Why I bought an eight hundred dollar motorcycle

So when I arrived in America I had set myself up with limited funds. Enough to get by, but not enough to live comfortably without seeking work immediately. While the job search went on, I bought a cheap Dodge Neon.

It’s the most basic model, manual transmission, windows, mirrors, etc. The interior is clean, but not fancy. It has a salvage title, which means it was written off previously and repaired. The paint is worn, although there’s no signs of rust. The engine rattles, which is probably something in the throttle assembly, because it’s worse during acceleration. I had to replace a wing mirror when I smashed it against a car port post. It was cheap, it runs, it’s fuel efficient. It’s the kind of car to get me from A to B. I pretty much figured I’d run it into the ground, and in six months I’d buy something with better performance.

So with the neon in hand, I turned my attention to getting a motorcycle. I went to dealerships and a second hand motorbike specialist. Their cheapest bike was $3,000. More than I had to spend. So I looked on craigslist instead, and found a kickstart, ’89 Yamaha dual sport. A dual sport is designed for both on and off road riding. It has the style and ride height of a dirt bike, but all the electronics for road riding. I bought it for $800 even, as it wasn’t running.

The bike is a work in progress. At least I’ve got it running. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But it gets me around on sunny days, and being on two wheels has become a source of happiness for me. I love it. I could have saved up and bought a perfectly working used bike, but I didn’t want it to be easy.

It’s a kickstart. Which means I have to exert myself to get it started on cold mornings. Once it’s warm, it starts up first or second kick. It can get frustrating, but once it’s starts, the reward is that much sweeter. The throttle sticks, and won’t rev up past a certain point, the tachometer doesn’t work, the choke cable is not securely mounted to the handle bars. A piece is broken inside the carburetor which is going to require replacement eventually.

It’s missing pieces. Specifically a left side cover which is no longer available. I have removed the right one, so the bike is completely exposed from the seat down: wiring, frame, battery, air box. All the components are visible. I like the look of naked bikes, which expose the engine. This bike takes that look to a new level. It’s not just exposed, but almost deconstructed.

It’s dirty. The previous owner rode it on trails and never completely cleaned off the dirt. So there’s dirt smeared on the rear mudguard, and on the skid plate. There and scratches on the parts that stick out, where it’s been dropped (including by me). Some parts, like the skid plate and headlight cover, are held on by zip ties. Any decals and stickers are half scratched off. The exhaust pipes are rusty and beaten up. When the engine is cold, sometimes, it spews out white smoke, from the tail pipe and from a hole near the engine.

You might have a picture in your mind of a rolling piece of junk on two wheels. But it rides, and it rides straight and smoothly, for the most part. I don’t know if I want to go to the long effort of getting this bike to a pristine state. I feel more attachment to it than the neon. I’ve put effort into the bike. I don’t know if it’ll be worth spending the money on, to make it absolutely perfect.

I think I chose to buy those two imperfect vehicles because they were cheap (the neon), and presented a challenge (the bike). They are both temporary investments. I won’t keep them forever. They work now, and if they die young, I’ll let them go. There’s something meaningful in that. I know there’s a deep reason why I bought the car and the bike.

I’m not kept here by my possessions. I think that’s a big part of it. I can let it all go and head off to the horizon if I need to. I’ve discovered that I need that freedom in my life in order to be happy.

I’m still deciding what my life here is going to look like. I don’t know if the car and bike really fit who I am going to become. I’m still experimenting and exploring. This is just the beginning.

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