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The Five Whys: Jason Marker

RideApart's managing editor loves old Yamahas, Urals, and brass bands

Based in Detroit Rock City, Jason Marker is a musician and photographer who also happens to be managing editor of RideApart. He is also a member of the utterly mental Detroit Party Marching Band. All images belong to Jason.

When did you start riding?

I started riding some time in the summer of 2000 as a lark. I worked with this guy named Nate and one day he showed up to work on a mid-80s Yamaha SECA. I was like, “I’m way cooler than Nate and I don’t ride a motorcycle. This cannot stand!”

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So, I went and got a motorcycle. I took the MSF course, consulted with my local bike guru – an extremely surly, knowledgeable, and generous old Englishman originally from Birmingham named Alan Evans – and sold my car to buy a 1980 Yamaha XS850SG. The rest is history.

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What bikes do you own?

I still own that XS850, as well as a ’74 Honda CB200, a ’74 Yamaha RD200, and a ’66 Bridgestone Sport 90. I also currently have a 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob 114 and a 2017 Ural Gear Up in the garage as loan bikes for work.

KEEP READING: Check Out More Five Whys Tales

Throughout the years there have been numerous other bikes that have passed through my garage – an ’85 Honda 700 Shadow, my wife’s ’79 Kawasaki KZ400LTD, a mint ’81 or ’82 Honda CB400T, another small-displacement Kawasaki of dubious provenance that ended up scrapped, and an ’84 Yamaha SECA. There are probably more I’m forgetting.

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What’s your everyday bike, and why?

In general, my Yamaha XS850 is my daily rider, though I’ve been riding the hell out of the Harley all summer since that’s the point of their loaning it to me. The XS850 found its way into my life simply because it was what I could afford at the time and it looked cool. Once I bought it I fell in love with the Yamaha XS-series and triples in general. The old Yamaha triples are smooth, powerful, reliable as a clock (mostly), and super fun. Everyone should have one in their stable.

What bike do you dream of owning?

My pie-in-the-sky dream bike is a mid-1950s Vincent Black Shadow, but I’m never going to have/make Vincent money. My more attainable dream is a Ural CT. The Ural is style and substance. I love the old-school looks and I love that it’s a Russian bike (I’m a huge Russophile).

Also, it’s super practical. I have two young daughters in elementary school, I play baritone sax in a big brass band, I do most of the family’s grocery shopping, and I tend to carry a lot of gear wherever I go. I can’t take the kids to school or fetch groceries or haul my horn around on my Yamaha. I can with a Ural. Urals have a ton of storage and style and I really want one in my garage.

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What’s the best motorcycling adventure you’ve had so far?

I haven’t really gone on any motorcycle adventures. Not that “real” adventurers would recognize as adventures, anyway. I tend to use my bikes as utility vehicles, staying close to home – running errands, short-hop trips out to the lake, that sort of thing.

RELATED: 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob 114 – First Ride

That said, there are three that stick out in my mind: years ago I rode with my mom and dad – they on Dad’s 1996 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy and me on a borrowed Road King – across Ohio to our big Croatian family reunion and campout; five days in Seattle with a Ural; and bringing the big Fat Bob back to Detroit from Milwaukee earlier this summer.

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Why was it so special to you?

Riding with my folks was awesome ’cause I like riding with my dad and I don’t get to do it very often anymore since they live way the hell down in southwest Tennessee now.

The Seattle trip happened more recently; I spent a week there with my band and had a 2014 Ural Gear Up for the duration. It was fantastic. I got to haul around instruments, led my band into a set with our sousaphone player in the sidecar, ran errands, explored, and generally got to live with the bike for almost a week and really get to know it.

Bringing the Fat Bob back to Detroit was great because I was by myself on a strange bike crossing Michigan on back roads and hitting all the weird museums and roadside attractions I could stuff into a weekend.

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Where do you dream of riding and why?

Three places:

  1. Cross country on what’s left of Route 66
  2. Through Croatia
  3. Across Russia on the Trans-Siberian Highway.

Route 66 because, well, it’s Route 66. Lots of history there, lots of vanishing America. It’s lonesome and wonderful and tugs at your heart and I love it. Croatia because my mom’s Croatian, it’s a beautiful country, and I could ride around, see some amazing history, and party with my distant cousins. Russia because riding the TSH is like climbing Everest for motorcyclists. It’s a grueling challenge and I want to be able to say I did it one day. (I’m not sure it’s as grueling as it used to be; the TSH has been fully paved since 2015. Thanks, Putin, for spoiling the fun!  –CC)

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Would you like to share your own Five Whys story? Get in touch.