From the first...
1982 Honda XL80
My dad picked this one up (and a matching XR80 for my brother) at the farmer's auction for a hundred bucks to get us introduced to motorcycles. We learned how to ride (usually full throttle, top gear, trying to stay ahead of each other on a gravel road) how to dress for the ride (always full coverage, boots, helmet, gloves and eye protection) and a little bit about motorcycle maintenance. (oiling the chain, changing the oil, keeping the bike clean) Near Dad's acreage, there was a rodeo grounds with a dirt track and a sand quarry. We would do most of our riding between those two places, riding the gravel roads to the general store now and then to get fuel. Dad always preferred Hondas and that's how the rest of this goes...
1983 XR350, 1984 VF1100S Sabre, 1982 FT500 Ascot
These weren't really mine... they were my Dad's bikes but I was allowed to ride them whenever I wanted through high school (1996-1999) and they all had their own influence on me.
The Ascot was an air-cooled single that sounded and handled like a quad and could only do about 120Km/h pinned in top gear downhill with a tail wind. It was a little lacking on the highway but it loved dirt and gravel roads where you could slide the back wheel around as much or as little as you wanted. It was the easiest motorcycle in the World to ride.
The Sabre was Dad's main touring bike and I only tried it for a few short rides. Like a good roller-coaster, it was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. The back-end would raise up like a big cat on his haunches getting ready to pounce when you opened the throttle in the lower gears, due to the crude shaft-drive design. The chassis would wind up like a big rubber band and then release with a kinetic explosion of accelleration. It would do 260Km/h. Second gear didn't work. You had to go straight from first to 3rd but it didn't really matter. It still accellerated faster than my unconditioned brain could process and I loved it. It had a V4 engine and I decided I liked that.
The XR350 was half dirtbike, half Sherman tank. It had a SuperTrapp muffler that made it sound like a gatling gun. Through my adolescent years I was way too small to handle it but that didn't stop me from borrowing it go mess around in the trails once in a while. It was lots of fun as long as I didn't stall it or drop it... or both. I could barely pick it up and it took everything I had to get it restarted. I went away to college and it would be almost 10 years before I rode a dirtbike again.
I didn't ride a motorcycle through 3 years of college, and when I came back home Dad had a brand new VFR800. His was a 2001 model.... blue with grey wheels. I loved riding it and decided I needed one of my own. I picked up a cheap rebuilt-status red 2000 model that had been crashed and fixed and repainted but was in good mechanical shape and had a strong motor. It had gear-driven cams and a Kerker pipe and the sounds it made were just intoxicating. I rode it to work every day, rode it home on the weekends, and took a few long trips into the mountains. It was the first bike that I really went fast on and learned to love the curves in the road. I had no idea what I was doing but it felt great to lean it over and I could drag the pegs through the turns. I have no idea how I avoided crashing the shit out of it. After about a year I was struggling to make ends meet and had to sell it. A friend bought it, used it for stunting and within a few months crashed the shit out of it.
This should be a short chapter... the bike only lasted a month. Before I got the 954 I very nearly interrupted my all-Honda motorcycle pattern. I had my first decent job as a lower-level manager and with my steady income I decided I could afford a new motorcycle. The 2003 GSXR1000 had just been released and it was the fastest baddest most insane bike money could buy. I wanted a silver one. Problem was, Suzuki didn't have their own financing and I didn't qualify for the 3rd-party financing through the banks. Honda, on the other hand, had their own financing arm which was happy to loan me the 14 grand for the new 954. Luckily, the financing included "gap" insurance which covered the negative equity if the bike was written off. (can you see where this is going?) It might not have been quite as fast as the mental GSXR, but it was still absurdly powerful and way beyond my capabilities to ride properly. Martin Gelinas scored the winning goal in overtime in game 6 of the western conference semifinal against the Detroit Red Wings and I hopped on the 954 for a celebration ride with my brother in tow on his RC-51. We did a few wheelies downtown then I took off down a dark twisty country road, misjudged a turn, hit the ditch and smashed the CBR into pieces against a boulder. At some point before the boulder I bailed off the bike and only my pride was hurt. My brother eventually caught up and saw me pacing back and forth next to the smouldering red and black Honda. He pulled over, put his bike on its side stand, lit me a cigarette, looked me square in the eye and said: "Can I have your tires?" It gave the situation some desperately needed levity and we shared a good hard belly laugh. That bike barely made it past its first oil change.