I’ve been riding motorcycles for 50 years. I bought my first bike, a little Yamaha RD350 two-stroke, in 1973. I really wanted a BMW 750cc model, but my father wisely advised that, since I had no experience of riding, maybe I wouldn’t like it. Nah! But it was good advice all the same, because I discovered that you fall down a bit with your first bike—first rainy day, first wet manhole cover, first experience sliding down the road with the bike tumbling on ahead, showering sparks. But I persevered and did buy that BMW R75/5 the following year. I’ve been a fan of big, heavy, powerful motorcycles ever since. Usually in black, if I can get it.

Sometimes I go off motorcycles entirely. Sell the bike or bikes in hand and vow to drive a car forever more. At the time, it usually feels as if I have acquired too many tachyons, like the starship Enterprise—or too many near-misses and unrealized bad luck—and need to equilibrate to a less scintillating state. Once I sold my motorcycle thinking it would be not all that different, except cheaper and probably healthier, to try commuting on a bicycle. I hadn’t been on a bicycle since the sixth grade, of course. I got out in city traffic and discovered that I had zero acceleration (except what I could pump into that chain with my own two feet), zero braking power (two little rubber erasers gripping the wheel rims!), and zero mass (well, maybe twenty pounds of pipe and sprockets) under me to stabilize the ride. The bicycle lasted about a week.

Sometimes, instead of going off bikes for a couple of years, I flip the other way and own two motorcycles at once. Some people find this strange. But look, I know where in the Bible it says I can only have one woman—and she was a darn good one, too—but I don’t see where it talks about only one motorcycle. Usually, the decision is based on having a combination of engine types and riding positions. But so far with me, as with the Sith, there are only two at any one time.

Over the years, I’ve owned almost two dozen of the big motorcycles. As Col. T. E. Lawrence favored the Brough Superior marque, I favor BMWs for their reliability, good engineering, and maintenance-free shaft drives. My stable has had seventeen of the German beasts, including eight of the opposed two-cylinder, air- and oil-cooled R bikes and nine of the in-line four- or six-cylinder, water-cooled K bikes.

Sometimes I have taken an interest in Harleys. “Why?” my BMW friends ask in horror. “Well, because …” I reply. Because they are big and stable, well constructed if not exactly a modern design, and made in America. The native Harley is not all that powerful. I’ve had two of them, starting with an air-cooled Dyna in which I immediately installed the 103-cubic-inch engine, to get the power up to about 75 horses. Then I discovered the V-Rod, which has a more traditional V-twin engine—with the pistons on separate cranks, instead of sharing a single crank like an aircraft rotary engine—as well as being water cooled and fuel injected. All of this brings the V-Rod up to the output and powerband of a European motorcycle. But the Harleys have been more of a flirtation than a love affair. My heart still belongs to the blau-mit-weiss roundel. My interest in Harleys peaked with the recent purchase of a BMW R1800, a cruiser with a low center of gravity that, for me, pushed all the Harley buttons while retaining the BMW’s reliability and finish quality.


2022 BMW K1600GT

BMW K1600GT (2022)

Third time’s the charm, as they say. I have owned this model of the BMW “K” bike, which designates an in-line, multi-cylinder engine, twice before. Each time I sold the motorcycle for personal reasons that had almost nothing to do with handling or performance. I thought the R1250RT that I bought last year would suffice—because BMW model releases have been hampered by supply chain issues—but the RT just didn’t have the power or balance I am accustomed to in a large motorcycle. And it did not have the “reverse assist” feature, which engages the starter motor to haul its 750-pound wet weight backwards up a grade, such as after parking on non-level pavement or becoming blocked on a down ramp. (It happens!) This machine has all the features and I had to add almost nothing in the way of accessories to make it mine. Here’s looking forward to a long and happy ride.

2022 BMW K1600GT

BMW R1250R (2023)

For a while I rode—and quickly sold, and then bought back—a heavyweight, cruiser-style motorcycle, the BMW R1800. I bought it in a fit of nostalgia for my two Harley bikes. But this machine weighed in at about 750 pounds fully fueled and ready to ride. The reason for the selling and trading was that weight, which is fine on the freeway and blessed in a strong cross wind, coupled with the longer wheelbase and those huge, wide-set cylinders located just above the footpegs, made it nearly impossible to maneuver areound the garage, in a parking lot, or through a slow-speed corner of more than ninety degrees. So I traded it for a new R1250R—essentially the same the motorcycle I had in 2020-21. It is a basic machine, the BMW equivalent of the “universal Japanese motorcycle,” but with the shift-cam boxer engine that I have grown to love. This machine weighs a more reasonable 550 pounds fully wet. And it’s black!

Honor Roll


R75/5, 1974-76

R100, 1981-84

K100RS, 1984-85

K100, 1987-95

R100GS, 1989-90

K1200RS, 2002-04

K1200R, 2006-07

K1200GT, 2007-08

K1200S, 2008-13

R1100S, 2008-09

R1200R, 2013-16

K1300S, 2014-16

K1600GT, 2016-17

R1200Rwc, 2018-19

R1250RS, 2019-20

K1600GT, 2020-21

R1250R, 2020-21

R1250RT, 2021-22

R1800 Pure, 2022-23


Dyna FXD, 2008-10

V-Rod Muscle, 2011-12


RD350, 1973-74