Are you a podiatrist who has loads of discretionary cash to spend on additions to your bike, and enough leftover money to fly your toy around the world? Then go for a BMW adventure bike and recreate a leg of Ewan McGregor's and Charlie Boorman's Long Way Round. Are you a youthful fellow who is into extreme speed, pick up a "crotch rocket." (But please avoid making the rest of us look bad by being a "squid".) Want nostalgia, go for an old Triumph and ride it on the weekends to vintage bike events. Want to tear up dirt roads in the desert, get a dirt bike or enduro. Want to ride to Yellowstone with your lady to celebrate retirement? A Honda Goldwing beckons. Need cheep commuting, you can scour craigslist for a Honda Rebel . But whatever you pick, don't be so naive as to think that your choice doesn't have cultural implications. It says something about you and it is itself an artifact of our cultural values.
Sometimes, I wish it weren't so complicated. For my first bike, I purchased a Japanese Harley Davidson clone. It's a 2003 Suzuki Volusia (I'm riding it through Joshua Tree National Park in the photo above). It has a medium size frame with a mellow engine. It has served me well for thousands of miles, over long stretches of American asphalt. I bought it for $2500 with 11,000 miles on the odometer. And it has caused no problems. Not one. And I need a new bike. I suppose this is because I want one with soul. What kind of soul? More on that later. For now, let's consider the ways in which motorcycles reflect the soul of a culture.