When I was 18, much to my parents dismay, I purchased a motorcycle. My first bike, a 1974 Yamaha RD 350 , was a two stroke street bike. I did not know how to ride a motorcycle, had no helmet, no license, no insurance and no license plates. I bought it for $250 and had to learn to ride it to get it to it’s new home. I liked this bike and rode it all summer (with no license, insurance or plates) back and forth to my girlfriends house in the country. Although this bike was great, I wanted something with a little more guts. Enter the “black bomber”. For sale in my hometown of Clinton, IL by a guy from France named Patrice-Andre (Pete) Prud’homme. I bartered a bit with him, buying the bike for $400, a fortune to me at the time, and money I really didn’t have. I scraped together everything I had and took the rest from a low limit credit card that I had gotten for college.
This bike would be a defining item for me.
I rode this bike everywhere. It was loud, big, very unique and a stark contrast to the “crotch rockets” that many people around my town were buying at the time. This was one of the reasons that I really liked it.
I rode this bike to and from college when the weather was nice enough and back and forth to my girls house. It was very reliable and got decent gas mileage. It started having electrical problems so I had to scrape together money to have pretty much all of the electrical that I wasn’t able to do my self re-plumbed. A headache that cost me about a month of road time.
A time came around then, though, that I thought I wanted something else. Something a bit more cruiser-ish. So, I sold this bike to Marty Maher for (if I remember) $400. He paid me in installments and I kept the title.
Marty was younger and his parents would not let him ride the bike so he traded it to Eston Ehalt for a guitar. Eston had the bike for a few months, I believe, until he let it fall into a car, breaking the clutch handle.
Then, it sat.
During this time I bought a 1983 Honda Shadow 750. I rode this for one summer (1995) and then sold it so that I could concentrate on going back to school instead of paying for all of my unnecessary toys.
One day, while working at Sorrento’s Pizza, Eston approached me and asked if I was interested in buying the bike since he was moving. I offered him a low ball price and after haggling for quite some time, we agreed on (barely over) what I’d originally offered. I had the title the whole time anyway =)
The bomber was mine again. This bike needed work at this point so it went to Arteman’s cycle repair and had the top end redone, new seat, new tires, and lots of other work.
I then moved to Bloomington to finish college once and for all. The bomber came with me, being the reliable, inexpensive and loyal transportation that it was. Many a morning it set off my roommates car alarm as I left for work.
He would later joke about the sound of me starting it every morning.
I rode this bike from first clear day until first snow regardless of temperature during what I like to call the “motorcycle golden age” of my life (translated: I could barely afford gas in my car and the bike was MUCH cheaper. Also, it looked cool). As I worked at connecting point, my employers commented that they didn’t even know I owned a car for 6 months into my employment.
I rode this bike everywhere, always almost out of gas, I even ran out one evening around 2am on Towanda-Barnes road, getting gas from a generous (and mildly annoyed at being awakened) farmer after pushing it for 20 minutes.
Then I moved to Champaign and the traffic was just different. I never really rode it much over here, as every time I did I’d nearly get run into. It sat in my garage, being started just enough to keep it road worthy.
Then it sat some more.
Then I moved to Savoy and, after being started and verified as working, it sat even more.
Then the time came that my dog Lenny got sick and I needed all the money I could get.
I put the bike up for sale on Craigslist, but it was November and a terrible time to sell a bike. It never sold and sat for another 2 years.
Then, it was time to sell it. Rebecca’s car had a transmission failure and it wasn’t worth fixing. We bought a new 2009 Subaru Forester and I thought it was about time to let the Black Bomber go.
I put it up on Craigslist and had a lot of interest. No haggling, no bartering, just lots of folks that wanted a great bike. I talked to a bunch of folks, but what I was really doing was interviewing interested parties to see if I thoght they were worthy of having one of my most prized and sentimental treasures.
After several conversations I believed I had someone that would take good care of, and actually ride, the bomber. He and his wife came over from Mattoon and were very interested in the bike….and after I finally decided I could, I sold it and signed over the title (at the DMV since I’d lost the original). I made him promise to call me if he ever wanted to sell it, which, if that ever happens I hope he does and then into his van it went.
I must admit, it was a little hard to watch it go in there and then drive away but I think I made the right choice. He’ll give the bike the attention that I’d been neglecting for the last several years and it’ll see the road again. It deserves to be ridden.
1973 Honda sold on 03/28/2009.