Friday, July 24, 2015

Getting 100,000 Miles Out of a Motorcycle

100000 miles on the odometer
My odometer, seconds after the 100,000 mile turnover
The feeling was more like a revelation than anything else. When Blackbird, my faithful Honda ST1300, finally logged its 100,000th mile this afternoon, I realized where it happened, and when it happened, and thought to myself, "Oh, OK."

I mean, after my Alaska trip in 2010, I felt convinced that this bike was a keeper. That's the point when I wondered how long it would take until I got to see the odomoter tick from "99999" to "100000", and where it would happen. It wasn't until just a few weeks ago, that I finally had a good idea.

So, there it happened today, along County Road S-22 in San Diego County, otherwise known as "Montezuma Valley Rd", just east of Ranchita, CA, inside Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

But best part about it is that Blackbird did this without any help. That is, she's never needed repairs. Nothing busted, no faulty parts, and nothing worn out. All it has ever needed was the usual fluids, brake pads, and tires. It's not like my 2005 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic, that needed constant repairs and patch work to keep it going. I mean, I suppose any motorcycle could go 100,000 miles if you keep replacing busted parts.

So, kudos to the engineers at Honda for designing a rock solid bike.

Yeah, that Harley was a comfortable bike with lots of bells and whistles. But that's about all I can really say about it. About every 8,000 to 10,000 miles, it would require some kind of major repair. A few times the inner primary seal wore out and needed replacing, which is a tedious job to do. I had a head pipe crack on me. I had the rear brake line wear a hole. I had an engine mount crack and disintegrate. The ball joint on the shift rod connector wore out. And of course, I had the cam chain tensioners disintegrate.

It's as if Harley designs bikes with the intention of failing so that you'll take it to a dealer for repair. That way, you'll notice the newer motorcycles in the showroom that were resdesigned to solve the problems your bike is plagued with.

"Yup, Harley fixed that issue last year", the salesman says to you. "Your bike was the last model year that had that problem."

honda st1300
County Road S-22, just inside Anza Borrego Desert State Park
It's no wonder why the Motor Company sells more bikes to existing owners than to any other group.

It was around 75,000 miles when the cam chain tensioners finally disintegrated on my Electra Glide. I was faced with either replacing them, or spending a lot of extra cash for gear-driven cams. It would take another 50,000 to 75,000 miles for gear-driven cams to pay for themselves, and everyone encouraged me to do it. But I said, "No".

This is where the love-hate relationship with Harley stops.

I went the cheaper route by getting new cam chain tensioners, and then I sold the bike. I used that money to buy a used 2006 Honda ST1300 that had 7,000 miles on it. 93,000 miles later, here I am writing about it.

Complaining about Harleys isn't the reason for writing all this however. My point is that I wouldn't appreciate getting 100,000 miles out of a motorcycle that needed no repair work if I had never had the Harley.

But it's not to say that Blackbird will put on another 100,000 miles. She could fall apart tomorrow for all I know. But at this point, I feel satisfied knowing I got my money's worth.


  1. Gas, Tires, and Oil. That's all it should take. Congrats!

  2. Blackbird sounds like a hell of a reliable machine and, frankly, a good friend.

    Don't you love it when a salesman spouts crap like "Oh yeah, yours was the one poorly engineered model. In fact, yours is the only, single one that has ever required ANY repairs. The others are perfect". What a load.

    Here's to another 100k (as I lift a chilled hard cider).

  3. Reliability, that's all it matters. It's not fancy chrome, it's not horse power, it's not fancy electronics and fancy suspensions with 100 settings, reliability to get you from point A to point B in comfort and knowing it will be okay.
    The ST1300 is a great bike.

  4. Wow, that's a lot of miles. I have to say (touch wood) that my Harley, at 36,000 miles, has been rock solid. Will it continue? I guess I'll find out. :)

  5. Congrats, Steve! We all hope our bikes will make it to that mileage.

  6. Expectations of performance and longevity of motorcycles is a wildly varied conversation. One rider's satisfied expectation is another's failure. I see it in the Vespa community where some compare the performance of a motorcycle with the scooter. It's an apples and oranges comparison in my mind with the smaller machine, smaller tires, smaller engine spinning around frantically compared to a bigger machine.

    I suppose at the end of the day I have few expectations save that when I press the starter button it starts. The rest is maintenance that is part of the ride. I admit to a lack of responsible thinking and behavior surrounding considerations of cost and reliability. I'm satisfied despite many tire changes, belt changes, coil failure, fuel pump failure.

    Your take on reliability is an important reminder that each of us needs to set our own standard that we can be comfortable living with. There is nothing worse than worrying about the machine or how much it's going to cost to fix it. That's the deal breaker for me. So far I'm happy with the Vespa and convince myself I can push it to 100K miles like some other Vespa riders...

    Steve Williams
    Scooter in the Sticks

  7. Congrats. That is a lot of miles. Glad the bike has been good for you.

  8. Bob from Richmond

    I got a 2005 HD Road King with 125K miles that has never seen the inside of the dealers shop. Oil and filters is all its needed.

  9. Great read Steve. I can only hope my Vaquero gets close to that kind of mileage without any major hiccups.


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)