by Damon Voros
(Amissville, VA, USA)
It was 1983 and I was 15 years old, I fell in love. It would be an enduring love.
My father was a mechanical engineer and motorcycle enthusiast who had raced WWII-era BMWs and similar equipment while in his twenties. My mother was also an enthusiast with her own motorcycle. I learned to ride at 7 to 8 years old.
By chance, one day I caught the TV spot of Jay Gleason's dragstrip run. My father and I used to go to the dealerships to look at bikes as a way to pass a bit of time together, but the V65 Magna became an obsession for me.
Obviously, I was too young, no real income, and certainly no chance at insurance on a bike like this, even when I turned 16. The bike seemingly earned a dubious reputation amongst insurance companies. I remember my father's reaction the first time I had him stop into a dealer to take a look at the new Magna. I had scouted the dealership ahead of time and led my father right past the new Nighthawks and the V45 to this "buxom" example of mechanical brilliance. The bike's engine was thrust out in the open in a way that made it seem as though the rest of the machine was an afterthought. That engine was the centerpiece; everything else seemed superfluous.
My father would pass in 1987, I joined the Air Force, and my obsession with the V65 retreated into the recesses of my mind.
Then, in 1990--I was riding a 700 Virago while stationed at RAF Chicksands--one of our security forces personnel rode up on a blue V65. She, the bike that is, had been ridden not pampered, but she was beautiful. He parked next to me and we walked in to work together. I asked how he liked her but not much else. Inside, I knew I wanted that bike.
Time passed, I served at San Vito AS, Italy until January 1993. I was chosen to return to RAF Chicksands. Upon my return, I found that this bike was still at the base. I had ordered a new Harley Davidson to be delivered in Ohio, intent on eventually shipping it over to England. When I learned how much it would cost, I decided to buy a second bike instead--the V65. I was in luck, the owner was willing to sell. There was no negotiation. He quoted a price and I was holding cash. She was mine.
It took a few miles for me to get used to her. That engine was silky smooth, but there was a point in the power band where the power just seemed to take off exponentially. I had learned early to respect a new bike and take it easy at first--feel it out and put it through some maneuvers. I was used to the shaft drive, but the fingertip clutch and front brake controls were new. The weight and elevated center of gravity took a couple of rides to get used to. A set of adjustable aftermarket handlebars, installed by the previous owner, gave the feel of riding a dirt bike--hard to describe.
Then we clicked. England is wet, but that bike was so well balanced that I could predict her reactions in almost any situation. I've had 13 or 14 bikes now, including a ZX10 and ZX11, an FJ1200, and others. But, I don't think any bike put more of a smile on my face than that V65. I would walk out of the barracks, helmet in hand, and it was as though we would size one another up before each ride. I can actually remember smiling as I inserted the key.
I rode her all over England, Scotland, and Wales. I have a wonderful picture somewhere of my girlfriend and I standing next to her at the top of the White Cliffs of Dover. I eventually shipped her--the bike, not my girlfriend--to my new station in Texas and rode her all over between San Antonio, Houston, Austin, and El Paso.
I only sold her in 1996 out of necessity, and I hated doing it. I had three bikes and two cars at the time. The insurance was eating me up alive and I was on my way overseas again. But, I'll own another V65, preferably an '85 or '86.
Thank you for the space and the opportunity to quickly relive that part of my life.