My biking journey began as all journeys do, way before it actually began. I obsessed about motorcycles via movies and books and comics even before I reached high school.
In high school, I managed to get a small bike (the largest I was allowed to ride at 15), a MBX50 - a small 50CC bike that probably sounded like a sewing-machine, but I loved it and enjoyed my buzzy ride to and from school.
It looked something like this, but had a big "MBX" logo on the tank:
Later, I needed a bike to ride to and from a nearby town where I was stationed in the military, so I got a Yamaha XS400 Special. It had been used and abused, and had many, many issues. Including: fuses popping out while riding down a highway in the dead of night, and an oil-leak that eventually seized the engine. I learned how to rebuild an engine, and learned that I would prefer not to have to rebuild engines. It looked something like this:
Once I was out of the military, my urge to ride eventually returned. I found a barely used BMW R80G/S, the Paris-Dakar version (huge gas tank). It was heavy and a bit too tall for me, but it was well-balanced, and took me all around southern Africa. It looked a lot like this (but had a black seat and panniers):
After several family years, many changes of jobs and countries, the riding urge returned. Now living in an area where 90% of all the riders ride cruiser-style bikes, I got a cruiser, a Triumph Speedmaster. I rode that bike for many years, with it's bullet-proof engine and had absolutely no issues with it. What a pleasure. Here what it looked like:
In a oddly "what comes around" kind of way, my current bike is another Honda, but this time with a considerable size and power boost; a CB1100. The smoothest, most "together" bike I've ever owned. I wanted to move away from a cruiser because I have a tendency to slouch, and the way you sit on a cruiser with your feet out front, means that all the weight of your upper body is compressed into your spine on every bump. I was riding less because my lower back would begin to hurt after 30 minutes. Switching to an "standard" bike, with its upright sitting stance, and feet under the body was the answer for me. It looks like this:
If you want to ride, ride. Don't look for excuses. Practice a lot. Be aware of your surroundings (a lot of car drivers are completely oblivious to motorcycle riders, so expect them not to see you, and loud pipes will not help with modern sound-shielded cars, only your awareness will help you). Any bike can be used to ride anywhere in the world. They just vary in comfort and carrying-ability for different terrain, but none are perfect for all conditions, so you'll simply have to adapt. Change your brake pads when needed, change tires when needed, and always, always, check your oil before you ride.
My goal so far as maintenance goes is to be a shade-tree mechanic; someone who can do the basic maintenance items like changing the oil etc. and basic repairs needed on the road. I don't have the workshop or space for larger jobs (where engine components are left in pieces for a few days) and I park outside, so bigger jobs aren't the most practical for me. With this goal, I always try to buy the service manuals for my bikes from somewhere like here: the Motorbook Store and try to build up a decent toolkit and a puncture-repair kit from some places like here and here.
How To Remove Melted Plastic from your Exhaust Pipes : This can happen if you brush your boots, rainsuit or (in my case) your bike cover against your pipes. Initially, I start the bike and run it until the pipes are just too hot to touch. Then I scrape (gently) as much as I can off with a piece of wood and fine-grade steel-wool, followed by some chrome polish. If it's really baked on, here and here are a couple of links with more advice (oven-cleaner seems to be the most popular method).
Want to change the pipes on a Speedmaster? : It's really easy - there are 2 bolts per pipe. I switched back to the original pipes from the Sceptre pipes that had been installed by the previous owner (they were giving me a headache) in about ten minutes.
How to clean the wheels when you've lubricated your chain without holding a cloth behind it : Yup, that's what I did. Spray WD40 onto a cloth, and simply wipe it off. Try to not get it onto your tires or into the brake calipers.
How not to get chain-cleaner or chain-lubrication all over your wheel and tire : Use an old pizza-box (or just a piece of cardboard in that shape) - slide it behind the chain and spray. The cardboard will catch the extra spray and can be thrown away afterwards.
How to clean bugs off : Simply wipe a damp cloth over the bug splattered area, wait about 10 minutes and then wipe them off with the damp cloth again.
How to strap a large bag onto the bike : If you have a sissy-bar, you can put it on the seat against the bag, and use 3 bungie-cords, 2 should form an X, supporting the bag underneath, and pulling it back, and one right around the bag (horizontally), crossing over the X formed by the other bungie-cords. I learned this the hard way buy having my bag go bouncing down the highway.
Some of my preferred motorcycle sites:
Many trips on many different bikes with a lot of photos and commentary (this is a great online community to be part of if you're interested in adventure and motorcycles): http://advrider.com
A site that covers just about everything you need to ask about my current bike: CB1100 Forum
Motorcycle-related books I've been reading:
The book that inspired me to first start riding many, many years ago is Ted Simon's Jupiters Travels: Four Years Around the World on a Triumph.
Lois on the Loose woke me up to the fact that I had been missing riding for so long.
Most important: a service manual for my motorcycle
Dr Gregory W Frazier's book on touring
The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Maintenance by Mark Zimmerman; great color photographs and lots of good advice.
The motorcyclists's handbook - the complete guide to biking by David Minton. This is a book published in 1981 but I found it's contents still surprisingly relevant - motorcyles haven't really changed that much. The biggest change seems to be the introduction of fuel-injection (but not all bikes are fuel-injected yet).