Thursday, August 23, 2018
My Favorite Bike
This is a picture of a Yamaha Seca 650, but it is not a picture of MY Yamaha Seca 650. I didn't get any family photos in the divorce. Mine was identical to this one, though. It was a great bike.
I bought mine in 1982 for only about $2,800, new, from Ted Evans Triumph/Yamaha on Washington Boulevard in L.A., near Lincoln Boulevard. Famous place. You can see it in the background in the Hollywood movie version of "The Asphalt Jungle," (1950) with Sterling Hayden and Sam Jaffe. They were a famous Triumph dealership back when you could sell such things. They still had a couple of Bonnevilles around in 1982, but people had learned their lessons about English bikes by then. This Seca was a much better bike in every way, and mine ran great for many, many years.
This thing was comfortable and fast, and it handled great. All right out of the box, no modifications required. Flat bars and slightly rear-set foot pegs, nice low riding position, but not too low. Shaft drive, so you didn't need to be fooling with the chain all the time. Same colors as a Southern California Edison truck, but they look okay. It had a big gas tank, and a headlight that wouldn't have looked small on a locomotive. My only complaint was that it had a dead spot at fifty-five mph in top gear. You only noticed it if you tried to cruise the bike at fifty-five. The throttle went flat. That was the "national speed limit" at the time. No problem, just exceed the speed limit.
Once every week for years I took it up to Malibu and spent a couple of hours going way too fast in the coastal mountains. I was always careful, though. Before I made a high speed run along a piece of road, I'd go back and forth nice and regular, looking at the road surface, and the points of ingress from smaller roads, and for blind turns. You don't want to discover patches of gravel or oil by surprise. Once I had the thing scoped I'd let out the leash and really take my life in my hands. "Hanging off and scraping," we called it. You take the turn so fast you have to hang your ass way off the inside of the turn and hunch down to keep the bike a bit upright. The effect was to keep more rubber on the road. By then the center-stand is scraping along the road, throwing sparks. I had a couple of close calls, but the Seca really did handle beautifully. No surprises, great balance. Those were the days.
I did some commuting on the bike, and it was docile in traffic. I also took a few road trips up to the San Francisco Bay area, and it was no challenge to let the bike carry you along for four hundred miles. Mine always had a tank-bag on it, and that was it for luggage. I had friends that I liked to visit in Berkeley and the South Bay, and I'd take day trips while I was up there. I had this bike over all of the major bay bridges multiple times, and took a long ride through the redwoods once. I rode it all around San Fran, including down Lombard Street. Top drawer general-purpose bike in my opinion.
I wouldn't trust my balance or my reflexes by now, but I enjoy those memories.