Everything feels different. The clutch lever pulls in too easily. The seat doesn't sit the same. The gear shifter is not where I expect it to be. The rear brake pedal doesn't depress the same way. The handlebars are too wide. My feet don't rest where they should.
It's been 3 1/2 months and 8,500 miles since the Honda ST1300 has become my main ride. And all this time I've largely ignored my Yamaha Road Star.
Yesterday I wondered if it would fire up. I should have been riding it more often at least to keep the battery charged. I put it in neutral, applied the choke, turned on the ignition.
I reached for the starter button. Would I would hear nothing? Or maybe just hear some clicks, or just a few labored groans from the starter motor?
Instead I had a good feeling it would fire up without a problem, and sure enough it did. From the moment I woke up that morning something told me I'd be riding it today. Maybe it had sent me a signal, like it was waiting for this day to come along and knew it was finally time to spin its wheels once again.
There's a lot of beauty in the Road Star's simplicity, even though technically the Road Star is not a simple motorcycle. But it's still simple compared to the ST1300. It offers only its engine, two wheels, and suspension and then gives me only what I put in.
Leaving home, it sounds like a 65 year old chain smoker, hoarse, throaty, like it's clearing crud out of its system. The engine still cold, it hesitates and then darts forward, unrefined and rough, throwing my head and body backwards and forwards. I've lost touch with the temperament of its controls.
About 25 miles later I reach the base of the San Jacinto Mountains, Highway 74. It feels comfortable now. The wide handlebars feel just as I remembered it, the gear shift lever is right where I expect it to be. The clutch lever feels flawless. The seat feels so comfortable. My feet are resting right where I want them.
And it doesn't take long to realize that this bike doesn't corner very well with its low ground clearance, and doesn't maneuver very easily at slow speeds. Over the past 3 1/2 months the ST1300 set new standards for me in the way I expect a motorcycle to handle.
In fact I sometimes wonder if the ST1300 is making me into a more lazy rider. It's so much more easier to ride that it allows me to do things I wasn't able to do on the Road Star. That's not to say the Road Star was not capable riding through twisties at high speeds, but that it demanded a higher level of skill and balls to do it. The ST1300 has a way of making an average rider look much more skilled.
The Road Star on the other hand doesn't help you do anything. Whatever input you give it, it'll only give you back that much. It won't help you brake, steer, shift, or accelerate. Where your skills are lacking it'll exploit them, but where your skills are strong it'll reward you.
I know the Road Star can only lean into a curve so much before the exhaust or frame drags the pavement, and any furthermore the rear wheel will start jumping. And that has only caused me frustration because I want to go faster.
But I've seen guys ride cruisers with just as low ground clearance as my Road Star but yet have the skills to fly through the twisties like sportbikes. They hang their body off the side, allowing the bike to stay more upright, and then turning the handlebars into the curve instead of counter-steering.
I just haven't developed those skills. The Honda ST1300 has so much ground clearance, and is so easy to handle, that I don't have to develop it. In that sense the ST1300 is a crutch, while the Road Star illustrates your skill level exactly as it is.
I've entertained the idea of selling my Road Star, figuring if I'm not going to ride it then I should either stick to having only the ST1300, or replace it with a second bike that I'll actually ride. But I can't seem to identify another motorcycle that I'll actually ride and still share time with the ST1300.
But after riding the Road Star again, I feel compelled to hang on to it.
For one I feel like I'm selling myself short by just relying on the ST1300. But there's also a joy in feeling the uneven rumble of the Road Star's single-pin crank, hearing the throaty roar of its exhaust, and just taking more time to enjoy the outdoors. And I still admire its classic styling.
The truth is that I've gone back and forth on the idea of selling the Road Star. On those odd days when I chose to ride it, I returned home only to find myself convinced that I should keep it. And then it goes back into hibernation, sleeping for another three or four months as thoughts of selling it creeps into my mind again.