Honda Pulls The Plug On Marysville Operation - Where Have All The Good Times Gone?

Ever feel like your head's spinning? I do. Seems old notions are being brushed aside like tumbleweed these days and longstanding institutions are fast crumbling. It's enough to give me heartburn.

Consider the news we've had to digest recently: Gas prices are quickly approaching $4 a gallon in my neck of the woods (by the time you read this, they'll probably have surpassed that mark); Castro's gone from Cuba (well, one of them is, anyway); but perhaps the biggest shoe to drop is Honda's bombshell that it's leaving U.S. motorcycle production.

Yeah, that was a big one-Honda deciding to pull the plug on its long-running Marysville, Ohio, operation. I mean I could go on and lament the demise of two-stroke engines and the impending departure of carburetors, but I don't think it would have the same weight, especially for the cruiser world. Maybe it's a stunner because I felt the VTXs produced at the Marysville plant really underscored the company's staunch commitment to U.S. motorcycling in general and the cruiser market in particular. And the Honda Homecoming bash held there every year had always been a whale of a good time for motorcyclists. Honda's still throwing the party this year (Open House is July 24-26), but who knows what'll happen after that.

On the other hand, perhaps I shouldn't get all Chicken Little on you. Probably not much will change in Cuba, and I'm pretty sure that goes double for Honda. I know this because I spoke with John Row, press manager for Honda America Manufacturing. He gave me his take on things (to be fair, his explanation has to be decidedly biased-it's his job).

For one, he says, there's no reason to presume Honda's exiting the motorcycle business, though plenty have speculated that the Japanese parent company has long looked for a way out (rising liability costs, doncha know). The number-two motorcycle maker in this country ain't about to walk away from something it worked so long to build that's still so lucrative.

Among all the external changes rocking my world have come a few internal ones that are none too welcome. My eyes are going, man, and fast. I guess years of sitting in front of a computer and hundreds of hellacious 12-hour-day road trips haven't helped prolong the lifespan of my retinas. I'm reminded of it more and more when I go for night rides.

Torturously bright HID and awkwardly placed SUV lights (about 9 inches higher than car headlamps) are conspiring to kill my twilight jaunts these days. Unfortunately there isn't a lot you can do to improve your ability to see at night, say the experts, and that prompted me to do some research on other ways to ease the pain of a sunset cruise. You can read about it in the Street Survival bit on page 101.

In the course of researching that piece, I also got a neat tip from one of my long-time riding buddies. Whenever he pulls into a brightly lit gas station at night-and don't they all look like friggin' Vegas casinos these days, with 400-watt klieg lights strafing the grounds- he closes one eye after he shuts the bike down and starts fueling up. This decreases the time it takes for him to adjust back to the darkness of the road once he pulls back out.

But semi-blind or not, we can always just throw on a black leather jacket and instantly feel somewhat cool again . . . right? That's the illusion, anyway. What the hell, there's something about an old, worn-in leather jacket that just speaks to all riders. Which is why I'm pretty pleased with our leather jacket buyer's guide for this issue. Associate Editor Kay worked his tail off to gather 20-plus pieces of leather for us to rate. There's some excellent information to be found here-whether you're in the market for new leather or you're a longtime rider.

Other helpful real-world riding bits come from Tad Hetu, who penned the "Two-Up Touring" piece. We've all been there-getting new passengers up to speed on their first ride isn't always as simple or satisfying as it sounds. Tad's story goes into the nitty-gritty of expectation, preparation and communication and then actually tests some of his theories on a road trip with his wife to central Washington. Save this one for any potential passengers you're planning to haul along on future jaunts.

Some things, though, never change-or at least, not to any large degree. You could lump Star's V Star 1100 in that category-it remains one of the great do-it-all cruisers for going on 10 years now. We pitted it against Harley's Sportster 1200-another well-regarded long-timer-to see how the once-vibrant 1100-1200cc class is holding up after losing a few contenders in the last few years.

Finally, I also managed to grab a quick spin on Suzuki's new M109R2 for this issue. So is there any change from the standard M109R to report? Well, you'll have to read the First Ride on page 44 to see the details.

See you on the road.

Tell Cherney that change really is good at