MAGGIE MAY

2000 Honda Magna VF750
liquid-cooled V-4

Meet Maggie May, my current ride. Gorgeous, huh?

And not at all my usual style, not at all the kind of ride I'm used to. As the other pages show, I've always been a devotee of UJMs - Universal Japanese Motorcycles, vertical-transverse air-cooled fours or twins - or else the old two-strokes; a certain generic layout, either way, slab seat and upright riding position. Never had paid any real attention to the so-called cruisers, beyond an occasional demo ride at a rally or a dealership; certainly never considered I might want to own one.

But Suzie was gone, and I needed some kind of wheels, and I don't do cages. So I was in the market for something to get around on, big enough for an occasional highway ride, dependable enough that I wouldn't have to do a lot of work on it, at an affordable price; nothing fancy. After all, I told myself, after Suzie no other bike was ever going to really mean much to me....

Then one day, after an unsuccessful search through the classifieds, I hitched a ride with a friend over to Muskogee to see if the dealership there had any used wheels; and there sitting on the lot just outside the door was this gleaming black beast, and I got out and went over and had a closer look and then I threw a leg over and eased my ass down onto the seat....

My friend said afterwards, "I've seen you in love before, but this is the first time I ever actually saw it happen."

A lot of people fell in love with the Honda Magna when it came out in the middle 80s, along with its similar stablemate the Sabre; neither was quite like anything else on the road, and not just because they were so awesomely fast. A guy in Little Rock, whom I used to see around, had a Sabre, and showed it to me in some detail one day; and I lusted briefly, but there was no chance of my coming up with that kind of money, so I put the thought behind me.

But the early Magnas and Sabres developed problems, due to a bit of bad design that could leave the top end starved for oil; and they looked funny, so after the first rush the sales dropped off. Later on Honda brought out a somewhat improved version of the Magna, but it looked funny too, and the bad reputation hadn't worn off.

Finally, in the 90s, the Magna was completely redesigned and, in a daring and brilliant move, Honda simply bolted in a very slightly domesticated version of the V-4 engine used in their famous Interceptor sport-racing bike. The result was what Magna buffs call the "third generation" and a true masterpiece it was - and is, but nevertheless Honda dropped the make in the early 00s, along with a number of other highly dubious decisions. Today clean ones bring good prices; I have been assured that I got a really great deal on Maggie May.

All the stuff you see - the windshield, the custom seat, the saddlebags, the leather-and-chrome trim on the tank, the flames on the front fender - came with the bike. None of it is really my usual style, but I've grown very fond of the look; and absolutely crazy about that Corbin saddle, the most comfortable bike seat I've ever sat on with the possible exception of the stock GS1000. (That's real leather, too; don't give me no plastic saddle, let me feel leather when I ride!)

It was something of a learning experience for a while there. It took some time and some miles to get used to the low-slung riding position, with my feet out in front of me instead of somewhere down below my ass. And I had to learn some serious restraint; she wants to go much, much faster than is a good idea in this speed-trap-riddled state. When you crank that throttle open, hoss, you better be dissatisfied with your present whereabouts, because you're about to get somewhere else very quickly....

I've had her about a year now, and I've taken her on a few trips; you can read about the longer ones in the trip reports here. I hope we can have some more good miles together.

Meanwhile - well, hell, she makes me feel good. I enjoy riding her, or even just sitting on her; and of course, as you've no doubt noticed, I'm egregiously proud of her. And OK, maybe there is a certain absurdity in a man my age feeling that way, maybe a bit reminiscent of the stock figure of the old man making a fool of himself over a beautiful young woman....

But, as the Killer sings, where would love be without fools like me?

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