A Lifetime in the Garage
Schneller
The Bike That Built a Life



A few years back I found an SRX-6 for sale locally. I went to look at it, recognized the seller's last name as someone who club-raced during the era I did. We chatted for a while in his garage; both at an age where we could openly admit Brainerd's turn one scared us so badly it hurt.

Later, after the bike was unloaded and in my small shop, I had time to think about the transaction and was reminded again that to some of us, anyway, motorcycles are a meaningful component of our lives.

In his heated and nice garage we talked about his SRX-6 which was soon to be mine. He'd bought it when he was young, and extensively modified it. He dropped in new shocks, re-did the dash, mounted 33mm Keihin carbs and a Supertrapp exhaust. One winter he took the top end apart and put in the big White Brothers piston, and a lumpy cam. He rode it as basic transportation for a few years, to work and back, and then ripped around on the Wisconsin back roads on the weekends.

The seller was an honest man and said it would need major work to be road-worthy again. He said even at its best tune he could give it the bike never really ran too well. The 33 Keihins were probably too big for the streets and back roads that he frequented, and there's no way the booming single would maintain his good relationship with his now non-motorcyclist neighbors.

After a few years he and his wife started a family and his responsibilities grew at home and work, and the SRX-6 went to the back of his heated garage while he fixed family bicycles or mowed the lawn. Having a child in sports is basically a part-time job and if they do two then your hobbies go to the end of a long list. With two kids in multiple sports, you will wonder why you even exist at all. Thankfully he and his wife had gotten back into motorcycles after their kids were out of the house. His and her dual sport bikes sat outside.

I wanted the bike, paid his asking price and was ready to load up. I spread my Ready-Ramp off the back of the truck and dragged my air tank in to air up the soon-to-be-deflated-again tires. Money exchanged hands. The title was signed and also exchanged.

Still the bike sat in the same place as the seller told stories of the early days of ownership, of importing the fairing off a Canadian RgV250 and spending weekends making brackets for the fairing and building a new headlight to fit. I wasn't pressed for time so I let him go. The SRX-6 was now mine, legally, but it didn't seem to be moving anywhere. The owner was reluctant to say goodbye to this SRX-6.

We loaded.

After a few more stories he realized he still had all the stock parts in a box, and he dug them out. I took the box and put it in the back of my truck. I was using this opportunity to jump in the truck and leave when his wife came home from work. She parked her car and walked over.

"Wow. He really sold it. I didn't know if he ever would," she said, not taking her eyes off the bike as she spoke to me, her husband in his garage looking for the box that the Keihin carbs came in, that he just remembered he still had and a bunch of jetting. You could hear boxes being pulled off a shelf in the garage behind us. "I just saw the box last week ...!"

She was much more forthcoming:

She said that they were just college students dating before he bought the SRX-6. They had a lot in common and could spend days and nights together without any drama. She thought he might be the one she would settle down with, but he was usually quiet about the future, which was just his nature.
When she parked in their current garage, in the winter, her headlights illuminated the bike for just a moment before she killed the engine every night after work. Sometimes she spent a few moments alone in the car, alone, looking at that SRX-6 and thinking of how it had been the impetus for an entire life together.
He'd found the ad for the bike hanging on a bulletin board just inside a local grocery store, she said, and happily went over and made a deal for the SRX-6 before he actually had the money. He expected to be able to get a loan for the bike—$2500 was a lot of money in 1988—but the bank turned him down cold for reasons she could not remember. He was knocked back by this development. In his head he'd already been riding the bike and his disappointment was obvious.

"Hey," she said, "call the bank and ask if they will do the loan if you have a co-signer. I'll co-sign the loan," she told him.

"You'd do that for me, for a motorcycle?"

"Sure," she said, "I trust ya," slapped him on the butt and went to go get her Social Security card so he could rattle the numbers off to the now much friendlier loan officer.

The motorcycle in his possession and her offer to co-sign the loan broke the floodgates in their romance and life-long relationship. Soon enough it was the why do we rent two apartments when you're always here? conversation. Followed by a marriage proposal, children, jobs, a suburban life, which at one time seemed distant, if not unattainable. That SRX-6 sat in the back of three different garages, as the number of children needing bedrooms increased. When she parked in their current garage, in the winter, her headlights illuminated the bike for just a moment before she killed the engine every night after work. Sometimes she spent a few moments alone in the car looking at that SRX-6 and thinking of how it had been the impetus for an entire life together. Good times, bad times, all the times, together and it all started with that goofy, kickstart-only bike he built a, truly, lifetime ago.

Suddenly she climbed up the folding aluminum ramp in her nurse's shoes.

Her husband was now out of the garage with the bag of jets and the box from Sudco. He stopped. We both watched wordlessly as she gave the dusty SRX-6 seat a pat and leaned over and kissed the tank. She had tears in her eyes.

"Bye, bike," she said, and then climbed down.
— ends —
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