A Motorcyclists Point of View: Saratoga Auto Museum Spring
By Benjamin Chady
Recently, I was lucky enough to participate in the annual Saratoga Auto Museum
auto show the weekend of May 15th, 2010. It was a great opportunity
to show one of my beloved Honda RC51 motorcycles, a commemorative edition 2004.
The weather was on the cool side, for mid-May in upstate New York and very windy, with 20-40mph
gusts. Unloading the bike from my truck alone proved interesting, considering
the battery was dead on my initial startup attempt. Shame on me for not
charging it the night before. After reversing the unload procedure and checking
my phone for a local powersports dealer, I found the stars in alignment. Not
only was the dealer open at 9am, but they did indeed have the special battery required
by the RC51.
While I was installing the battery, the owner of the dealer
came over and inquired if I needed help. I thanked him and declined as I put
the seat back on and we chatted briefly about the bike. It turns out that this
was the original selling dealer of this exact bike. He smiled as he recalled
how long it was floorplanned and was both happy to see it go and that it was
still in showroom condition, plus 2100 miles.
Upon my return to the show grounds, I found the parking lot
slightly more filled and several more show cars had appeared in neat rows. I
went through my well-rehearsed unload procedure and was finally able to ride
over to the show area. I found three other two-wheeled compatriots and placed a
small piece of wood under the kickstand. I was finally able to get to work on a
final wax of the bike before the show opened and started chatting with the
other owners. One bike was an original 1979 Honda XR500 the owner had since
new. It showed years of patina through use and enjoyment, but started, idled
and ran like it was much younger. We joked about the fact that all he needed to
do over the past 30 years was a spark plug and oil changes. The two other bikes
were both Triumphs, one all original, save for paint, and the other an
excellent restoration. Saturday was the British open class show, and needless
to say, the Triumph owner had quite a high probability of winning Best in Show
and Best in Class.
As the other owners and I "talked shop," I realized many
other enthusiasts and gearheads can appreciate the RC51 and have at least heard
of them and enjoy seeing the passion in my eyes when I talk about them. It has
a racing pedigree with many trick, factory parts and a certain mystique
surrounds the bike, due to low production numbers and enthusiastic following. Not
to mention how much fun the bike is to ride with the torque the powerplant
churns out to a chest-thumping exhaust note. Unlike the progressive wine and
scream of inline engines, the exhaust note on RC51s sounds similar to a Ducati,
and less "potatoey" than your average Harley. Worldwide production estimates
around seem to hover around 15,000, a drop in the bucket compared to other
mass-produced sportbikes. Between 2000 and 2006, the bikes were produced to
ride the late-90s v-twin wave which eventually tapered off in favor of much
more powerful inline 4 cylinder bikes. The RC51 production halted quickly, with
a slight whimper from a loyal, developing enthusiast following.
Since this was primarily an auto show, the wide range of other
vehicles included newer, well-cared for common vehicles like Corvettes and BMWs
all the way to rare Italian sports cars and literally everything in between. I
did not see anything aquatic, however. For a gearhead, it is challenging to
internalize and appreciate all the details even one model of car or truck, let
alone the huge variety at the show.
Each vehicle represented the pride and joy of the owner and
it was obvious when I started chatting with them. Many had long, storied
histories with their vehicles, including the restoration process. Some treated
their cars like true show cars, not driving them and others just liked
puttering around on nice weekends.
As the day drew to a close, and the awards were handed out,
I shook my Triumph friend's hand and congratulated him on a job well done. He
painstakingly restored one of the bikes, with every nut and bolt correct to the
year. It ran, idled and rode just like it was supposed to, hence, his winning
plaque. His other winner was restored by the previous owner, and while the
paint was not correct, all other details were. With the awards handed out, I
saddled up for a quick ride through the state park and loaded the bike into my
truck until the next show.
Beautiful post Ben! Thank you!
Excellent post. You should have your own blog on this site :-)