It was May, 2008. I was hosting the 3rd annual Com3 Death Ride. Only Paulo, Matt, and myself were partaking in said ride, but none the less, it was the Death Ride.
The rules were simple: Go fast and don’t die, else be left behind at the mercy of the native Sierra Nevada wildlife.
Rules were broken that day. Paulo ended up in a tree, mostly upright. Matt likey ran over a critter, I don’t fully recall, but for the story’s sake, we’ll go with that…and I…well, I crashed pretty hard. So hard in fact, I was left with a fractured vertebrae, some ribs, some soft bits were mangled, there was blood and all that other fun stuff that happens when you fall down at high-ish rates of speed and your bike decides to exact it’s revenge upon you for treating it so harshly.
Matt stopped for me. I mean, he kinda HAD to, as I’d done the deed right in front of him. Actually, I was in the process of crashing as I was along side Matt, before finishing up just in front of him. Matt, you broke the rules, buddy. ;) Thanks again for not running me over.
I was life flighted off the mountain. I crashed. It was entirely my own fault. I had no one to blame but myself.
As I lay on the gurney in the Level 1 Trauma center, nearly naked from having my leathers cut off and still strapped to the backboard that was designed for someone several inches smaller than myself, quietly crying—more-so emotional rather than the pain, which was really intense—my then wife and 2 year old son came into the room. The look on their faces as I strained my eyeballs to the side to see them (as my head was strapped in still) said it all; I’d made a series of poor choices.
At that moment, I vowed to quit riding on the street. I was too stupid. Too irresponsible. But mostly just too dumb. I cheated death that day and I was lucky to still be amongst the living.
So, what the hell does ANY of that have to do with the mighty FJ09?
Well, skip forward 8 years to May of 2015 and I’ll tell you: I was at Sonoma Raceway and I’d just read on face-space-googer-book-gram that my friend Max was also at the track. However, he was visiting Jim Higgins at Jim’s land-speed-record race shop to diagnose his Triumph woes. I made my way up to the shop to go say hi and pay my respects to his now-dead Triumph 1050…and sitting near the entrance was this red Yamaha motorcycle I’d never seen or heard of before. It was gorgeous. It was beefy looking. Angry. It had an ADV face that begged to be caressed with heavy throttle inputs.
I says to Jim, “what the heck is it? Can I ride it?” Ha.
I rode his nearly brand-new FJ09 around the parking lot for no more than 5 minutes. It was within the 1st minute that I knew I loved this motorcycle. It was 4 more minutes of much heated self-debate before I decided that I shouldn’t be a douche and simply ride away with his bike and never come back. It was not an easy decision.
For the next few weeks, I thought about the FJ daily. If I could recall my dreams, I’m sure I had at least a few boner-inducing dreams about this bike. It instantly climbed to the #2 spot on my list of dream bikes. I never researched it. I only google image’d pictures of it. I knew nothing of the bike except how it felt between my legs. And I loved it.
Two months later, on a whim, I mentioned the bike to my friend Shane Turpin. Immediately, he says, “come on!” in his mock Scott Russell Georgia drawl, and sends a text to his dealership friend, asking how much for a new FJ09. The reply came back within minutes. The news was good. Over $XXXX gooder than anything I’d seen anywhere else. My mind was made up instantly. I went there that day and signed the papers. After a very long hiatus, I was about to be back on the street again.
South Valley Motorsports had to put the bike together for me so I ended up not taking it that day. They were to deliver it to me at Miller Motorsports Park the very next day all the way from Draper, Utah. That’s nearly a 45 minute drive. Spot-freggin-on customer service, I tell you. That gave me the entire afternoon and night to think about what the hell I had just done. I’d been off the street, sans a few short jaunts (mostly media related shoots), for the better part of 8 years…and I’d just bought a street bike. A bike I knew NOTHING about! All night was spent reading reviews, watching videos, reading forum posts… apparently, I’d done good, because I could not find a single negative thing about this bike! Every one loved it! I didn’t even know that it was basically a modified FZ09 until AFTER I’d already bought the bike. Score. My loins did not fail me in their assessment of Jim’s bike 2 months prior.
Signed, sealed, delivered!
I was free again. It had been so long since I’d been on a ride that I had forgotten what the wind felt like blowing through my partially open visor. The feeling you get as you pull along side semi-trucks on the freeway as the wind changes directions and you have to compensate for it. The bugs that you constantly have to stop and wipe your visor off for because it gets hard to see or they simply smell so bad that you NEED to clean them off. How your bum starts to get all square feeling after sitting in the same position for a long time. The tingly feeling in your fingers from the small aount of vibration through the bars. Watching the sun set as you motor down the road on your way home…
“Cruisin down the street in my ’64.”
Those are just a few of the things that I’d not thought about in years. I felt like I’d been away from home for a very long time…but now here I was sitting in my favorite chair, watching my favorite show, hanging out with my favorite people.
By the end of day one, I put 516 joyous miles on it.
I was riding again.