35,000 miles later

They said I'd get bored. They were wrong
Published April 24, 2012

I proved ’em wrong. Not yet ready to move on.

I’ve now owned my little blue 250 for over four years, put ‘er through more than 35,000 miles of bad riding. Not bored yet, don’t think I’ll ever get there.

Common myth insists a Ninja 250 is fun for learning, but quickly outgrown and dulled in a few weeks’ time. I certainly didn’t know better when I bought the thing but was certain I’d rebel. Ignorant, stubborn. Yes, I was a newly-born motorcyclist.

If a Ninja 250 can’t go fast I’d change my aim. “It’s not for speed,” I told myself while writing a check for a supersport doppelganger. At the time, I drove a 400-horsepower, rear-drive coupe. But not at all obsessed with going fast. Thirty-two horsepower will do. Don’t worry.

Truthfully, I didn’t have to change my mind. The Ninja 250 did it for me. The high-powered Pontiac was fun occasionally, but ripping open the throttle of the 250 is fun always. Half-second dabs of gas were all I’d get in the car on the same stretches of road where the motorcycle eagerly makes a couple of trips to 13,000 rpm. Perfectly cliche but I believe it: It’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast one slow. So honest was my transformation that I gave up the GTO and its six-liter motor.

There’s nothing the Ninja 250 can’t do that a bigger bike can

Practical reasoning also contributed to my longstanding relationship with the Ninja 250. While I’ve grown to love revving the tits off the gal, I still dream of 100 horsepower and–more crucially–the quality components that come with $10,000 motorcycles. But every time I get serious about buying a new bike, I remember: The motorcycle I own is paid for; the motorcycle I own does everything I ask of it. There is nothing the Ninja 250 can’t do that a bigger, more expensive bike can. The 250 brilliantly does the freeway commute to work, deftly dices San Francisco traffic, keeps up with friends on liter bikes, and swallows miles 500 at a time. What then do I gain from replacing the Ninja 250? And what do I give up?

Which brings me to the heart of why, after four years and tens of thousands of miles, I’m still riding a Ninja 250. I deeply love the bike. It’s brought me to the humbling Crater Lake, to the infinite Oregon coast, to the boy-racer hills of Malibu, and to the hippest streets of Seattle. After stormy battles through Bay Area rush hour in the winter, I park up Mighty and behold the rain-sloshed visage with sincere gratitude. It’s a pile of parts, steel wrapped in plastic coated in dust, but some days I swear the bike is my friend.

They told me I’d grow bored. But they didn’t predict I’d grow fond.