I made mention in the last blog entry about my slight fetish for keeping my bikes clean, and as expected one or two of my twelve regular readers noted that they felt differently than I about keeping their machines clean. I suppose if I kept bikes a long time I might be less fastidious about their condition. No, wait, I wouldn't. I put 30,000 miles on my '92 BMW R100RT and it was showroom clean the day I sold to the first buyer who looked at it.
That's usually how it works for me when I sell a bike. Maybe a call or two or an e-mail or two, always one idiot low ball offer via e-mail, but then someone comes to look and typically buys the bike because it is exactly what I portrayed it to be: A spotlessly clean, well maintained bike. People like to buy clean bikes.
|Kaw 1600 replaces the 900|
As I spent some hours washing and detailing the Kaw 900 and then the Kaw 1600 after I bought it, I pondered the "Why?" of my regular bike cleaning efforts. I know in part it's because of how I was raised.
My parents are of German decent and instilled in their four sons the Teutonic notion of maintaining valuable possessions. Those things cost real money, money usually earned by hard work and sweat, and to let something deteriorate was to disrespect the value of your own work and to waste money. Beyond that, cleanliness for my folks really was next to Godliness. Mom grew up on the Oklahoma prairie and later in the farming country of Central California. It was a hard life and they didn't have a lot, but she tells me that my grandmother's Saturday cleaning motto was "Just because we're poor doesn't mean we have to be dirty."
I confess that I'm not the clean vehicle fanatic to the extent my dear old dad was nor can I clean house as well as Mom could. I make a good effort but it's one of those areas where I'll never be as good as I should be. There are other areas like that in my life but I'll spare you the true confessions.
|Dear ol Dad at work.|
Whenever I saw an unfamiliar car show up in our driveway on a Friday night I knew my Saturday plans were out the window. I knew come Saturday morning there would be no sleeping in, no motorcycle ride, I'd be working in the driveway with Dad, washing and waxing and detailing that car until it shone like a new penny and that was always an all day project.
I hated it, I hated the detailing work, especially cars that had belonged to smokers, those were the worst. I learned about the power of Turtle Wax, 409 cleaner in a bucket of water, and removing chrome knobs from dashboards to scrub each one with an old toothbrush until they looked new again. I learned little things like how to mix and match hubcaps so the car looked it's best on the side the potential buyer saw first. Yeah, Dad was clever, never dishonest, but he was a salesman all the way. He knew how to make people start to want a car just by seeing it.
It wasn't just the outside of the car that was gone over, but the full interior, trunk, and under the hood. No pressure washers in our driveway, either, a garden hose, "elbow grease", and German work ethic were our only power tools until Dad splurged one day and bought a buffing wheel for his electric drill. Engines were de-greased with gasoline, not Gunk Engine Cleaner, gasoline was much cheaper. Generations of driveway mechanics have cleaned parts with gasoline despite the risks. These days I use Gunk.
Dad could afford to lavish the time and energy on an older vehicle that the dealer couldn't afford to because Dad didn't have to pay his detailer...me. I had the temerity once to ask him to be paid for my work. He looked up from polishing the big, chrome front bumper on an early '60s Ford and asked in reply "Are you planning on eating dinner tonight?" That was that. My three brothers (we're rather spread out in age) all experienced the same sort of "training" in their teens. To this day it's a sin to show up at a family event driving a dirty car.
After the cleaning was done the car would be put up for sale and normally, within a few days, it was gone and with a nice profit. Car salesmen don't get rich and a couple of hundred dollars extra in the kitty went a long ways. It still does, now that I think about it.
Down through the years I've not always kept my cars clean, I had some that I disliked and treated accordingly. Dad would frown when he saw them and tell me "I raised you better than that." But bikes were a different matter, the thought of taking poor care of a motorcycle would have been, and still is, unthinkable. Even my motocross bikes were thoroughly cleaned before being serviced for the next week's racing. Just because they were scratched and bashed doesn't mean they had to stay dirty. A bike wasn't just expensive, it was a motorcycle, a special vehicle in it's own right regardless of it's value.
Owning a bike doesn't make anyone a better person or a more special person but the bike does, whether we like it or not, make a statement about it's owner. Rat bike owners are making a statement about themselves as "characters" and I can respect that, really. But if I bought a rat bike it would slowly migrate back to a clean bike that shines. It wouldn't even be a conscious decision on my part, it would just happen slowly as the monthly cleanings rolled by and I'd wind up with a clean, shiny rat bike.
I've rarely had a difficult time selling bikes. The bikes look so good, despite whatever miles I've put on them, that it usually shows in the pictures and most often the bike is sold to the first person who shows up to see it. They know a clean, well maintained machine when they see it and who wants to buy a beater bike if they don't have to?