My Harley

This summer I refinanced my house. In doing so, I cut my house payment by a significant amount. Having already established a healthy monthly budget, this meant I could now afford to invest in something new.

And I needed to take out another loan for something.

Why would anyone need to take out a loan? In simple terms: I needed to make sure that if I ever needed something that would require a loan, that I would have the credit to get that loan. Right now, my credit is less than stellar, though I have no credit cards and the only active loans I have are my mortgage and a tiny student loan balance. I have, in the past, been victim to all the easy credit cards and didn’t always have the discipline to stay within my means when using said credit cards.

Looking into rebuilding credit, I learned that revolving credit accounts, such as credit cards, are really not that great for credit score purposes. Installment loans, according to my sources, are ideal. This means a fixed borrowed amount that is paid back in regular installments, such a car loan.

For the past year, we’ve only had one vehicle. This is slightly problematic sometimes. Some days my wife needs to move the kids around town and, though I carpool to work, there are days when the carpool doesn’t go as planned.

So we decided to get a second vehicle. We looked at the options: a new car, a used car or a scooter. We weighed the pros and cons of each.

I am already planning on a new car, two years from now. I don’t like used cars. After a while it just seems like I’m making two payments – one to the bank and one to keep the car repaired. And the repairs only go up with time. I like warranties. I also like knowing that five years later the investment will still have value.

There is something to be said for those older used cars that still run but are of such vintage that they can be had for $1000-2000. These are not great cars, and we don’t expect them to last more than a couple years. Still, they’re cheap, and if properly inspected and tested, can provide the basics. We decided if we needed one of these, we’d get one in the near future, but this is not the kind of investment I was looking for.

Scooters went out the window as an idea pretty quickly. I’m not the quirky college student I was when I last had a scooter. Even then I traded it in within a year for a motorcycle.

One of our friends suggested we should get a Harley. They suggested there could be a decent Harley out there for quite reasonable prices. The idea took hold. I did some investigating. New Harleys are about the same prices as new cars. They start at around $8k and go up.

Taking into account that getting credit was an important aspect of this venture, as well as the need for a second, efficient, vehicle, the idea grew on me.  As an investment, Harleys lose value slower than cars.

I set an arbitrary amount that I wanted to spend and applied for a loan. It turns out that my credit doesn’t suck as bad as I thought it did and I had no problems getting a prime interest rate recreational vehicle loan. I chose to go with the local credit union because dealer financing is rumored to have pretty poor interest rates. So, I had a preapproved amount to spend and had set my sights on a Harley. I just didn’t know which model to settle on.

I looked at used bikes, but none of them inspired me, and the warranty issue bothered me. Mechanical repair is not one of my hobbies. I like to pay other people to do it for me. Okay, so I don’t really like to pay them, but I like them to do it for me; they just seem to be much more willing if I pay them.

After shopping around, and sitting on a few bikes, I chose a Harley Davidson Sportster model – the 2012 Superlow. I call it a little Harley, because, as Harley’s go, it’s as little as they get. It’s still bigger than my last motorcycle while at the same time being lower to the ground, which is important because I have short legs.

I’m just shy of six feet tall. And by just shy, we’re talking a tiny fraction of an inch. Close enough that I just say I’m six feet tall. I could cheat and use my height after a visit to the chiropractor and say six-one, but most of the time, just saying six-feet seems to work best. No one wants all that detail.

I’m an odd six foot tall person. My proportions are not the median for my height. When these details come up, I tell people I’m seven feet tall from the waist up and five feet tall from the waist down. In meetings, where everyone is sitting, I’m always the tallest guy in the room. In most cars, if I sit up, my head presses against the roof.

The downside of the odd proportions is my short inseam. As I mentioned, due to the short legs, I need a low motorcycle. This was not something I took into consideration when I was 20 and that motorcycle had me balancing on tip-toe at stop lights.

The Superlow, as the name suggests is a low bike and fits my frame pretty well. For a Harley, it has a small engine. For a street bike it’s an average sized engine. I should mention that I’m a bit of a MPG nut. MPG is always a consideration when buying a vehicle. Smaller engines mean more MPG at the expense of power, but let’s be clear – There is more than enough power in even the smallest Harley for anything on our streets or highways. Still, I call it my little Sportster.

I like the small engine because it’s been a while since I had ridden. By a while, I mean half my life and I’m almost 42. I actually committed to buying the bike without a motorcycle license or a test drive. They don’t let you test drive without a license and I’m not patient enough to wait. I don’t recommend the practice, but it turned out just as I expected.  I love the bike and it fits me well.

Speaking of licenses, I do have one now and did at the time I picked up the bike. I had planned on getting my permit, which would have allowed me to drive during the day, prior to getting the bike. I picked up the bike on a Tuesday. The Friday before that it was the wee hours of the morning and I was having insomnia, which is another story for another time. On a lark, I decided to check the local community college for a motorcycle safety class. I wasn’t expecting to find an immediate opening, but planned to find one within a month or so. Turns out the class that started later that day had an opening so I got in. Successful completion of the class means a license to drive a motorcycle. I had to make a trip to the DMV to actually get the license, but didn’t have to test for it there.

I’m doing some customization to the bike and will probably continue to do so a little at a time here and there. The accessories I put on so far have been a double seat and sissy-bar (backrest) and saddlebags, because, as I mentioned in previous post, adults do not wear backpacks.

So far I haven’t mentioned the traditional reasons for buying a Harley, the wind in my hair freedom of the open road stuff. All that is nice, but when it comes down to it, I’m more the practical type. I need rational reasoning, even if it’s really just rationalizing because I do want the wind in my hair freedom of the open road – only with a helmet on, because I like my brains to stay in my skull.

And I haven’t mentioned why a Harley instead of any other bike. Well, that answer is simple. There are Harleys and there are other bikes. Am I being clear enough?

Did I go that whole post and not mention the term ‘Mid-Life Crisis’?

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