Everyone starts somewhere. No matter what the “thing” is, everyone was a beginner at some point. Bernadette was my “beginner bike.”

I had ridden on a few other bikes, all smaller. I took the class on a Honda 250, one way newer than Bernadette. I practiced the most on a 1975 Honda CB200, which has since found a home with my best friend and earned the name Merlin.

And we own lots of other bikes, of varying engine sizes and styles and I’ve ridden most of them. In fact, I’ve ridden our other bikes more than Bernadette this year.

But Bernadette was MY first bike.

She will be getting a new seat cover soon and then offered for sale. I’m honestly

When I first bought her at Vintage Days in 2018, almost two years ago already, I thought I would never sell her. More to the point, at the time I thought I’d never be “ready” for a bigger bike, therefore never need to sell her. I even, erroneously, thought that this little 360 was TOO big for me in the first place.

I knew I wanted to buy this bike, quite literally, the minute I saw it in the swap meet field at Vintage Days. It was the first bike I saw and I said out loud that I’d decided on her right then and there. Dylan jokingly said I “had” to look at more bikes and couldn’t buy the first one I saw. I “jokingly” said I’d kill him if we found nothing else and she was gone when I got back to buy her.

So, we walked around for what seemed like 5 or more hours in the sun. I saw lots of other bikes. But it was like falling in love with the first puppy you see at the shelter, but having to “make the rounds” around the rest of the shelter just in case your love at first sight instincts were wrong.

My instincts weren’t wrong. The price was right, she was in generally running condition, she’s BEAUTIFUL, and I wanted her…

In true rom-com fashion, she was gone when we got back to where she was parked. I tried to view it as “not meant to be” but the seller in the stall next to where she had caught my eye said that the guy JUST left and that he could call him! I recalled the seller saying his wife told him SHE would “kill him if he returned home with that bike.” So, it really was meant to be after all, all in true rom-com fashion, of course.

Already too long story short, he came back, I bought it, Dylan rode it home. I was still pretty new to riding and hadn’t ridden on the freeway or long trips yet. I was, honestly, too excited and shaken up to ride it anyway!

Once she arrived home, Bernadette needed a few semi-major repairs, like a new starter, some wiring fixed, etc. But otherwise she was in tip-top shape and I was riding her to bike nights pretty quickly.

I learned to ride on the freeway on Bernadette, though I don’t recommend it. Me, 180lbs plus being a smaller bike on the freeway doesn’t feel carefree to me. I learned why a full face helmet is best, while riding on this bike and experiencing being lifted off of my bike at 80mph. I learned, not quickly, but I learned, how to find neutral while cars are honking noisily behind me when I stalled at the light. You see, Bernadette has a quirk about requiring you to be in neutral to start. She really wants you to pay attention to her.

I’m no mechanic. Thankfully, Dylan has helped (read: showed ME how to help) or handled the things Bernadette needed mechanically.

She had a short lived electrical issue that caused me to learn how to bump start the engine in 2nd gear when she turned off in the middle of a turn or wouldn’t start no matter what you did so you forced it while rolling down a hill. Thankfully, that’s fixed now, but a lot the skills you learn when learning to ride on a vintage bike can be very unlike the skills you’d learn on a bike with every iota of its being tuned perfectly. But then, you’d miss out on the personality of a vintage bike.

The name Bernadette360 came to me the minute we got her home. She just looks like a refined lady, something I surely am not. Which is interesting because, riding her or being near or being in photos with her sure makes strangers feel obligated to say “Oh Hey Little LADY! Is that YOUR bike?!”

No, sir, I’m leaning on a strangers bike. No, sir, this bike got here on it’s own and I felt like wearing this helmet because OMG it’s so cute! But, yes, sir, I DO know this bike is older than me, despite your efforts to use such an obvious “ice breaker” to try and trip me up about my own bike.

So, I guess there are some things you learn on a vintage bike that are identical to things you learn on a newer bike. Like, how to handle strangers who feel the need to point out that cannot believe you got this thing here yourself.

I wouldn’t take Bernadette on a multi-state tour, though I have ridden her for multi-hour trips comprised of distances that have culminated in events with names like “Backwoods Festival.”

I am up for the challenge of learning new things on a bigger bike. I hope that her next owner will be someone who has room in their life to learn some things.

I’ve test ridden some larger CC bikes. We obviously have a few for me to ride that are bigger than she is. But I HAVE decided that I don’t think I’d be content without my own “personal” bike. I’m not 100% sure what that will be yet, to be honest. Harley Sportsters seem to have a “girl’s bike” reputation, not that that bothers me. I enjoyed riding a Harley Iron1200 at AIM last year, even with the higher handlebars. A Honda Shadow is probably as close to what I “would” have bought had I not come into the vintage world.

I’m looking for something that I can pack onto. Something that, by sheer increased size, could help me get comfortable dead heading to a campsite or riding longer distances with a group. I want to expand the education I’ve had having a smaller vintage motorcycle into something new entirely. I just hope my next bike has something to teach me and I wish I knew what that was going to be. I have a good feeling it will no matter what.

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2 Responses

  1. What happened to Bernadette? Great article. I love vintage Hondas and I am new to motorcycling. I could totally relate to everything you wrote. Thanks for sharing!

    • Dan, she’s still waiting for her new home! Honestly, I wanted to give her a tune-up and install a new seat cover, spruce her up a bit. Once that’s done, she might make her way into the shop. But she’s still for sale!

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