Vignette: In Which The Author Is Mistaken For A Homeless Honda Salesman

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.

45 Replies to “Vignette: In Which The Author Is Mistaken For A Homeless Honda Salesman”

      • jz78817

        there were four of us from work there. I think I’ve whittled down the shopping list to the F800R (really like,) FZ-07, and CB500 (which wasn’t there.) The Street Triple just wasn’t very comfortable.

        Reply
        • yamahog

          It takes a cursory glance at my username to see where I shill, but the CB500f is a really, really excellent bike for all the things you want.

          It’s a solid Honda which means it’s about as reliable as a bike gets, they get amazing MPG (not that any bike is going to break the bank with $2.30/gal gas but it’s nice to twist the throttle without thinking of your contribution to global entropy), and they’re so smooth and pleasant to ride. 100% worth a test ride. It’s not going to rip your arms out of your sockets but I think they’re solidly in the 13s which is nothing to sneeze at. and They can zip with the best of them, and I think a good rider with fast tires on a CB500f would slaughter me on any of my faster bikes.

          Maybe I’m a romantic, but my favorite use of motorcycles is getting out of the house and going places I’ve never gone before. I’ve ate many good hamburgers in dinky bars, bought some amazing produce (corn and honey mostly) off farmer’s porches, and ate a sandwhich in a field when a cow wondered up to me and took a nap in my lap. I wouldn’t do that in a car and I love that motorcycles get me out and about and into the world that I’m so apt to pass by in my cage.

          The CB500f is a really comfortable way to get around cheaply and cheerfully: big gas tank, fuel sipping motor, decent kit, and it’ll take you wherever you want to go.

          Reply
          • Jon Buder

            I was thinking about the CB500F also, but with the FZ-07 it seems like you get a more exciting motorcycle for not that much more money.

            Not sure about the CB series, but from Craigslist anecdotes it would seem that Honda cruisers depreciate like crazy after the first couple years.

            SV650’s and other popular bikes (which the FZ-07 will probably continue to be) seem to be in higher demand.

            The CB is more conservatively styled, though, and has storage under the passenger seat which I don’t think the FZ has.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            Jon, if you’re considering the CB500 you might as well try the NC700X.

            I rode the CB500X and the NC700X almost back to back and was more impressed with the 700. And you can get it cheap; my first wife’s husband is selling his for $4500 in like new condition.

          • DirtRoads

            It’s a nice image, and I’m not dissing you, but if a cow tried to take a nap in my lap I’d kick it in the head.

            Now before all y’all get pissed at my animal cruelty, you don’t know cows. They are messy, dirty, smelly and kicking them anywhere has far more chance of hurting your foot than their hide. In fact, you would have to kick them pretty hard just to get their attention. I grew up on a stock ranch in Montana and know these things empirically.

  1. Jon Buder

    I’m not too surprised he paid more attention to what you were saying than the clothes you were wearing. I’d say that most men who don’t really care about clothes beyond the fact that they keep you from freezing and/or being thrown in jail for indecent exposure, wouldn’t have noticed either.

    A friend of mine has a way of getting into long, in-depth conversations with everyone he encounters. To be honest, it’s kind of frustrating because it’s usually when I’m driving and I have to wait for them to stop talking or just be a dick and say “we have to leave now”.

    Incidentally, this friend tends to extract the kind of 20-minute lectures you refrained from giving to the man at the show, from people he’s never met. I think that’s where he learned most of what he knows about various hobbies and local history. And beer.

    So about the bikes! How did the FZ-07 look in the blue color? I’ve only seen a black one in person here. I’m not crazy about the fact that ABS is only available in the red color scheme. Hopefully that will change for 2018, and a new instrument panel couldn’t hurt either.

    I think Honda’s done a good job making the CB1100 look retro without looking outdated.

    I like the idea of the Yamaha TW200, but it looks ancient in person. Looking at it, you could be easily convinced that it was 30 years old and stored in a vault until recently.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      FZ-07 in blue looks GOOD. Like it was always meant to be that way. But I’d want ABS on any bike where it was a reasonable option.

      But I’m all about that Z900 Kwacker right now!

      Reply
      • Jon Buder

        Right on. The Z900 is very cool for sure. I am sure it’s faster and probably smoother but I wonder if it will sound as cool as a two cylinder with a custom exhaust.

        A straight pipe on the FZ-07 sounds awesome on video but it’s probably deafening and maybe even bad for the engine. Unless it can be tuned to accomodate that.

        Reply
        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          I think the FZ-07 equivalent is the Z650. But it’s probably not as good of a bike. Everybody seems to agree that the FZ-07 is something really special.

          Reply
        • Yamahog

          I used to own an SV650 and I’ve ridden an FZ-07 enough times to say ‘believe the hype’. It’s a great bike, easily one of the most fun (stock) bikes I’ve ever ridden.

          Shame about the ABS – I won’t go into the merits or efficacy of ABS, but I’ve made a personal choice to only buy bikes with it, it’s saved my bacon at least once and I try to push my riding season as late into winter and as early into spring as possible so I think it’s worth while. I think I probably get an extra month of riding in each year because of it.

          Reply
    • Robert

      “I like the idea of the Yamaha TW200, but it looks ancient in person. Looking at it, you could be easily convinced that it was 30 years old and stored in a vault until recently.”

      You’re not wrong. It still has a drum brake on the rear! I don’t see any difference between the new ones and the ones I was selling back in the 90s. TW stands for Trail Whale btw. They are fun to ride casually off road though.

      Reply
      • Jon Buder

        Trail Whale, huh! that’s awesome.

        When you search on google for images of the TW200, most of the pictures contain scantily clad females posing with the bike. A lot of other bikes just have lots of pictures of guys riding around a blurry mountain corner, or doing wheelies. That’s gotta count for something, right?

        Reply
    • everybodyhatesscott

      I like the idea of the Yamaha TW200, but it looks ancient in person.

      So did I. So much so that I bought one. It lasted 3 months and I realized I never rode it and wasn’t about to buy a trailer to take it somewhere I would ride it so I ended up selling it. I bought it used so I actually ended up making a couple bucks on it after tax titles and all that jazz. It was a nice little bike though.

      Reply
    • CJinSD

      “I’m not too surprised he paid more attention to what you were saying than the clothes you were wearing. I’d say that most men who don’t really care about clothes beyond the fact that they keep you from freezing and/or being thrown in jail for indecent exposure, wouldn’t have noticed either.”

      Amen brother. I used to work for a consulting company that catered to investment banks. It so happened that this transpired during a time when investment banks were allowing IT types to dress casually in order to attract decent talent without having to pay or respect them. Unfortunately, nobody sent the memo to the closet cases that ran my consulting company. I recall a conference call where this was a line of conversation involving me and an Italian IT guy who thought he was a wise guy:

      Paul The Fat: The sleeves you had on in the meeting with Morgan Stanley and Walsh Blow this morning were too long. The shirt you wore two days ago had sleeves that were too long as well…

      Me: You know what I was wearing two days ago? I wouldn’t notice if you were on fire. Are you a homo?

      Everyone else on the conference call: Laughter.

      Reply
  2. BamaSkip

    What causes the didactic impulse? Is there some kind of support group? “Hi, my name is Skip. I like to explain things.” First step is admitting you have a problem, right?

    Reply
      • BamaSkip

        Exactly. I don’t know why I have that same instinct. But, it’s there, and I think Jack is right in that there’s a lot of freedom in deciding — instead — to give a nod and stride away.

        Reply
        • rwb

          I’ve found the strength of this impulse is inversely related to how much the audience wants to hear it.

          Pretty girl? Please let me explain the differences between my traction control modes.

          Co-worker, asking about something I’ve built? No idea dude.

          Reply
  3. Screen name

    The motorcycling world is a little less fun today with the demise of EBR. Again. His latest bikes were the dog’s proverbial, and at a bargain basement price too.

    Reply
  4. -Nate-Nate

    Whilst you were looking at new bikes, I was out riding my old one….
    .
    Do some writeups on modern Moto travel please .
    .
    Not that I’m planning to ever buy another new Moto but it’s always interesting to read about real riding stories .
    .
    -Nate

    Reply
  5. Harry

    Given the stunning revelation from Mark’s post a few days back, I think it would be fantastic if someone photoshopped a lax helmet and stick into the above photo. Even better if said photoshop elicited thoughts of jousting.

    Reply
  6. Jon Buder

    I have read good things about the NC700X too. The helmet storage area is a cool feature but I’m not really crazy about the styling.

    All this is pretty preliminary since I haven’t taken the MSF class or gotten an endorsement yet (planning to sign up soon), and unless I make out nicely selling this house it’ll take a good while of saving up cash to afford one.

    Do you reckon the NC700X, having a pretty good windscreen, would be significantly more comfortable on fairly short highway trips than a naked style bike? I would always have a jacket and full face helmet on anyways but I am wondering just how windy it would be going 70 on a naked bike.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I do it 150 days a year.

      It’s very different from doing it on a sportbike. And the NC700X is more comfortable than a sportbike. The first time you catch a rock in your chest you’ll understand why everybody used to put fairings on CBs.

      Reply
      • Don Curton

        I’ll second Jack’s comments about fairings on old CB’s. I really can’t recall seeing any standard motorcycle back in the 70’s without an aftermarket windshield or full Windjammer fairing. If you’re planning on any highway commuting at all, take a good look at the windshield options. Not just factory, but join up with some forums and look at aftermarket support too. Depending on your riding style and body size, the stock windshield may or may not be the best.

        The CB1100 has almost zero aftermarket support. Very few options, and most of those have to be bought in yen and then imported. I’m hoping the re-intro of the 2017 will change that.

        As for highway driving, 70 without any wind protection just isn’t any fun. Full face helmet is a must, and the constant wind blast is tiring.

        Reply
    • DirtRoads

      I had a short windscreen on my Sabre 65 and it really helped with wind fatigue on those day-long rides. Riding around town, not so much of a deal.

      I had a fairing on a CB 650 some years back and it slowed it down so much you could barely use 5th gear.

      Reply
      • Don Curton

        “I had a fairing on a CB 650 some years back and it slowed it down so much you could barely use 5th gear”

        Really? That’s very surprising. Not that I doubt you, but most people report little to no reduction in performance and even some marginal fuel economy gains. Basically you hope to trade whatever wind resistant losses you get from the unprotected bike and your upper body and put those losses onto the fairing itself. I had a full windjammer on a (very old) CB550 and a large windshield on a CB650, both with no issues. Ran 80+ mph back and forth to work in a rural area for years.

        Seems like you might have had a one-off issue.

        Reply
    • -Nate-Nate

      @Jon;
      .
      If you’re not riding now, don’t wait to buy a new Moto ~ buy a mid sizer for under $1,000 and take some Iron Horse training, then give it a whirl and see if you actually _like_ riding Motocycles ~ many don’t after the initial rush is gone .
      .
      As far as windscreens, a very small one when properly chosen and fitted, will eliminate the wind blast against your chest and face without affecting the handling ~ a very serious safety concern .
      .
      -Nate

      Reply
      • Jon Buder

        That’s a good point for sure. Maybe they will be more plentiful in San Diego, but around here all of the bikes I see listed for around a grand sound like they need serious work to be in good shape. Two grand widens the field quite a bit.

        I don’t know exactly how congested the roads on my next commute will be, so that will either help or hurt the case for a bike. Being able to lane split might end up saving me a lot of time and aggravation. I could probably also just about cut to the front of the line at the gate to the base, and almost certainly park a lot closer to the ship I’m going to be on.

        I believe you about the small windscreens but it seems funny that a tiny little triangle thing manages to redirect that much air. A lot of folks on Youtube are talking about a little metal windscreen for the FZ-07 that doesn’t even stick up past the handlebars but they say it helps.

        Reply
        • -Nate-Nate

          O.K. so you’re on Active Duty (THANK YOU) ? .

          Easy-peasy : don’t sweat the asking price (never~it’s always B.S.) , begin asking around and before you know it someone who’s shipping out or getting married/divorced/sued will dump their bald tire, floppy chain,bad battery low mileage Scoot on anyone with $800 ~ $1,000 .

          Any used Moto you buy, expect to immediately drop on tires and chain to make is basically safe .

          If you can’t do this work, surely you have at least one friend/co-worker who can and I don’t mean the excited kid with a Crescent wrench and a hammer…..

          DO get the Iron Horse training ! it’s not too $pendy and will make your riding much more fun not to mention safer, plus you don’t have to take the riding portion of the licensing test…

          Motocycling can be a ” lifestyle choice” but that’s never much fun .

          Instead, give it a try and discover if you like it, maybe you’ll be a speed daemon, a stunter, a long distance mileage slave or just a guy who enjoys the incredible freedom of riding, be it to work daily or more .

          -Nate

          Reply
          • Jon Buder

            Sure am. I had not heard of Iron Horse training. After a quick googling – is it a regional thing?
            I think they let us take the MSF beginner class for free if we sign up through the proper channels. I’ll try to do that in April since you don’t have to bring a bike for it, and after I move I’ll figure out a way forward.

            I’d like to try the dirt bike training also, but I think I’ll have to pay. Probably worth it.

            I’ve wrenched on bicycles and cars a little, I could probably manage.

            Thanks for the advice (and thanks to all others for the same)

          • -Nate-Nate

            Yes, Iron Horse is the training provided my MSF .
            .
            Don’t sweat the off road training, focus on the road training as that’s where you’ll do most of your riding .
            .
            They provide Moto and helmet, you should bring a pair of leather gloves ~ trust me on this .
            I’ve been riding for close to 50 years and it always pains me to see people who skip the basics and then either have difficulties or wind up thinking it’s foolish, or “murdercycles” and other rubbish .
            .
            Some like to ride, some like to pose, it’s all good if you have your head on straight .
            .
            I like to ride _quickly_ not really fast so I don’t need a Sport Bike .
            .
            Sunday last I went on a nice Norton Club ride and in the beginning I had to hear the usual mostly good natured ” that damn Russki Bike is -FAST_ !” jazz but the reality is : it’s a cheap, solidly built Moto I like to ride @ 8/10ths most of the time, they’re all worried about scratching $6,000 worth of chrome or crashing etc.
            .
            If they rode their Nortons as briskly as I ride anything I own, they’da been having coffee by the time I caught up to them .
            .
            In any case, I took off after the three leaders (long time Friends of mine) only one of whom was actually riding a vintage (and oh so sweet, pristine and FAST) Norton, I more or less kept up and didn’t see anyone in my mirrors until my rear brake failed going down a serpentine 8° grade with water, mud and loose gravel in most of the corners so I had to slow way down, a few caught up to me and I let them pass .
            .
            Point is : I’m not a great rider by any stretch, I just try to keep within my limits and have fun .
            .
            One fellow was working his Harley Dresser really hard ~ fun to watch .
            .
            I hope you’ll join us and not buy too big a Moto first thing .
            .
            -Nate

            FESTINA LENTE !

  7. Dirty Dingus McGee

    Fairings can be a great thing on a bike, but mostly if they are designed around a particular bike. I had a 1974 BMW R/75 that had a Wixom “bat wing” added. Around a semi it would go into a “head shake” that was truly frightening. I pulled it off and the bike was much better. My next faired bike was an 85 model K100RT BMW. It doesn’t matter if you have cross wind, head wind, tail wind, the bike is rock steady. I have had others since with both bat wing and frame mount, and have not had problems. Windshield choice can also make a difference. Not all riders are the same size, and not all ride in the same position. On my Roadglide, I changed to a Klockworks molded windshield and it made a 100% improvement in the airflow around my noggin.

    Reply

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