Monday, May 10, 2010

Saying Farewell to My First Bike

I'd been postponing it for several weeks, but yesterday, I finally sold my 1987 Yamaha Virago 535. Although I haven't ridden the Virago much since buying my 2002 Harley-Davidson Wide Glide earlier this year, part of me was reluctant to part with the Yamaha. Call me sentimental ... after all, it was my first bike and served me well as a newbie rider.

I bought the Virago in February 2009, with only 3,015 miles on the odometer, for $1,000. The one-owner bike still had the original tires, but they were dry-rotted, so I immediately spent another $400 to put new tires on it. I then proceeded to ride the daylights out of it as soon as I registered it, even though it was cold that March. I put about 6,500 miles on it by the end of last year, and added a passenger backrest and luggage rack to the bike.

When I bought my Harley at the beginning of this year, I had two bikes parked side-by-side in my garage. At first, I thought I might keep the Yamaha as a backup or 'spare' bike, but then I figured that selling the Yamaha would fund some nice upgrades to my Harley. The latter thought won out.

After replacing a broken turn signal and mirror on the Yamaha about a month ago, I began the process of detailing the bike. I always took good care of it mechanically, but let's just say I spent more time riding it than cleaning it. I think I washed it maybe twice last riding season. So about two weeks ago, I began the detailing process with a good washing. I worked on the bike an hour or two at a time over the last several days, polishing the paint and chrome, cleaning the wheels and spokes and using a product called "Back to Black" by Mothers to renew black plastic and rubber parts. Then I rode the bike to a parking lot to take the digital photos I would use in the Craigslist ad.

I first posted my ad on Wednesday and got no response. I re-posted the ad on Friday, with the same asking price, $1,500. This time, I got three responses by email and another three by phone, but no one made firm plans to actually look at the bike. So, I rode it to my girlfriend Anna's house Friday night, since it was a nice night and I was overdue for a ride. Being a thoughtful guy, I brought an extra helmet, figuring she would want to go for a quick, local ride.

"I'm so much closer to you on this bike," said Anna, who is used to riding on the back of my much-larger Harley instead.

On Saturday, I got a call from a guy named Geoff, who seemed interested in the bike and wanted to see it. It had rained pretty heavily overnight, so I was still at Anna's house. I had Geoff meet me at a nearby Walgreens parking lot that afternoon. Luckily, by then, the rain had stopped and it was beginning to clear up. Geoff arrived with his girlfriend, who was just learning how to ride a motorcycle. She sat on the bike and liked that her feet easily touched the ground. Geoff, an experienced rider, had brought his helmet and I let him take my bike for a short ride. He liked how the bike handled, and after his girlfriend gave the thumbs-up, said he wanted to buy it.

I had them follow me as I rode the bike back to my apartment late Saturday afternoon. By now, the sun was out and it was rather pleasant riding. But it was a bittersweet ride, because I knew it was probably the last time I would be on the Yamaha. I rode it leisurely, enjoying the smooth, quiet predictability of Japanese engineering, in contrast to the blustery, less-refined Big Twin power of the Harley. Two different animals, indeed.

Back at my place, where I had all the paperwork for the bike, including the owner's manual, repair manual and service history (Geoff was impressed that I kept detailed records), I was just about to complete the bill of sale, when Geoff pulled out a check book, to my surprise. I had just assumed he would bring cash, so I followed him to an ATM, where he withdrew some cash and gave me a deposit until he could return the next day with the rest of the cash.

Geoff and his girlfriend returned yesterday afternoon, and I made sure everything was ready to go, down to checking the tire pressure. We talked for several minutes about the bike, and he sensed I was having a bit of separation anxiety.

"Sad to see it go?" Geoff asked.

"A little bit," I replied.

A few minutes later, I watched him as he rode the bike down my driveway and onto the street. It reminded me of when I used to visit my grandmother, and she always watched me drive away, visibly sad to see me go.

But, I did feel better selling the bike to people who are into motorcycles. Geoff said that after his girlfriend outgrows the bike, he will probably keep it for his daughter, who also wants to learn to ride someday.


  1. You'll always have the memories!

    e-mail me your e-mail addy to so I can give you youtube instructions. :)

  2. I can feel it. Two years ago I sold one I bought new 13 years earlier. It was a nice young couple. They rented a trailer, drove 200 miles. Then complained that it cost $150 to get here and I should come down on the price. I said; then it will cost you the same going back. Because you won’t be hauling another 800 pounds. They agreed to the original price, $5000, cash. I won’t take personal checks either. Sure was sad seeing it go.