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  • Writer's pictureBrian Jablon

Encore Motorcyclist - Return to Israel

I wanted a motorcycle when I was a kid and my father told me he would buy me a gun instead, it’s safer. - Neighbor

1991 Kawasaki 305LTD - Canberra, Australia
My 1991 Kawasaki 305LTD - Canberra, Australia

It’s not you, it’s the other drivers.

You’re going to kill yourself.

Your wife LET you get a motorcycle?

What are you….18?

The drivers in Israel are crazy.

Do you realize what you’re doing?

Think about your daughters!

If you get hurt, your wife will have to take care of you for the next 40 years.

From 1988 to Today

Back in 1988, I got my motorcycle license after completing the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) course in Virginia. Soon thereafter, I moved to Miami and along with one of my co-workers we purchased two identical 1989 Kawasaki 305LTD bikes. I loved the year-round riding in Miami, South Florida, and the Keys and when I transferred to Canberra I shipped the bike to Australia, another excellent motorcycling destination.

After two years, I moved back to Virginia and got rid of the bike - taking the insurance payout - after it fell over in the parking lot while I was working on a project in Chisinau, Moldova....perhaps a sign from God? Then along came three daughters and ten moves around the world as a Security Engineering Officer with the Department of State (Foreign Service), culminating in retirement from New Delhi to Israel after 26 years. However, I vowed to return to day.

Men are often compared to children, and when they reach midlife, they are said to "buy themselves a toy.".......My humble advice to women whose partner is a man of a certain age is this: Encourage him to get a quality toy that comes with a variety of positive activities. Polishing, fixing, greasing, and riding are your man's way of sharing his feelings.
"Ride of Your Life - A Coast to Coast Guide to Finding Inner Peace," by Ran Zilca (2016).

The Dreaded Figure 8

Only two things stood between myself and riding - a valid Israeli motorcycle license, and a motorcycle. Similar to the European system, Israel uses the A2 (scooters), A1 (mid-size), and A (the sky is the limit) motorcycle licensing system. As I was licensed in the U.S., I was able to bypass the A2 and A1 and go straight to the “A” unrestricted category but first had to pass the test on a bigger bike. I hadn’t ridden in over 25 years, and decided that some lessons were in order if I wished to pass and survive the streets. My instructor spoke little English and me...well after 6 months of intensive Hebrew, still basic. But bike language is universal. Shift, throttle, clutch, brake, lean....don't stall. Where is that damn neutral? Most of it came back quickly.

The parking lot exercises included the dreaded “figure 8” inside a white lined box. Unfortunately, the size of the box is not adjusted for the size of the bike making this part just a tad more difficult for those taking the “A” exam. Put your foot down, drive outside the white lines of the box, and you fail, end of exam, thanks for coming! Master the "8" and the rest is fairly straightforward. And I almost forgot, during the exam the motorcyclist must continue to repeat the "8" until the examiner has had enough and signals that it's time to move on. On the morning of the exam there were 20 other motorcyclists, all of us practicing the dreaded "8" along with the cone swerves, driving slow between the lines, and stopping. I was 0 for 4 that morning on the "8" on the Suzuki 400cc. DAMN, should I take the exam? Already paid for the exam and leaving for a three month assignment in Athens the following week. Examiner arrives.

Young kid next to me is sweating and obviously extremely nervous. I asked him if he is OK and he tells me he is MORE nervous than during his time as a soldier in summer 2014 before going into Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. Unfortunately, his tank hit an IED and he was in a hospital for many months followed by physical therapy. He is still recovering, on medication, and needed to pass this exam for a delivery job on a scooter. Geez, considering what he went through, the Israeli government should just GIVE him a friekin' license. And I thought I had problems.... Examiner calls me along with two others, I go first and - miraculously complete the "8" three times - no foot down, inside the lines - and he waves me on to the cone swerves and the other parking lot fun. I'm on a roll and progress to the road portion. Examiner follows on a scooter. Road portion was quick and easy, back to the parking lot. News comes in the afternoon that I passed....WHEW! Ok - now I'm halfway there.

Decision Time

Two years go by before I decide to actually purchase a bike. Indecision caused by the extremely high cost of motorcycles (more than twice the cost in the U.S.), outrageous insurance costs, fears of returning to biking, and what type and size delay my decision. I just cannot make up my mind. While in London for a four month work assignment in 2017, I decide that upon returning to Israel I was going to finally take the plunge and in order to reiterate the point I decide to purchase my gear – helmet, jacket, and gloves. There was no going back now. After all, I just bought an expensive Shoei helmet and RST three season jacket. Now, I just need a motorcycle to match.

Even though I was licensed to ride any size, I decide to start on a 250cc due to the lower cost of the bike, insurance, and my desire to re-learn the basics with a small and easy to handle motorcycle. Good idea, right? I visit used bike dealers and scan the ads. Does there exist a 250cc that is not dented, cracked, or broken? Apparently not. One dealer shows me four different Kawasaki SL250s used in a training class, all trashed except the price. Almost ready to give up and I'm advised by a fellow rider to visit a dealer that is reputed to have decent used bikes. Sure enough, I find an immaculate 2013 Honda CBR250R with only 26,000 kilometers - no accidents, no damage, all service records. I negotiate a cash price and have it checked by another mechanic. With the exception of the steering head bearings that the dealer agrees to repair, the bike passes the mechanic's judgement, money is wired, insurance arranged, and I pick it up a week later.

2013 Honda CBR250R from the Tel Aviv Honda dealer
Picking up my 2013 Honda CBR250R from the I just need to get it home

Only one way to get it home from Tel the city traffic...on the highway.....teeth gritting under helmet.


Now, 14 months later the odometer reads 46,000 kilometers. I've ridden the CBR down to Eilat and up to Mount Hermon. Time to upgrade to a bigger motorcycle?

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