When I was a freshman in college and had every opportunity in the whole wide world ahead of me, I opted to cut class and ride all over Hell’s Half Acre on my clapped out 1990 Honda CB-1, instead. Skipped American history, rode to the beach. Skipped English, rode to North Georgia. Skipped college algebra, decided to ride from Tampa Bay to New York City.
I do not recommend this.
Now well past my “college years,” I find myself a mother of two and an undergraduate biology major at the University of Tennessee, and the livin’ ain’t easy. Don’t get me wrong. I love my life and appreciate the opportunities I have. But, three days a week, for the duration of fall and spring, I sit in classrooms with people who were not even embryos during the first full decade of my life, and I do everything I can not to snap their little texting heads off. College is not for thirty-somethings, and the only thing that makes it remotely bearable is my motorcycle.
Enter the Kawasaki Super Sherpa, my go-to bike for campus commuting, stress relief, and general giggles. Introduced to the US market in 1999, the Sherpa was sold in America until 2003, at which point it took a six year hiatus and returned for the 2009 model year. (…but, don’t get too excited, because now it’s gone again.)
The Super Sherpa was outfitted with an air-cooled 249 cc four-stroke single that produced a blistering 23.5 hp at the rear wheel. But, at only about 280 lbs. wet, the Sherpa packed a fun little punch. Specifications say it tops out at 82 mph. I am 125 lbs. and have seen 84 (indicated) with my body in full tuck.
With a tail wind.
I think an average rider of the male gender would have a very hard time reaching even the mid-70s on the speedometer. And, then, only if he could stomach the disconcerting speed wobble that seems to take over around 73 mph. But, despite not being suited for Knoxville’s I-40/75 corridor (by any sane person who does not have a death wish, anyway), it is the perfect bike for city commuting, backroad bombing, and weekend trail riding.
I have a 20-25 minute city street commute to UT, and the Sherpa eats it up with ease. I’m not smoking tires off of the green lights or anything, but I am able to easily maneuver through some pretty sketchy traffic (think hoards of distracted 18-22 year old commuters), and I literally park it on a curb on campus. Kawasaki lists 63 mpg as its official fuel consumption rating, but I wring mine to death and average about 10 mpg better.
Commuting to UT on my Sherpa, I save time and money. And, it’s always filthy from weekends on muddy trails, so the chances of anyone stealing it are minimal. But, the best feature of all? It’s just plain fun to ride, and that improves my curmudgeonly mood exponentially. College co-eds everywhere breathe a sigh of relief.
I’ve ridden a lot of miles, seen a lot of places, and wasted a lot of tuition money in my day. Take it from me: Save gas, go to class (on a Sherpa).