At some point for each rider it's good to know; is it the ride or the bike? Neither answer is incorrect, but it is good to know the answer for oneself and not be self-deluded into believing it's the opposite
Some love bikes themselves; that's the thing for them. A couple years ago I heard of a local fellow who had a couple CB350s, so I rode the five miles or so south to see him and what he was working on. As we talked about the venerable CB350 and together lugged a motor from one, I asked him about riding. “Riding? I don't ride them.” Here was a guy unconfused by who he thought he should be; he honestly loved futzing with old bikes. That was it for him and he knew it.
As much as I have worked on old bikes, even with some enjoyment at times, my goal was always to provide me with the means of hitting the road, and never was the work or the bike an end in itself.
My seemingly always limited funds forces it upon me maybe, or perhaps it is an inherited trait of making-do that forms this bent in my psyche, but I'll ride what I have, rather than put off adventure until I am “properly outfitted”. A Honda Rebel 250 can take you everywhere a Ultraglide Classic can and if I'm dealt a Rebel, then that' s what I'll ride. The biggest, newest, or right brand is not a prerequisite for a great tour.
Of course, there is always that bike that is so unreliable and handles so poorly that the fun of riding it disappears like air from a deflating balloon, so I want a bike that is mechanically sound and not constantly threatening the menace of breakdowns and maintenance. But I'm also not waiting for that dream bike to be mine, or that new accessory to arrive, before I kick the starter or push the start button and I'm off. If the dream is to ride, and if not having exactly what I want will keep me from leaving, I must reevaluate if it truly is the ride for me.
There is so much chatter about which is the better bike that they can seem bigger than their purpose and overshadow the fact that they are made so we can ride; they become an end in themselves. It's easy to be distracted, even if you are enamored with the ride, and become lost in all the glitter and glitz of big new bikes and all their accessories. One can get tangled up in arguments about which is better, V-Twin or parallel fours, or perhaps transverse Vs, or thumpers. Is it superior to have a 360 degree or 180 degree firing motor or should the cylinders be arranged at thirty-eight, forty-five, or ninety degrees? Should a twin's pistons rise together or alternately? Can you really tour without hard bags and heated grips?
If chrome and pistons get your blood pumping, or seeing the smooth lines of a custom melts your heart, or if the sound of a Harley revving with aftermarket pipes curls your toes, own it. Don't be that guy who buys the big cruiser and thinks that by owning the right bike, and doing biker things, makes him a rider. For him, the bike is the thing but he doesn't admit it, perhaps even to himself.
For me, motorcycling is about adventure, and adventure is about the rider and the road, not the bike. Good riders are just as good on a small bikes as they are on big ones, are still as good of riders on old bikes as they are on a new ones. The Cherohala Skyway is just as beautiful from the back of an old Triumph as it is from the back of a new Gold Wing.
For me, it is the rider and the road that define those great moments in motorcycling, the ones we remember fondly years after the act, not the bike. So, if that is your core drive in riding, too, don't get caught up in the bigger and better and newer, and just ride; ride what you have.
"Ride Your Own Ride"