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(Travels with Guido #369, by Guy 'Guido' Allen, July 2023)

Honda Valkyrie Interstate

Riding off into the sunset is one thing, but what about the owner left behind?

The engine was warming up and the now former owner was giving last-minute, perhaps slightly garbled, instructions. Their face was a mess of emotions. It looked all too familiar and it’s that one where the seller of the motorcycle you’ve just thrown a leg over is trying to be brave and be happy. But they just might tear up if you don’t get moving quickly. You can read doubt and regret in their eyes.

It’s the “what the hell have I done” look.

We all make these tough decisions from time to time. Sell the bike…it’s got to go. You follow through and get invested in the selling process (which is rarely easy) and are pretty happy when you have a deposit and it’s almost done and dusted. Until D-day (delivery day) comes.

If you’re the buyer, this is easy-ish. Pay up, be happy, ride off into the sunset.

For any seller with an emotional investment in the machine (which they often do), it’s not so great.

For some, it represents a major change of life. Such as when the needs of a couple of kids on the hoof and the pressure of a mortgage mean the bike has to go. In these cases it’s one of those markers of stepping boots-and-all into parenthood, and who knows if they’ll ever be able to buy back their two-wheel dream?

My current Blackbird came out of such a situation, and I’ve often wondered how that family is going.

For other sellers it’s about a relationship break-up. Somehow as a buyer you end up walking around on thin emotional ice until the deal is done and you can ride away breathing a huge sigh of relief. In the mirror you’re seeing the former owner coping with yet another marker of a formerly stable and presumably happy period of their lives being taken away.

There was a time when I bought a string of toys out of divorces and I’m pleased to say it hasn’t happened for a while – it’s exhausting for everyone concerned.

Another: The sudden onset of a health problem. One of the machines in my shed was advertised by the seller as, “This was to be my ‘forever’ bike.” Oh dear.

With that machine, you could see signs of how the owner was gripped by some sort of inertia. There was paperwork that showed it had been well cared-for, until about a year before I bought it when it was clearly left out in the weather. It was as if he could no longer face the thing.

It’s sometimes tempting to dodge those situations, but I figure someone is going to buy it and presumably the decision to let go is a mature one.

More recently was the confronting scenario where I bought a Honda Valkyrie Interstate from a chap who had decided he was getting on a bit and felt he should sell the motorcycle. It was confronting because when I rolled up to collect the machine, I could have been looking in a mirror. He was about my age and looked fit enough to ride.

Resisting the impulse to question his decision, it does make you wonder. Riding is at least 50 per cent confidence, in my view, and if that’s starting to erode then letting go may be the right thing to do.

Even so, as I was pulling on the boots for the longish ride home ­– appropriately enough an interstate trip – you could see a hint of doubt and regret in his eyes. Or maybe it was pollen.

It probably doesn’t pay to dwell too much on these things. But every now and then I ponder former owners and wonder how they’re getting along. Particularly since I seem to have captured their dreams and ridden off on them…


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