As with many things in life, experiences often can’t just be bought, but have to be earned. The experience of owning and riding a motorcycle can be a pricey affair if you go for something new, when often enough the same satisfaction can be earned for less than a thousand bucks and a little wrench-work.

Earlier today Jerry Smith told us about the appeal of owning a Beater Bike, including everything from cheap cost and cheap parts to not really having to worry about the fit and polish as long as the experience is there.

Prompted by the post to share experiences, reader Justin Hughes somehow managed to go through six motorcycles without ever spending over 1,000 dollars for each bike:

I mentioned in NPoCP today that the only time I paid more than $1000 for a bike is for my current ride, a 1998 Honda Pacific Coast 800. It’s worth it, and is certainly not a beater.

I started with this 1981 Suzuki GS650L. It had sat in my friend’s yard for 3 years, and when I got my permit he gave it to me for free. Needless to say it wasn’t perfect, but I got it running adequately. After a slow few hundred miles and a slow leak from what I thought was the engine, it turned out not to be the engine, but a separate fluid reservoir for where the shaft drive goes into the transmission. I didn’t know it was separate, so it ran dry and I killed it. Repairs would’ve cost more than the replacement bike I found...

This 1980 Suzuki GS550E for $500. It had sat a while and needed a serious carb cleaning, which I had done professionally, plus new tires, but after that I put thousands of miles on this bike around Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and especially Maine once I moved there. Many parts came from my local boneyard, Maine Cycle Warehouse, which is where all the UJMs go to die. Jerry mentions that loft above the service department - picture an entire old mill building like that. I found the clone of my bike in the basement and replaced some bodywork from it. Eventually, losing my job and running out of money forced me to sell it.

After not riding at all for a couple of years, a friend, still learning to ride and otherwise occupied, offered to loan me this, a 1982 Honda CM250 Custom, for the summer. She “sold” it to me for a beer at the local brew pub, and I “sold” it back to her for the same when she needed it back. It was a little scary on the highway, but even on the 55mph state highways around Maine it was a blast. It was amazing around town being so small and maneuverable, and gas mileage was excellent.

After giving back the CM250 I knew I didn’t want to be without a bike again. I spotted a Honda Magna for sale at a local towing company, of all places. When I checked it out I saw it had been dropped hard on the left side, and needed work to run again. This 1982 Honda CB750 Custom was parked next to it. I preferred the Magna but the CB was in better shape. I made a ridiculous $500 lowball offer, and the owner said if I could give him $500 cash today it was mine. So I did, and took it home. I added the windshield and saddlebags, and it was a good mid-size cruiser for a little while. Eventually its carbs started leaking. I was prohibited from parking it in the garage because gas fumes would overwhelm everyone else in the house (I have no sense of smell so I had no idea). Eventually I sold it to a friend whose CB1000 was out of commission so that he’d have something to ride.

Next was this Suzuki GS1100L I snagged for a mere $350. It was originally a full dresser, but had an unfortunate encounter with a moose. The bodywork took most of the hit. A couple had bought it and done 90% of the restoration. It was mechanically sound, but lacked functioning turn signals and gauges. I went with aftermarket signals, found the perfect gauge cluster from a donor at Maine Cycle Warehouse and wired it up myself. The tank was dented, so I got a non-dented, non-matching tank, then put bedliner on it instead of painting it. It helped my knees grip better, and gave the bike a more Mad Max look. The clutch had always slipped, and it kept getting worse, to the point where I couldn’t ride it anymore.

I found this 1982 Honda Silverwing GL500i for sale on the side of the road one November. It ran and rode perfectly. I was interested in getting into some touring, and the fairing would help extend my riding season - already too short in Maine. After haggling I got it for $400 plus the trade of my dead GS1100L - his next project. I added a pair of hard bags and cruised around with it until I got my PC800 three years ago.

Technically, though it’s being stored at a friend’s shop in Keene, NH, I’m still the legal owner of this Silverwing since I haven’t managed to get anyone to buy it off me. If anyone’s interested, let me know, and I’ll let it go real cheap. Ran when parked and all that.

If you can find the parts and do the work, the experience and enjoyment is earned, not purchased.


Contact the author at justin@jalopnik.com or @WestbrookTweets.