Meet a Reader – Barry Baxter

In Interview by Abhi3 Comments

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Like a surprising amount of Bike-urious readers, Barry Baxter is an accomplished pilot, with all kinds of licenses and tickets (commercial, instrument, multiengine, helicopter, aerobatics, and instructor). He’s flown over 100 different types of aircraft and has over 4,000 hours of flying time. I don’t know what it is about pilots and motorcycles, but they sure do seem to go together. He’s owned about 50 bikes and has put over 500,000 miles on motorcycles – but today he answers the usual Bike-urious questions so you can Meet a Reader!

How did you get started with motorcycles – how did you learn, and what was your first bike?
My dad bought me a 50cc Yamaguchi after I got out of high school. We lived on the side of a mountain in Wyoming and I worked at the airport which happened to be right next the local scrambles track. For lunch, I’d go to the track and run some hot laps and occasionally fall off. On days off I’d ride local trails. I quickly learned not to use a front brake going down a steep hill. But 3 weeks later, as this bike would only do about 17 mph going up the mountain road, so I told my Dad that it was inadequate, so he took the bike back to the dealer, who was a good friend and got me a 250 Matchless Scrambler.

An example of a Matchless 250 Scrambler, photo from http://www.carandclassic.co.uk/car/C237550

An example of a Matchless 250 Scrambler, photo from http://www.carandclassic.co.uk/car/C237550

It went through the same daily ritual, but at a lot higher rate of speed. When Scrambles season started, I was out there ready to go. The Matchless was hopelessly slow on the race track, but I was having a lot of fun. I also learned to ride in all kinds of climactic conditions while I lived up there. Rain, Snow and Wind were not strangers. I did pretty well in all of them. Out here in California, I’m amazed at the people that won’t ride then the wind is blowing. In Wyoming, if you’re not out in the wind, you don’t do much!

FYI, for those unfamiliar with Yamaguchi’s, they were one of the 80+ motorcycle manufacturers in Japan in the late 50s and early 60s and they certainly weren’t among the top performers. A 50cc Tohatsu would blow their doors off. Anyway, Yamaguchi was acquired by Pacific Basin Trading Company (PABATCO) and renamed the bikes “Hodaka.” I owned a Rickman Hodaka with a warmed over Super Rat engine in it in the early ‘70s. I won every race I finished with it. Unfortunately it had a habit of spitting rings out and seldom finished a race.

What bikes do you currently own?
After having owned 50 motorcycles in the last 50+ years, I am down to one at this point, a 2013 Moto Guzzi V7 Racer.

Barry Baxter - V7 Cafe Racer Right

Being retired, it’s about all I can afford.

Assume for a moment that money is no object, and importation laws aren’t a problem. What’s the next bike you’d buy, and what would you do with it?
I’d buy a Royal Enfield Continental GT. I had a 2011 G5 that I cafed, and that was one of the most fun bikes I ever owned!

Barry Baxter - Royal Enfield G5

I rode a new Continental and loved it.

What’s the most memorable motorcycle trip you’ve ever taken? You know, I’ve never been one to go cross country on a bike, but I do a lot of 300 or so mile rides in the local mountains.
The longest I ever took was 530 miles on a Norton Owner’s Club Iron Butt ride. I did that on a GB500. I get tired of riding just cruising down a freeway. It’s boring.

Do you listen to music while riding? If no, why not? If yes, what are some of your favorite tunes when you’re on your bike?
NO. I tried that about 30 years ago. I found it distracting and I figured as much as I had to turn the volume up to hear the radio over the wind noise, I couldn’t be doing my ears any favors. I tried it for about three days and gave it up. As for my favorite music, I’m a doowop kinda guy.

What’s your favorite piece of gear?
Probably my favorite piece of gear is a Davida Porridge Pot Helmet. It’s just the right amount of pure vintage.

Barry Baxter - Davida Porridge Pot

Unfortunately, I don’t get to wear it very often as it’s not the world’s finest protection and I’ve found that occasionally one must use that stuff!

Too often, the first thing someone says after finding out you ride is something along the lines of “Careful, a friend of a friend got hurt riding a motorcycle!” What’s your usual response?
I tell them that I’ve survived for a long time. I must have done something right.

What do you expect from the future of motorcycling, good or bad?
At my age, I don’t worry too much about it. I just keep riding vintage or vintage style machines. I doubt that I’ll ever shop for the new Transformer-style bikes or electrics. And definitely no cruisers.

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