This past weekend, I went to the motorcycle show in Cleveland. After years on the auto-show circuit I’ve somewhat lost my enthusiasm for the bread and circuses of Detroit/Chicago/NYC press days, but this public-entry bike show impressed me with both the enthusiasm of the crowd and the presence of every bike I’d hoped to see. The new BMW line including the RnineT Racer, the Kawasaki Z900/H2 Carbon/ZX-10RR Winter Livery, the XSR900 and FZ-07 in the new metallic blue, and so on.
One bike I did not expect to see: the revised-for-2017 Honda CB1100EX. Yet there it was, banished to a back corner next to the Groms. I immediately hopped on to check it out. The new tank has more fuel capacity (good) but it’s from the modern wide-wing school. About fifty percent of the “vintage” feel disappears with that tank; you might as well be on an XSR900. There were two old dudes standing next to me discussing what the CB1100 was probably like to ride, so I chimed in.
They had all sorts of questions: How long had I owned mine? How many miles? Any problems? Was it as quick as I’d expected? Were any 2014s still out there for sale? How much should they pay? For maybe five minutes I sat there on the CB1100, kickstand up because I’d automatically done so the minute I’d hopped on, and we chatted.
A Chicano fellow, shaved bullet head with cigarette-ink tattoos, decided to join the conversation. He was riding a Kawasaki Drifter and thinking about going to a standard like the CB. He showed me some pictures on his phone: his Kawasaki, his two toddler-aged daughters. About ten minutes into the talk I hopped off the bike; Danger Girl and the friend who had driven us to the show were long gone from the Honda display.
“Gotta run,” I said to my new friend.
“Okay, but before choo do,” he said, “I want to talk about financing. What kind of options choo got on this?” It was one of those rare moments in life where I had nothing to say.
“Um, I’m not working here.” I thought that was plainly evident, since I was in my usual homeless-American-made-mufti of Flint&Tinder hoodie, Betabrand SOB jeans, and NB990s. Who would dress like that to sell anything except crack?
“No shit,” he laughed, a bit shamefaced. “I’m sorry about that, homie. I thought choo was working here! But listen, man, choo should work for Honda! Choo know more about the bikes than the Honda guys! You’re a good dude!”
“Well, sir,” I replied, “I think you’ll look great on the 2017 CB1100EX.” And I felt that surge out of my stomach, what I think of as the didactic impulse, that struck me so often when I was younger. I seriously considered giving this fellow a twenty-minute lecture about credit sourcing, how to avoid a FICO dogpile, and the best strategy for financing motorcycles. It’s an impulse I recognize in my son already. He will say to me, “Would you like to know how X works?”
This time, I swallowed it down, quick-stepping to the Kawasaki stand. One small step for mental health, I thought, and one giant leap backwards for that guy’s ability to buy a bike without getting ripped off in the back office. Still. It’s like they tell you on the airplane. Put the mask on yourself first, then help everybody else around you.