Goodbye, Katana…

Tomorrow, shortly after noon, I’ll be taking my 2002 Suzuki Katana for my last ride, to the dealership to be traded in. I’ve had it for almost exactly 15 years.

Getting the paperwork together, I found that I bought it from the old South Shore MotorSports in Quincy July 1, 2002. I bought it to replace my first bike, a Kawasaki EX 500, which I’d damaged in an accident the previous fall. Even before the accident, the EX-500 had been getting unreliable, and once you’ve lost the trust in a bike, it’s hard to get it back. I saw no reason to spend hundreds of dollars replacing broken body work on it.

A big part of the reason I chose this model was because it was supposedly a more comfortable bike — less radical than Suzuki’s GSXR, less expensive than Honda’s CBRs. When I was looking at it in the showroom, I fell in love with it. It was bright yellow, and after the accident, that was reassuring — you’d have to be blind to not see it. My Aunt Dot once called it my “bumblebee”. On the ride home, I was impressed with how smooth the engine sounded. The EX-500 had been a parallel twin-engine; this was an inline four, and it sounded a lot smoother.

Suzuki Katana 600
Suzuki Katana 600

I was able to take some longish rides on it. I made it out to Quabbin Reservoir a couple of times. I made my longest trip, along the Mohawk Trail, during Labor Day Weekend of 2005. I took the masthead image from the top of Mount Greylock during that trip.  And I took it up to the White Mountains in 2006 and 2008.

Unfortunately, I found “comfortable” was a relative term. While it might have had a more relaxed riding position than a GSXR, the handlebars were a lot lower than the old EX-500, and it was correspondingly less comfortable. Especially at the beginning of the season, I was likely to develop a stabbing pain between my shoulder blades after riding a while.

It’s held up pretty well. I had a slow speed slip on a patch of wet leaves at the top of the street Halloween afternoon about four and a half years ago; I shattered the face of my iPhone, and scuffed up the side of the bike and helmet, and leaving a chain and lock bungeed to the back handle has added more scuff marks and black marks. But it still runs very well.

I started to think about replacing it a couple of years ago. I was starting to notice it was requiring more repairs more often. Nothing too serious, just time taking its toll. I was starting to trust it less. So I started thinking about what I wanted to replace it with. One the one hand, sport touring has appealed to me for a long time. On the other hand, Harleys are much more common around here than sport bikes. I’ve rented Harleys a number of times, and had a blast every time. I felt I was at a fork in the road.

Tomorrow I pick up the new bike. Shortly after the last video conference of the day, I’ll take the Katana on my last ride. I might take it through the Blue Hills one last time, then take it to the dealership. I hope they’re able to sell it to someone who enjoys it as I have.