I recently came across some old photos of the first motorcycle I owned. Gosh, memories just started to flood back as I went through pictures of my old 1999 Honda CBR600 F4. I don’t know if I felt so much nostalgia because of all the good times that I’ve had with the bike, or if it was just because it was the first bike I’ve owned. Perhaps it was because of both reasons. Nonetheless, I wanted to reminisce of some of the memorable times I’ve had with my first motorcycle.
Trying to Buy My First Motorcyle
It was 2006 and I had just finished taking my MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) class. I was so stoked after that class and immediately started looking for for a motorcycle to buy. Most of the advice I found online was recommending a new rider to start out with a 250cc bike. So, I tried looking for a Kawasaki Ninja 250 and had a nightmare of an experience trying to get one.
After many failed attempts at meeting with sellers to buy a Ninja 250, I was talking to a co-worker who told me his daughter had a 600cc bike that they were selling. He said that it had been downed once, but the bike was still in good shape. It was a red and black Honda CBR600 F4, a 1999 model year.
Purchasing from a Co-Worker
So after getting the tour of the bike and getting myself acquainted, I purchased the bike from my co-worker for $3000. It had around 15k miles, but it seemed to run pretty well. It did have some road rash, but overall it seemed like a good buy. Plus, it looked a heck-of-a-lot better than the Ninja 250’s I was looking at.
Practicing for the First Time
After my co-worker rode the bike home for me, I was eager to get started with practicing on my new-to-me bike. I lived in an in-law unit in San Francisco at the time and the streets nearby were small and congested. It wasn’t the ideal place, but it was the only way I could practice.
I went out and rode all around the neighborhood with my newly learned skills from my MSF class. I gripped everything tightly: the brakes, the throttle, the tank with my legs… did I mention the brakes? I was incredibly tense while maneuvering myself around my SF neighborhood. It was extremely scary for me, but at the same time exhilarating.
I probably rode around like this for about 30-45 minutes and then went back home. I remember after that short ride, my hands and arms were totally sore and numb. My body was so tense during that entire ride since I was grabbing on for dear life. This probably caused the incredible soreness that I felt for days to come.
After this initial practice run, I continued to ride and get more practice. I rode a lot in San Francisco as I rode my bike to work and school a lot. I was getting my Engineering degree at San Francisco State University at the time and riding a bike was ideal for parking. If you parked a car at SFSU, you’d be paying $20 to park in their lot for the day. If you had a motorcycle, you could park on 19th Avenue in the dedicated motorcycle parking… for free! A big plus was that parking area was right in front of the majority of my Engineering classes.
I learned a lot with riding during that time. I made mistakes, and learned from them. In all the times I’ve ridden motorcycles, I’ve only dropped my bike twice ever and they were both going from a stop and coming to a stop.
Dropping my Bike…Twice
One of the things you do with your friends who ride is you go out on rides with them. I was looking forward to going out on a ride after school one day with one of my friends. At that time, I’d lock up my bike with a disc brake lock when I parked it out in front of school. For some reason, I thought I was too cool for the little orange reminder cord that attaches the lock to the throttle.
So I get on my bike, start it up, and just as I’m about to start riding away from the parking spot: BAM! I fall right on my side as soon as I hit the throttle. I was so utterly confused as to what happened. After a short while, I realized that I had forgotten to take off my disc brake lock. My bike immediately fell over as a result, and my front brake lever broke. I was forced to ride home in shame using only the rear brake. I learned to always use your reminder cord when using a disc brake lock.
The second time I dropped my bike was also for a very silly reason. I was just riding along in the streets of SF and came to a stop light. As I slowed and came to a stop, I moved to put my left foot down. As I was doing this, my jeans got caught on the kickstand and I wasn’t able to get my foot down. So my bike kept tipping over and I fell over with the bike.
Another lesson learned: when slowing to a stop, you should have your foot down already so that you can be assured you have a foot to stand on when you actually do stop.
So there are the two times I’ve ever dropped my bike. They’re not very exciting stories, but that’s honestly a good thing. I remember every once in a while, I’d watch loads and loads of horrific motorcycle accident videos to make sure I knew how serious riding a motorcycle is. I needed to remind myself that these things can really get you badly hurt or killed. So I’m thankful that I’ve never had a bad accident.
So Much Nostalgia
I loved all of the things that came along with having a motorcycle too. Maintaining the bike and modifying it as well. I did some red wheel stripes to match the bike, as well as install a tinted windscreen. The bike was an excellent starter bike; I found that the 600cc’s were perhaps a little much right at the very beginning, but it was perfect as soon as I got comfortable which was probably about a week after owning it.
Aside from all the fun of riding motorcycles, a big part of it is the memories you build with riding. I once rode from San Francisco down to Los Angeles and back; it was a trip I’ll never forget. I probably picked the worst time to ride down though. On my way down to LA, it poured rain on me 80% of the way down. As you can see from the photo below, I chose the worst attire to ride in rain. My jeans and high-top sneakers were soaked, and my leather jacket got super stiff after all the exposure to water.
As the years went on, I went on a lot of rides with friends and worked on my cornering on the bike. I even did a track day with my CBR600RR; yet another opportunity to build upon my riding skills.
Even my older brother purchased a CBR600 F4i, which is the fuel-injected version of my bike (mine was carbeurated.) We did rides together as well; it was cool to be able to do this kind of activity together as brothers.
So yes, I have had a lot of good memories. I guess I can see why I feel all of this nostalgia creeping up on me as I realize how many moments I’ve shared with my Honda F4. I would love to get a bike again as I’ve always had my sights set on a few bikes that I never got to own (e.g. Ducati Streetfighter, Suzuki SV650, some other Ducati’s and 1000cc bikes. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to own another bike again, but there’s one thing I do know: I will never forget all of the great times I’ve shared with my very first motorcycle.