A UD Student "Auto-Biography" -- Ryan Burg and his 1982 Kawasaki 440ltd

An American Love and a Motorcycle, an ‘Auto’ Biography by Ryan Burg.

The 1982 Kawasaki 440ltd, was my project and although similar to the 1987 Porsche 924s project I share with my father, only the motorcycle was a love affair. These vehicles have helped build my relationships with many people, my parents, myself, and an unnamed woman. As cheesy as that sounds, you don’t know yourself that well until you spend some hours saddled over a machine with nothing but the sound of wind and the subtle, but ever constant, don’t die mentality. Similarly, sharing that love for fear with a woman is something I think every man should experience, that is having her on your back and that occasional chill that rattles your spine as she grips harder with her own don’t die mentality, while you lean into a turn and accelerate out of it. Needless to say, some of the best moments I have had were on that bike
As an exuberant freshman at the University of Dayton, I often found my free time browsing the motorcycle classifieds on craigslist. I did the research and quoted the insurance; I knew my financial situation and I knew it was tight. “Eight hundred dollars, not a penny more” I said to myself. This purchase was premeditated, having already taken the 2-3 hour ordeal to acquire my class M permit, I was ready. Then finally I found a bike that was listed for a grand that I really liked. This was after riding bikes of all different shapes and sizes from all corners of Dayton. I rode the bike, told the guy I liked it and offered him “Eight hundred dollars, not a penny more”. He said no. I packed up my old truck (1991 GMC sierra rust bucket) got in, put the crank window down, and said “Let me rephrase that. Do you have the title and is there a notary around here?” “Yesir” he replied. “Forty twenty dollar bills” I said while holding the cash in my hand. He liked that, so I kept my promise, and didn’t spend a penny more.
That was until insurance, tires, etc. but those expenses were cost of ownership, and came in over a few months so they were manageable. Here is the best part: I had that bike in the bed of my truck with the truck cap over top of it, and it sat in bed of my truck until I took it back to Pittsburgh to my parents. My Mom was far from happy with my newest surprise, but I didn’t care. I was young and I had my own motorcycle. My name was on the title, mine. My Dad had that I’m going to act like I’m mad look but as soon as he helped me get it out of my truck he was on it and up the road he went, possibly forgetting how loud a motorcycle is at full throttle as I heard him downshift once he was around the corner, out of sight. He also had a motorcycle while he was a young man, and he couldn’t hide his smirk as he pulled back in the driveway. I drove the bike to work daily and took it and the unnamed woman for many rides that will never be forgotten, and right now I know more about the smirk he was wearing. The rides around my hometown on hot summer days in nothing more than shorts, a tee shirt, and that woman are something I like to consider the American dream: A first love, you can decide if it is the woman or the bike.
The thing about young men is they turn into old men, but many still have that American dream going on strong. I have met many riders including complete strangers while taking cover underneath an overpass during a torrential downpour on the freeway. It is often that you find the attitude of any biker is just that, it’s not if you will crash it is when. I know people who have crashed their motorcycles, but I have been lucky enough to say I have not, yet. There have been close calls in my life, some that changed me at my core by scaring me within inches of my life. I pulled out and saw the gap I had knowing my bike it was plenty fast to get me into traffic, but the light sand gravel on the road left me sliding into the second lane almost dumping me and my bike under a car only managing to save myself and drive away. I remember that day more clearly than almost any other day in my life. Second only to a ride home from work more recently where I came upon a man sitting on the side of the road holding his brain in with a stack of paper towels, that image clarified the officer a block before saying: “You’re not ready to see it” as I passed slowly around the corner into the mess of motorcycle parts scattered on the road. I don’t know if he lived or died.
The bike I bought looked a whole lot different than it does pictured above, but I had access to a full body shop and a mentor who enjoyed sharing the trade. So I tore the tins off the bike and beat them back into shape, sanded, primed, painted, and clear coated all the black you see. It also used to have a small windshield and drag bars that did nothing for protection and looked outdated. I put almost 5,000 miles on that bike and it would barely make it to triple digit speeds, but it loved windy roads, and I like to think it loved me as much as I loved it. I sold it for $850 to an international visitor who wanted to ride it to California three years later, because if I wasn’t ready to take the 30 year old bike to CA, I was willing to let it go without me. This motorcycle story is over, but that “American dream” mentioned earlier isn’t just owning a motorcycle or finding someone, it’s both.


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