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A Motorcyclists Point of View: Saratoga Auto Museum Spring Auto Show

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    A Motorcyclists Point of View: Saratoga Auto Museum Spring Auto Show

     

    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 :-)