No one will criticize me for only talking the talk and not walking the walk when they find out I traveled 650 miles roundtrip to buy my new Connie sight-unseen. After weeks of searching Craigs List and other online marketplaces, I knew where every used Connie was in the United States. The marvel of the Internet also told me how many miles were on each bike, how much the owner was asking, what it looked like, and what extras came with it. At any one time over a one month period there were about one to two dozen used Connies for sale.
About a third were 1980s vintage, a third were 1990s and a third 2000s. There are a plethora of tools available to aid a search including oodles.com, cycletrader.com, yakaz.com and searchtempest.com. Some of these are aggregator search engines which scour Craigs List and Cycle Trader for ads and present them to you. What I found particularly helpful was an iPhone App named CraigsPro. The “Plus” version which costs a few dollars allows you to set alerts triggered from parameters that you choose for price, distance, etc. I remember being at more than one evening event and getting a buzz from my phone that told me that another Connie just went on the market.
But most importantly from the ads, you could get a sense for which owners were true motorcyclists who doted over their Connies, and which did not. You could tell this by the way they talked about the extras they had purchased, or when the machine last had its carbs synced, or the fork brace they installed, etc. What they didn’t say, said that much more. The lack of any obsessive details made me feel that this was someone who didn’t maintain their machine, or they crashed it or other bad karma.
I found my Connie in Tehachapi California, about 325 miles from my home town of San Mateo. Reading between the lines on the Craigs List ad it seemed that the seller was someone who would be interesting to meet, and someone who shared my passion for motorcycling. That’s one of the nice things about Connie owners, they reek with enthusiasm for the sport and the open road. But buying a bike sight-unseen can be REALLY dicey, especially making a decision prior to test riding the beast.
When I first started my search for a new ride, I consulted an expert, my good friend and ex-California Highway Patrolman, Julio. I told him I was looking for a sport touring bike like the Bimmer I rented last year, but one that I could get for a really good price and that wouldn’t eat me out of house and home in terms of maintenance costs. Julio currently rides a Bimmer, but for years he rode a Kawasaki police interceptor. He suggested that I look at the Concours because it is known to be bulletproof, the shaft drive is virtually maintenance-free, and it is a very capable bike that can be found at a great price.
I certainly have seen my share of Kawasaki police bikes in California, so I started doing searches on the bike I came to find out was nicknamed “Connie.” What I found out echoed what Julio had told me. Moreover, what I read was that the Connie’s are known for being the best value in a sport touring bike. And, seeing that the Concours has been in production since 1987 with only one major upgrade in 1994, there are a ton of accessories available, not to mention a lot of expertise and things written about this well-loved machine.
It only took the recommendation of an ex-Chippie, a plethora of good karma online, and a wonderful organization like the Concours Owners Group to convince me that the Connie was the bike for me. I knew from what I read that the risk of me disliking it would be remote. So I did the unthinkable, I arranged to drive 325 miles to buy a used bike sight-unseen and without as much as a test ride. Of course from my research I knew that if I hated it for some reason, I could most likely sell it for what I bought it for, so the downside risk was really not too bad. And, it was a great excuse for a couple of brother-in-laws to pack up the Chevy Tahoe with rented trailer and embark upon an adventure!
A footnote: It killed me to not ride my new Connie the first day, but it’s a much better idea to check a used bike out thoroughly before riding it any distance. Plus, there is the little nuisance of getting registration, insurance, buying a new helmet, gloves, etc., that all conspire to make it a week before my first ride. More on that in the next installment.