My Go-To Two Wheeled Steed
It was March 2002 when I first laid eyes on this big cruiser. I had dreamed of a bike like this for several years, but events of the previous two had cast serious doubts on whether this dream would ever be realized.
Rewind to April 27, 2000.
Leaving work one afternoon on my 1993 Suzuki VS 800 Intruder, I had planned to run some errands for the wife while on my way home. Suddenly a left-turning “cager” jumped out from a stop sign on my right, across my path of travel. Thinking he had found a gap in the traffic flow, he found me instead. Clamping down hard on the binders, with precious little time to react, I still hit him at his left front headlight, and sailed over his hood about 20 feet into oncoming traffic, which fortunately came to a halt. In the hospital with two mangled, broken legs and various other smaller injuries, I wondered if I would ever walk right again, much less ever ride again. Having grown up around motorcycles, this was inconceivable to me. What would life be like without being able to ride? I spent many dark days and nights on the brink of depression, over my invalid condition and uncertain prospects.
After four surgeries, several months of “physical terrorists”, and innumerable visits to the orthopedic docs across a year and a half, I was not only walking again, but itching to ride again. Much to the chagrin of my wife, who once had declared, “over my dead body.” Yet sensing the inevitable, by early 2002 she relented, saying, “Well, I have a fat insurance policy on you now, so if you get yourself killed, I’ll grieve, but I’m moving to Tahiti.” Gotta love her!
I had once been asked by an old riding buddy, “If you could own any bike, what would be your dream ride?” The classic looks of the H-D Heritage Softail had always appealed to me, but I figured I could never afford one, at least not while we had children in school. I grew up riding Yamaha dirt bikes, and always liked their street bikes. Then one day, through a mutual friend, I found this Royal Star, which was owned by a Yamaha Corp. executive. It had been given to him by the company as a bonus. He had ridden it about 5100 miles, added approximately $2800 in extra chrome and accessories, and then parked it in his garage. All of his friends were riding Harleys, so he bought one too. Imagine that- a Yamaha “big wheel” parks the company bike, and secretly rides the competition! Ironic, to say the least.
Anyway, he knew my story from our mutual friend Lee, and had it delivered to my Lee’s shop for me to look at and ride. I immediately fell in love with the bike. It was everything I had dreamed of in a motorcycle. The classic lines, the comfortable ride, plus the reliability of a shaft driven and water cooled power plant. Exec guy told me, “I’ll sell it to you for what I have in it.” This amounted to a little over…well, you do the math. I called my wife, exclaiming, “I found it! My new motorcycle! Call the bank…”
Fast forward to the present.
Over the past 17 years, I have accrued over 90,000 miles on the Royal Star, crossed America east-west, north-south, met so many people from so many walks of life, and seen breathtaking beauty from her saddle. This bike has been a gift and blessing to me, in ways I could never fully explain. Other bikes have come and gone in my life and garage, but “Bessie” here is still my main moto squeeze. This was truly the bike that got me back where I belong- on the road, on two wheels. Whenever I consider putting the bike up for sale, one ride always changes my mind. And we’re still making memories and eating miles together.
What’s been your favorite bike? Your “moto main squeeze”? The bike that has brought you the most miles and memories? Share a photo and a brief story in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!
*photos by author, Jeff McPhail, and Killboy.com
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My 1998 Honda Shadow ACE Tourer. I purchased it as new from old stock in June 2000. Best memories on it were the multi day rides with either my wife or daughter.
Phil, your “Bel Air” is one beautiful bike. Definitely one of a kind.