Gift of a Lifetime
A wife’s gracious offering continues to resonate
May 2, 2023 (Originally from May 2023’s edition of American Motorcyclist)
By Paul Biglin (with son-in-law Mike Haake)
Dear American Motorcyclist Staff:
I wrote this story almost 20 years ago, intending to send it to the magazine in hopes Peter Egan (of Cycle World fame) would see it, but never got around to mailing it. I think he has since retired. I thought he would have been interested in it because a number of years ago I read a story of Peter’s wife Barb surprising him by buying him a 350 Honda shortly after he graduated from college – and it reminded me of my experience years ago. I hope you find this story, though delayed, still of some interest. I’ve included a few photos. Hopefully, Peter will have the opportunity to read this between his motorcycling adventures on the road and as he enjoys his retirement.
The year was 1962. The place, Galion, Ohio, a day in May. Seemed like just another day, but on my arrival home from work my wife Peg greeted me at the door, holding our tax return check, which she’d already signed. She said, “Here, go buy yourself a motorcycle. I’m tired of your expression whenever you see one pass by on the road.”
As background, I was 23 years old, and had sold my NSU Supermax three years earlier so that we could get married. At the time there were many things we needed much more than a motorcycle, such as building up our savings for our growing family, but she would not relent in her offer. I must admit that I protested only mildly.
I had always liked singles after riding my brother’s Norton ES2 and my friend’s 500 Matchless. I went shopping and the third place I stopped, gripping that check, was Dick Klamfoth’s shop in Groveport, Ohio. I had watched Dick ride his Gold Star on the dirt tracks in the area and knew he was well liked and respected. After explaining what I wanted, Dick asked if I intended to race, and I said that I just wanted a nice street bike. I had been racing scrambles and short track in Ohio, and though my racing days weren’t over, the hobby was on hold. Life has a tendency to redirect one’s priorities, so that day I was not in the market for a racing machine. Dick said to me “You don’t want a single, then. They vibrate, they’re temperamental starting, most leak oil, and don’t even ask about Lucas electronics. Have you ever considered a Honda?”
Ever the expert as anyone who has been 23 can attest, I said rather indignantly, “I don’t want a damn Jap bike.” Those old enough to remember Japanese products of the post-war time know that they mostly had a reputation for cheap throwaway goods. Dick stopped my protest, saying, “Hey, hey, hey! I’ve been around bikes all of my life and I don’t sell junk. Come on, you’re going for a ride.”
He brought out a 305 Superhawk. It wasn’t a very big bike, yet he took it past 80 mph with me on the back, and at the time, not all bikes in the 500cc range were even capable of doing that. He said, “Here’s a shop manual. Take it home and see how well they are made, and you’ll want one. But don’t take too long. I have three coming in and they won’t be here long.” I took the manual, and two days later called and bought one of the two that remained. He laughed when I called back and said, “I told my wife, Bev, that you would be back!”
Through the years I’ve owned many bikes, and spent nearly 20 years on three different Harley FXRs, but as I grew older, I knew that crashing a big motorcycle wouldn’t be good. It so happened that my brother had a 1965 Superhawk in his barn that he had parked permanently in 1978 after nearly being taken out by a drunk driver. So 10 years ago I bought it and began working on it, and had it running after a couple of months. It’s no trailer queen; I build my bikes to ride and to enjoy, not sit in the garage to polish and pose with.
To me, the nicest thing about the older bikes is their simplicity. No computers, no fuel injection, no traction control, no ABS, etc. The rider controls it all, with the “CPU” in his or her brain, as I think it should be. Best of all, if it decides to quit, I can make it go again. I like that security when I go for a ride.
Cancer took my beloved Peg in 1995, but whenever I ride the 305, which can be daily here in Florida where I live now, all of my fond memories of her and that particular day come flowing back. And I thank her every day for being such a huge part of my life and understanding me so well. I have had a lifetime of motorcycle enjoyment, motorcycle therapy, and fellowship with many other riders. Look at me now, Babe!
Several years ago, I saw Dick Klamfoth again at a swap meet in Daytona, where he was signing posters. I told him of my purchase from him years ago, and he said, “Oh, in Columbus?” I told him I’d purchased it in nearby Groveport. He said, “I was only in Groveport a few months, so you must have been one of my first customers!” He graciously signed a poster for me, which I still treasure.
Last summer, about 63 years after that first 305 purchase, I bought my second new Honda. Yep…another 300! It’s a very good, capable, and lightweight bike, particularly great for someone my age that still has a passion for riding. Still, I know the experiences I’ll have on it won’t match the excitement and the thrills I had on that first Superhawk… Change is a constant.
I’m not sure if you all feel this worthy of publishing in your magazine, but I felt that my experiences may resonate with many of your older readers. I am still fortunate to enjoy riding, and I am delighted when I chance to meet other “mature” riders or former riders, who still have an overt passion for this pastime.
Maybe there is some small truth to the adage that, “you don’t stop riding when you get older…you get older because you stop riding.”
My sincere thanks to the late Dick Klamfoth for taking the time long ago to direct me to that Honda purchase, and for being such an outstanding gentleman and dealer. —PB