged along peacefully, the 1200 roared down the street looking for challenges. It was twice as big, three times as expensive, heavier than I could pick up, and with the Adventure BMW Aluminum Panniers required its own “wide load” sign and postal code. I didn’t throw a leg over, I climbed onto the thing. The one time I did try to throw a leg over I ended up with a muscle strain and couldn’t walk for three days. I wish that was a joke.

Despite the size of The Beast, I put around 12,500 miles on it in two years; a mileage that completely fails to represent the number of great memories held within. One of the best was riding through Montana and Idaho over Lolo Pass. The snow was falling briskly as the temperature gauge flashed its warnings, heated grips and jacket kept me warm as my brother froze valuable bits on his Honda 650 dual sport. At that moment I loved the 1200GS more than anything in the world. I thought we would be together forever.

Forever is never as long as you think.

When I sold The Beast I simply thought I was done with BMW’s. It wasn’t the quality I was alarmed with but the cost. I was done with taking out a small mortgage against my soul to pay for the service on a bike that increasingly sat in the garage acting as a mouse playground. Work and responsibilities limited my riding, the company car kept me from commuting on the bike and somehow with The Beast, my priorities shifted from riding to doing anything but. I still enjoyed riding but I wasn’t making the time to partake. I figured if I bought something less expensive, something nimble and fun I would renew my love of riding and find it a priority again.

I went to a few local shops searching for my next motorcycle adventure. In one I checked out the 2011 Kawasaki 650 KLR but found although the price was right (around $5800 US) I had been spoiled by the BMW. I asked about a socket to plug in my jacket or GPS and the salesman looked at me like I was asking for him to install a toaster oven with a built in timer and maybe a cup holder. And, despite the newer look of the KLR (I once owned a 2005), I wasn’t impressed.

Which brings us to Jack. Humoring him, I sit on the KLR 250, flat-footing it in flip-flops. In awe of his attitude, I can’t give him a pass. I put my feet on the ground and start tossing the bike back and forth between my legs with my knees. Jack nearly craps his pants. Turns out I end up getting on about twenty bikes that day from scooters to squid and motocross bikes just so he would have to pull each and every one of them out for me and hold the handlebars as I sat there.

I get into the details, like the miles can I expect to get from a particular bike, which earned the response of around 44k. 44k? I’m getting tired of being treated like a chick who doesn’t know a motorcycle from a lawn mower.

Still the extended try-on session helped narrow my focus. I found a Suzuki GSX-R750 I liked but couldn’t see myself using a backpack to carry my gear around all the time. His final attempt at a sale was the Suzuki V-Strom for around $7800 US. At least he had added some power for me (as opposed to the 250 KLR), but the V-Strom, despite being a attractive in the pearlized-white, didn’t do much for me. I thought the price was a bit much considering a brand-new BMW G650GS was going for around $8500 US. Really, despite the maintenance costs, wouldn’t I rather have a bike that I knew was dependable and had a stellar reputation?

Which brings me back to the showroom of BMW Motorcycles of Western Oregon, Tigard (http://www.bmwor.com/) to find they had two 650 GS’s left from 2010. The 2011’s were on the floor and these two lonely bikes, a red and a black, were each on sale for $7500 US. I looked at each, pacing back and forth for what seemed like days, trying to remember why I wanted something different from a BMW.

What was it about BMW I had longed to get away from? What defect? What limitation? I found no answers so I simply told the salesman I wanted one. I think he thought I was joking. I asked strangers which bike they preferred and annoyed the salesman as I circled the bikes like they were water after a long desert walk. Finally, I told the salesman I wanted the red one, tossed my down payment on his desk and said I’d be back with the rest. The bike sold itself, but I’m sure he was happy with his simple assistance of, “Buy whichever color you’d like.”

Riding home on my flashy red 2010 G650GS I felt reborn. It was light, nimble, and easy to get on and off and I could touch the ground with ease. It wasn’t as powerful as The Beast but in truth, I think The Beast was too much of a good thing for me. Coming back to the 650 made me wonder why I’d ever left. I felt like I was back in college on my Vespa, zipping around campus without a care in the world. It made think back to the times on The Beast where I’d park wrong and ended up working up a sweat simply trying to get the thing off the center stand. Gripping the bars, throwing my body weight forward and back trying to push it just enough to get it off the stand. Then freaking out wondering if I was going to be able to plant my feet in time or if I’d have to get help to pick the thing up. The 650 and I would never experience that. Instead I’d be throwing my leg over with ease and enjoying my renewed confidence and love of riding. If that wasn’t enough, as a bonus, the insurance was half the price of the 1200.

The only thing left was to name the bike. A week after I brought the 2010 G650GS home I christened it “Runkle” after Charlie Runkle, a television character. Charlie Runkle is short and full of himself, but also willing to take on the world, dependable and one of the best friends a person could ask for. I’m thinking my Runkle will be just like that as well.

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. lensgrabber says:

    Welcome to OWD Jessica. Happy riding with your G650GS. I’m sure you will have plenty memorable moments on the new companion. Although I will say the thought of riding (Charlie) Runkle doesn’t make me feel that comfortable. Just keep in mind if you get another ride it’s gonna have to be named Hank. 🙂
    Looking forward to some of those ride reports with beautiful PNW scenery!

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  2. Andrew says:

    Great “report” ..and looking forward to reading more through 2011 and beyond

    Ride fast , RIDE SAFE

    Andrew

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  3. Davidmg says:

    Good story. I had a similar experience with Jack recently. I was shopping for my first bike, I made it clear (or so I thought) that I was looking for something small and light so I could get comfortable before moving on to a bigger bike. First thing he shows me is a Speed Triple… I reiterated that I wanted something SMALL, as in 250cc’s range. He goes on to explain why that’s a bad idea and that I at the very least should consider the street triple or some 1000 harley that I can’t remember what it was called. Thanks for nothing Jack.

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  4. philprint says:

    Oh how I know the feeling, my ZRX1200 sat in the garage and did very little for a couple of years, so the sensible thing was to let it go and get on with a life that had no time for living. As it was loaded into the back of the van i had to fight the urge to to shout NO, and take it back to the garage where it belonged. When it was gone i felt wretched, like i had sold one of my children to an Eastern Block human spares emporium! The feeling did not go away. I find myself feeling strangely unfulfilled, it was not the fact that i had not ridden the bike very much but that it was always there should i want to.
    So like yourself Jessica, I am searching for a replacement. This is likely to be a long and protracted affair,
    and will a hard battle between good common sense and the drive to possess the latest snortmobile. Only time and the shrinking depth of my pocket in this post financial crisis world, will tell. I suppose i will bump into Jack or his British cousin on my journey back to motorcycle ownership and will give him your regards as i tell him where to stick his 250! Ride Safe.

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  5. Jessica Lowman says:

    Thanks for your comments! I’m glad to hear Jack isn’t just in my town and that others are facing the same dilemmas I am…makes me feel a little better knowing I’m not going it alone. Be safe!

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