Now that’s a lot of miles
On Friday, May 30, I stopped by Donelson Cycles in St. Ann, Mo., to buy some new summer riding gloves. In the parking lot was a customer’s GL1800. It was readily apparent that the bike gets a lot of use — Iron Butt “1,500 miles in 24 hrs” license plate frame, two GPS units, extra clocks, HID lights custom mounted under the mirrors, travel stickers from everywhere on the trunk — but what caught my eye was a hand-written reminder on the dash: “Change oil @ 429,000.”
So in I went and found the owner, a Mr. Joe Sparrow. I was in a hurry, so he gave me his phone number after I mentioned that it would be nice to write about him and his ride for Wing World, then invited him to go with our local Chapter Z group from Arnold, Mo., on the annual Mystery Ride the next day. He then said, “OK, sounds more fun than changing the forks on the bike.” (And he was correct. It was great).
During the course of our ride on Saturday, we learned that Joe works for J&P Cycles, going to rallies around the country, setting up the tractor-trailer-hauled display booth, and helping explain and sell fine motorcycle products.
Joe is 57 and began his career as a mechanic-in-training at the long-gone Florissant Honda shop in 1974. He said that he was probably the guy that worked on my first bike which I bought there in 1975: a 1974 Honda CB 450 twin. He’s worked at several Honda and Harley dealers over the years, and more than capable of doing any and all work on his GL1800.
Despite working for Big Red for many years, his current Honda is just his second Gold Wing. His first was an ’02 which he rode 136,000 miles in three years. His current ’02 was bought from his brother-in-law in April of 2005 with 17,000 miles. Joe has ridden in every state except Hawaii, as well as all provinces in Canada, not to mention visiting more than 100 of our great nation’s national parks. His favorite? Mt. Zion. Most miles in a year? 57,000. And total motorcycle miles? He quit counting a million years ago.
I asked, “Where haven’t you been and would love to visit?” After a thoughtful pause he replied, “Baja, Mexico, and Vancouver Island.”
Joe has already crossed the continent three times in 2014 for J&P since mid-February, clocking 11,000 miles. When asked what he’d do with the bike if the engine wore out, the answer came quickly: “Put in another engine from a wrecked bike.” Something an ace mechanic like himself could do in his garage on a weekend. Joe keeps a meticulous maintenance log of everything ever done to the machine, which he was kind enough to let me look over. Here is a concise list of all the major work done since April 7, 2005.
- Alternator: brushes and bearings replaced 289,000
- New alternator: 302,000
- Clutch: original! No repairs
- Drive shaft U-joint: replaced at 179,315 and 411,000.
- Fork springs: new ones at 80,000
- New Progressive fork tubes: 378,000
- Cam chain sprockets, tensioners and guides replaced at 149,000.
- Rear shock replaced: 81,000 and 289,000
- Rear differential: replaced at 216,000 and 411,000
- Steering head bearings:replaced at 378,000.
So if you’re attending a motorcycle rally this summer, seek out the J&P Cycles booth and look for Joe Sparrow. He’s friendly, funny and he’ll help you find the right stuff for your Wing. Just don’t try and brag about your Honda with 183,000 or 259,000 miles on it. He won’t be impressed.
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