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Spare Parts: Back home, again

By Ernie Copper

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I have rarely had the desire, or opportunity, to own the same bike more than once. But the bike I call Elsie has come home again. Elsie and I first met on a Friday night. I’d just bought a kid-sized ATV because I thought I could resell it and make a few bucks. I was strapping it into my truck after pushing it up the basement stairs and the seller asked as an afterthought, “You don’t know anyone that would be interested in an old dirt bike, do you?” Now, anyone who knows me knows that if I have the money and the price is right, there’s hardly a bike that I’m not interested in, so I took the bait. “What kind of bike is it?” I asked. The seller replied, “It’s right down there in the basement, behind the furnace, back in the corner.”

“It” was a 1973 Honda CR250M Elsinore in original condition. I’d never seen one for sale before and I was kind of stunned. They told me the asking price—which was just this side of ridiculously low—and I could barely contain myself. I wanted Elsie right then and there, but the etiquette of buying and selling kept me from appearing too eager. “Let’s see what I can do,” I said. Which really meant as soon as I get home I’ll scratch up your full asking price if I have to sell my house to do it and be right back; can you hold it for me?

And so I went home, unloaded the ATV, stopped by the ATM and returned to the buyer’s house, hoping Elsie would still be there. She was and we lived happily ever after for a few years. All Elsinores of that vintage were factory built for speed. They were Honda’s first purpose-built factory motocross race bikes. Wide bars, a narrow aluminum tank, and a fat—for the day—rear tire made the Elsinore easy on the eye too. But the day would come when I didn’t ride her much anymore and from the day I brought her home, my former neighbor and fellow motorcycle aficionado Ken Slater had a thing for her too. So I ultimately sold her to Ken for exactly what I paid for her, with the stipulation that should he ever tire of her, he offer her back to me before going public with her.

Now, a little about Ken. Before he moved, we rode together, we drank together and we watched as my kids and his grandson who were the same age grew up around us. He was a great neighbor. The night the fireworks bunker blew up and woke us all from our sleep, we piled into the back of Ken’s pickup truck and went in search of what had happened. Because that’s what you did back then before every waking moment of life was caught on video, uploaded to the cloud and shared with the world before the dust had settled. Riding in a pickup bed in your boxer shorts is the kind of behavior that makes or breaks a neighbor.

And so, Ken moved to the ’burbs with Elsie. Life got in the way like we knew it would the day he packed up, and we saw each other less and less. Then this spring the phone rang and eventually the conversation moved toward him reluctantly being ready to sell Elsie and wondering if I would still be interested. Good question, Ken. He’d had some work done to her: fresh top end, NOS factory pegs to replace the bent ones, some new wheel bearings, etc. And he only wanted our original price plus the cost of the work he had done to her. For the second time in my life with this bike, my heart was ready to jump out of my chest, but my mouth was saying, “Let me think it over for a few days.”

I told my son, who has a life of his own now and no place to keep a bike, that Ken was ready to sell Elsie again and I wondered if he would have any interest in buying it back. Without hesitation he answered with a resounding and enthusiastic “Yes!” He was even willing to go halves on it. Knowing that, I called Ken back to tell him that I would take it. I was buying a bike I didn’t really want, from a friend who didn’t really want to sell it. But he really did want to sell it and apparently I really did want to buy it because I paid full asking price a second time for it—which was still a ridiculously fair deal—and I told my son not to worry about his half, but we were still partners on it.

All that was left to do was pick it up. My schedule was so busy with work that I could only squeeze in the deal on a Sunday evening. I didn’t want Ken to change his mind about selling the bike I wasn’t sure I wanted! Ken and I carefully rolled her up into the back of my truck and she’s back home again.

When my son comes home for a visit, we plan to reacquaint ourselves with the local off-road vehicle park and continue the cycle—no pun intended. If an Elsinore is good enough for the King of Cool, it’s good enough for me.

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