No End Of Good Riding Days
by Crash Casey
Hans Koenig is an English and German teacher at a private school. He moved here from Germany about 30 years ago. He’ll be retiring in a couple years and rides a sport bike. He looks like a teacher. He’s been riding for 46 years. The more time I spent with him the more I realized how abortive it is to stereotype people. As motorcyclists we cry out about being stereotyped–yet how often do we do it ourselves in our daily lives? I don’t know…the winter must be getting to me to be thinking such “deep thoughts”. After all I’m a biker.
M.M.M.: How did you become acquainted with M.M.M.?
H.K.: I discovered M.M.M. at Midwest Cycle Supply. In addition to all the other motorcycle magazines I subscribe to, it looks really interesting. Plus it’s topical. Something about Minnesota. You don’t often find things about riding in Minnesota.
M.M.M.: You’ve been riding for a while. Tell me about some of your early riding experiences.
H.K.: Actually, in Germany you have to be 18 to get a motorcycle license and so I started riding a moped when I was 15 and did some “technical improvements” in order to get the speed up. I didn’t own a motorcycle until after the (military) Academy and I was in the army. I bought a Vespa to ride home on the weekends. After that I discovered the army had dispatch motorcycles. Those were single cylinder Maico 250 two-stroke engines. Very heavy, but certainly much more maneuverable than a jeep. I always left my jeep and grabbed a motorcycle. I did a fair amount of off-road riding visiting small squads of my company. I also participated in some contests in the army. Orienteering which is something like trial riding. It was always fun to train for it, to get away from the everyday duty and doldrums.
H.K.: After the service, I got out in 1968 and moved to the States. We couldn’t afford a second car, so I bought myself a little 80 cc two-stroke Benelli and rode that for a while. And then when my son was born my wife got a little nervous about the father of a new son riding a motorcycle. She’s not into motorcycling, although she normally gives me a long leash when it comes to riding. But then I bought another Vespa and found I didn’t want to ride a scooter anymore. Then my son started to ride secretly and by the time I found out, I discovered that my not riding had not prevented him from getting some of that genetic material. He came home one day on his 650 KZ and said, “I’m a motorcycle rider”. I didn’t know if I should hug him or yell at him.
Since my excuse was gone, I started back into motorcycling. I bought a ’72 BMW R75R. That was in the late 80’s&endash;1988. Then I bought a used Kawasaki Concours. Big, lots of power, good for touring, somewhat good for sport riding. And then I realized this thing had such a high center of gravity that as a short rider I had a hard time controlling it in town. So I bought an ’84 Nighthawk. Last year my son let me take a test drive on his new motorcycle which is a Honda VFR 750. I came home from that test drive with a big grin on my face and the Halo band of my helmet hanging around my neck. I found this to be a bike I could use as an in-town-ride-to-work bike as well as for longer rides with a few modifications.
M.M.M.: Your VFR 750 is kind of an unusual choice for a gentleman who is only a few years away from retirement. Have you ever thought you were nuts?
H.K.: Um, I have thought that and been told that, but it’s just so much fun. The bike is so easy to operate. It flicks so easily through the twisties. Very easy to control. Its center of gravity is a lot lower than the Concours’. It’s so much more suitable for an older guy. I’m 61. I don’t have any problems on longer rides. And so this is the bike I want to keep riding.
M.M.M.: Have you ever ridden nude, late at night, all jacked up on Viagra and espresso?
H.K.: Not yet but there’s got to be something in store for my later years.
M.M.M.: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. How often do you get back to Germany?
H.K.: I try to get back once a year–sometimes twice.
M.M.M.: When you’re back in Germany do you have the opportunity to ride?
H.K.: Luckily some of my old friends still ride. One of my sergeants in a unit I commanded has a BMW R100R he allows me to ride whenever I’m in Germany. So I usually travel in my leather jacket and have my helmet in a bag. When I get there I have a bike to ride. I also find people to ride with. I have a younger cousin who rides an old ’71 Ducati scrambler and we love to go out on trips.
M.M.M.: Have you done any extended trips here in the States?
H.K.: I have. The first long distance trip I went on was with my son to California, on my old BMW. I went on a number of other long distance rides. Last summer I went to New England to a Concours Owners Group rally. The year before I went to Colorado where there was a national Concours rally and I’m planning on going to the rally this year in Oshkosh during the same time that the EAA has it’s rally.
M.M.M.: EAA is…?
H.K.: Experimental Aircraft Association.
M.M.M.: For how many years do you see yourself continuing to ride?
H.K.: I don’t really think I want to stop as long as I can physically do it. And I think staying sharp is a responsibility when you get older. I’m taking more training. I used to go to the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Foundation once in a blue moon and now I try to do that every other year. So I go back to the Experienced Rider course or maybe I should go back to the Beginners course because you have to be constantly on alert that you don’t unlearn something and adopt bad habits. I think that’s where most people crash.
M.M.M.: So at 71…81…91?
H.K.: I’ve met friends who were in their late 70’s. I don’t see any reason not to ride as long as your health permits it. As long as you’re sharp enough to react. This is one thing I look forward to in a few years when I retire and have more time to ride. And by all means it not something people should say, “I’m 55, I’m too old”.
M.M.M.: Tell me about a favorite day ride.
H.K.: My favorite day ride…
…Begins in Taylors Falls. Go East on US. Hwy. 8 to Hwy. 35, north to Centuria and east on Cty. I to Balsam Lake, stay on Cty. I. Continue on Cty. G to Cumberland, then north on Hwy. 63 to Cty. B. Continue north on Cty. V through Haugen, north on Cty. M, north on Cty. O to Birchwood. Go north on Cty. F to Hwy. 70. Ride 70 east to Couderay.
Lunch at The Hideout –Al Capone’s fortified cabin in the woods, phone 715-945-2746–restaurant, tours, gift shop. Open daily from noon to evening, beginning on the weekend before Memorial Day through mid-September. After that through the third weekend in October it is open only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It’s really hidden in the woods: County Trunk B east to NN, go south on NN to N, east on N for two blocks to CC, then east on CC one half mile to entrance.
Return–On Hwy. 70 approximately 20 miles west through Stone Lake to Cty. B, turn left. Continue on B through Shell Lake; turn left (south) on Cty. H. Turn right (west) on EE. Go west onto E, turn left (south) on I through Clam Falls to Balsam Lake. South on Hwy. 46, west on US Hwy. 8 to Taylors Falls.
The season is starting and we’re all getting geared up to fire-up and get out there. Call me at 612-750-5988 or e-mail me at email@example.com and share your story and a ride with your fellow enthusiasts.