Where’s the fun in buying something nice?
It can be so simple and so complex to explain why my garage is filled to the brim with a perfect, 50/50 mix of tools and broken stuff. Not long ago a close friend pointed out—immediately receiving a photo of the latest hulk of a project I was hauling home—that if I would stop buying junk bikes, I could probably afford something nice, ready to ride, and interesting. To which I replied:
“Yeah, but where is the fun in that?”
He wasn’t wrong, though. 1986–95 Honda XR250R motorcycles have begun to duplicate like rabbits around my garage. There are currently two engines sitting mid-assembly on the workbench and two running bikes posted up on stands. Carefully organized in tubs on shelves are enough parts to build two more complete bikes, plus spares for spares. That’s only the physical storage space: My web browser is full of bookmarks for random forum threads and chats where others have shared a sliver of knowledge that I will certainly need at some point in the future.
What started all of this? A dare from a few friends, when I sent along a Marketplace listing for a non-running XR250R that I thought I could bring back to life. They called my bluff and encouraged me to go buy the stupid thing. Four years later, here we are.
I’ve made a lot of money disappear in tiny increments to make these junky old bikes look and function as Honda intended. That sunk cost is not why I can’t get rid of them, though. The disappearing stack of cash is not the question, either; my bank account would be bled dry by something, so why not motorcycles, cars, and other projects?
Some of us wander through life like golden retrievers, taking interest in whatever is directly in front of us and forgetting about it a mere two minutes later. Then one day a thing enters our lives and we can’t let go. It’s interesting on a mechanical and perhaps a historical level, and we enjoy looking at it. If that thing is also something we can afford, it quickly ascends to become a part of our personality, perhaps our identity. It’s not always clear why we fell in love with what we do, and the less time I spend trying to figure that out, the better off I am.
Maybe you are like me: If a project is not requiring you to learn or grow, you get bored with it. Some of us seek out our vintage cars because they represent a comfortable space in which we are experts. Some love the wave of nostalgia that comes with operating antiquated machinery: When restored properly, those machines can offer something akin to time travel. The rest of us need the entertainment provided by continuous upkeep and restoration.
It really doesn’t matter why or how we enjoy the objects we do because, at the end of the day, they are just that—objects. That concert T-shirt is just cotton and ink, but since it stirs a positive memory in the brain, you deem it more valuable. Toss in all the times when something positive happened while you were wearing that shirt, and it becomes a prized thing. Thanks to my cadre of Honda XR250s, I’ve met some downright amazing people and had some wild experiences.
We all have to admit the opportunity cost of any path we choose. At some point, though, calculating that cost becomes a fool’s errand. And maybe, explaining our respective obsessions is even simpler: We do what is fun.
Rehabilitating and building up Japanese motorcycles of the late ’80s is just fun for me. For every hour I spend on the track or trail-riding one of my XRs, I have probably spent eight hours with it in the garage: The hour meter on my road-race bike reads 18 hours, and I didn’t stop racing it because I hated wrenching on it.
I can afford a bike that needs no fussing, but a motorcycle with no needs would likely struggle to hold my attention. It’s just the way my brain is wired. Once you figure out how yours works, you’re best to just roll with it. What’s the fun in arguing?