Reader Question: Old Bike Retrofit?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Ira asks: I’m in the market for a motorcycle dated earlier than 1980. I’m in NYC and my pickings are very slim. Do you have any ideas where to look for an older bike? In closing, a buddy wants to sell his 2003 Ford Explorer for $3,000 and, thinking out of the box, is it possible to rip out the electronics?

My reply: Finding an older bike isn’t difficult; you may just need to broaden your search. Have you checked Cycle Trader? You can adjust search parameters for year/make. I’d also check Craigs List in the areas adjacent to NYC, as for example New Jersey and Connecticut.  I am certain – 100 percent sure – you will be able to find an older bike via either or both of these methods.

Also: It is not necessary to go all the way back to 1980 (or prior) to get a bike that is basically the same as bikes made in 1980 and prior. Unlike cars, which have been Borg’d by computers since the early ’80s, almost all motorcycles were still free of computers until relatively recently – i.e., as recently as the early-mid 2000s. For example, my 2003 Kawasaki ZRX is not that much different, in terms of electronics/complexity – than my ’76 Kz900. Neither bike has a computer or EFI or any form of electronic “assistance,” such as ABS.

There is also a big upside to going newer – beyond having more selection. It is that there is less – if any – need to retrofit a bike such as my  ’03 ZRX with modern brakes or wheels/tires/suspension parts.

It came with them.

My ’76 Kz900, on the other hand, has a rear drum brake and a single front disc brake; it has a suspension completely inferior to the one my ZRZ has, too. I love the bike, but riding it is not like riding the newer bike, which I can ride just as fast and just as aggressively as a brand-new sport bike.

Because it is a modern sport bike.

If you tell me what type of bike you’re looking for – not just vintage – I’d be happy to offer some specific suggestions. You might be very happy with an older Honda Goldwing, if you’re looking for a long-range touring bike. I’m also a huge fan of the Nighthawk series as well as the Kawasaki Kz series, if you’re looking for a standard/naked-type of bike.

As regards the Explorer: Sadly, this is not realistically possible.  The entire vehicle is enmeshed with electronics; the only realistic way to un-mesh them would be to entirely gut the drivetrain and all related systems and replace them with pre-enmeshed purely mechanical systems, which would be cost prohibitive as well as technically illegal.

In this case, I recommend shopping for a pre-1980s vehicle that wasn’t enmeshed to begin with!

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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