Common Tread

The motorcycle you can't forget

Jan 23, 2015

It's the kind of question you talk about around the campfire at the end of a perfect day of riding: What's the most memorable motorcycle you have ever ridden?

We asked TeamZilla that question and told everyone to define "memorable" anyway they wanted. Here's what they said.

Sean MacDonald
Sean: "I got away with it."
Sean MacDonald

The most memorable motorcycle I ever rode was the 2014 Ducati Hypermotard SP.

We'd spent the weekend camping at our secret spot in Big Sur on the California coast and Monday was rapidly approaching. Rather than leave late on Sunday and ride the twisty Pacific Coast Highway in the dark, we opted to get up and leave by sunrise to make it back in time for a Monday meeting. It was just me on the Hypermotard and a friend on a Suzuki GSX-R750, on one of the best roads in the world, chasing the sunrise, with not a single car for a hundred miles. The Hyper is not only fast, but also eats up road imperfections and inspires more confidence than almost anything I've ridden. The result was not only one of the most beautiful rides, but also the first ride where I felt like I was a fast rider. By the time we hit San Luis Obispo, I felt like we’d both hit the lottery and gotten away with murder.

Deidra Slough
Deidra: "Motorcycle days were like Father's Day."
Deidra Slough

The most memorable motorcycle I ever rode was my father's BMW R 1150 GS Adventure. He purchased it when I was 16. He also bought me a helmet and off we went together.

I loved spending time with my father on his bike. We were together without the hassle of figuring out how to fill the dead silence with small talk or inconsequential babble. Rather, we breathed the fresh air and took in the awe-inspiring scenery of the Rocky Mountains. My favorite part? The opportunity to scream at the top of my lungs and nobody could hear me. Social convention dictates a kind of poise that is expected nearly 100 percent of the time. Motorcycles for me have always meant freedom, and my experiences with my father were just the start.

Spurgeon at age 3
Spurgeon: "I was 3 years old in that photo. A lady killer from the beginning." Photo by Barbara Jo Dunbar.

Spurgeon Dunbar
Spurgeon: "Every boy needs an Uncle Bob."
Spurgeon Dunbar

The most memorable motorcycle I ever rode was a "Power Wheels" knock-off by a brand called Tomy.

Years before Uncle Bob took me on my first motorcycle ride on his old KLR650, he bought me a sweet, electric-powered, Tomy three-wheeler. I got this little guy the Christmas before my second birthday and I rode it everywhere within a 50-foot radius of my house. I would later graduate to go-karts and minibikes, but this was the one that started it all. Every boy needs an Uncle Bob.

Hi-Viz Brian
Brian: "Grip it and rip it."
Hi-Viz Brian Connor

The most memorable motorcycle I ever rode was my Kawasaki KX250 two-stroke motocross bike.

I remember my Kawasaki dealership’s promotional ad like it was yesterday: “Zero Down, Large Pair of Cojones Due at Signing.” Raising hell on a high-strung 250cc two-stroke motocross bike was one of the most exhilarating and addicting motorcycle experiences of my life. If you’ve never had the pleasure, your bucket list is in need of some serious attention. When I’d kickstart my KX250, the sweet smell of Klotz premix and the distinct two-stroke sound instantly transformed me from Hi-Viz Brian to Billy Badass. The KX250 had little to no torque, which meant getting from Point A to Point B included a fist full of throttle, a rear end that could win Dancing with the Stars, and all the roost slower riders could eat. It completely transformed my riding philosophy, confidence level, and go-for-it attitude. I completely understand what Cole Trickle meant when he said, “There’s nothin’ I can’t do with a race car!”

Gail Defendorf
Gail: "My brief career with the Olympic team."
Gail Defendorf

Riding home from my college campus in the Tucson desert on my Honda Express, I often met up with the wintering U.S. Olympic Bicycle Team while they were out training. Since the Express governor maxed out at 30 mph, they would line up behind and draft me for the 10 miles I traveled before I had to turn off for my street. Oh, the looks I would get from passing drivers — a tiny girl on a banana-yellow scooter leading a pack of mammoth-thighed bikers! Still makes me laugh 30 years later.

Dan McBrearty
Dan: "The first one that was mine all mine."
Dan McBrearty

The most memorable bike I ever owned is also the first dirt bike I ever had. My cousin gave me his 1985 Husqvarna 430. I was only 12 years old and I had to stand on a milk crate to get on and off. What made it even more of a challenge is that it was a left-side kick start. It was the first bike that was officially mine all mine. I had some of the best summers of my childhood ripping around the old coal haul roads of northeast Pennsylvania on that bike and I'll never forget it. I sold it to buy a YZ125 when I began to race motocross. This seemed like a good call at the time, but now I regret getting rid of the Husky.

Joanne Donn on the Brammo Empulse R
Joanne "Gearchic" Donn rides the Brammo Empulse R.

Joanne Donn
Joanne: "That was electrifying!"
Joanne “GearChic” Donn

The most memorable motorcycle I ever rode was a Brammo Empulse R.

I've never ridden anything that made me giggle like a little schoolgirl, almost like riding the teacups at Disneyland. It's the smoothest, most powerful engine I've ever experienced in my young, 10-year riding career. I found myself leaning harder in the corners, pushing my entry speeds and boosting my self-confidence. It's amazing what a little electricity can do.

Jon Santos
Jon: "The thrill is not gone."
Jon Santos

The most memorable motorcycle I ever rode was a 2000 Honda Rebel 250. It was the second day of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course and the first time I ever attempted to operate a motorcycle. I remember how frustrated I felt each time I stalled the thing. Then I remember the visceral excitement I felt rolling on the throttle, even though I was just riding around in a parking lot. I still get that feeling whenever I ride.

Ducati 999S Team USA edition
2007 Ducati 999S Team USA edition. Ducati photo.

Lance Oliver
Lance: "Why did I do that?"
Lance Oliver

I’ll never forget the motorcycle that tried to kill me. OK, it was the rider’s fault. It always is. But from the start it felt like the Ducati 999S wanted to kill me. It had seven miles on the odometer, nothing was broken in and the suspension was not set up right when I rolled it onto the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The Ducati rep warned me the brakes were “a little grabby.” In the first lap, at warm-up pace, the front pushed twice and I still don’t know how I didn’t crash. Having narrowly survived an entire morning riding the thing, I built up just a hint of confidence in the evil beast. Then I dropped it on pit lane at 25 mph, fell on my knee and popped my ACL. Embarrassment, shame, remorse, swelling, pain and surgery followed at intervals. A fond memory, it was not. But memorable? Oh yes.

So... what's the most memorable motorcycle you ever rode?