We’ve got quite a bit in common

I took my old 1978 Kawasaki KZ 650 out for a ride on a recent Sunday afternoon. The skies were clear, a warm gentle breeze was blowing, and I needed some alone time on a motorcycle. It had been a few weeks since I had last ridden the old bike, and it took a little coaxing to get her to fire up and settle into a smooth idle. Opening the petcock, adding some choke, thumbing the starter a couple of times, a little throttle massage until she was warm, then we were off into the rolling countryside south of our north Georgia home.

Two old codgers, basking in our sunset.

As I rode the old smoking motorbike down deserted country lanes and byways, it occurred to me how similar my life has become to this antique machine. The KZ is approaching its fifth decade, while I’ve entered my sixth. We’re both functioning pretty well for our age, albeit the checkups and adjustments that are necessary more often with miles and years.

Somewhere outside Madison, Georgia.

Out riding, I noticed the KZ sputtered slightly up in the rev range in each gear, around 8K rpm and above. It reminded me how many of these old bikes that still run a points ignition need to be adjusted about every 5000 miles or so, which is a fairly simple yet tedious task. I chuckled when I thought about how I need “adjustments” more frequently myself, having recently gone to see the doctor for my annual wellness exam, as well as the various other exams I now need with more frequency- colonoscopy, cystoscopes, etc. It’s no fun getting old(er).

Following the obvious signs.

I run ethanol-free fuel in the old KZ, as the modern ethanol laced fuels can cause poor performance and even damage in these old carbureted machines. I’ve developed a couple of conditions as I age that have forced me to make a few dietary changes myself. I can’t eat or drink some of the things I used to, just like the old KZ has to be careful what she sips at. We’re both more mindful of what we consume these days.

Words fail me to express how much I enjoy riding this old motorcycle.

Out riding the old classic bike, she runs a little rich for best performance. This means she smokes a bit, coughs and hiccups some if left at idle too long, and needs me to help “clear her throat” on occasion by revving her high to blow some carbon out. I can identify. Though I’m not a smoker and never have been, I need to cough, spit and clean my airways from time to time as well, to breathe better and more deeply. Allergies and advancing years seem to go hand-in-hand.

Curious onlookers.

Lucille (as I call her) cleans up pretty good for an old bike, all shiny and gleaming in the sun. Riding the KZ into town or out on a day ride, the bike always garners comments and compliments, as well as recollections from those who owned and rode something similar in their younger years. My wife jokes that I “clean up pretty good for an old guy”, and folks tell me I don’t look (or act) my age (early 60s). I guess this old KZ and me are doing pretty good for our respective years.

Riding into the sunset, at an enjoyable, leisurely pace.

So we’ll keep making miles and memories together, this old bike and me, for as long as we’re both able. We both need a little more tweaking and adjusting occasionally, but that’s alright. We’re still running, still breathing the fresh air, still enjoying the ride together.



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  1. Lance Oliver

    I often say the same thing about me and the one motorcycle I’ve kept around for decades, a 1997 Triumph Speed Triple I’ve owned since 1998. It’s a little creaky in the joints, has definitely lost a step, just like me, but at least we’re both still in the game. (It even runs rich, like yours, and I can’t blame points. Of course it doesn’t look as nice as yours. Everyone else’s old bikes look better than mine.)

    They say some people grow to resemble their dogs. I guess we just become more like our motorcycles (though I’d like to believe I’m a little less bug-eyed than mine).

    • Rob Brooks

      Thanks for the thoughts, Lance. We’re both still upright, still firing up every day, still rolling forward. I’m thankful.
      I love your ’97 Speed Triple, BTW.
      Blessings on ya, my friend.

  2. Hawkeye

    Very funny read. Hopefully, you and the Kawi still have a lot of miles left in you.

  3. Andrew Chapman

    I had bought the blue version of this bike in 1978. It was a great bike too. I miss it.


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