Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Beast takes care of me

About three-and-a-half months after I got the Beast, I went out to campus for an evening class. It was late January, and the weather forecast was sketchy with a front rolling in after midnight that promised a decent quantity of some form of precipitation. However, around nine-o’clock, I noted a growing murmur of voices in the hallways outside class, and shortly after we were told we could go home early—the storm had arrived and conditions were rapidly deteriorating.
When I stepped outside, I could see the campus was wet. When I started walking to where the Beast was parked, I realized that everything was already covered with 1/8” of ice. Oh shit.
The Beast was glazed from stem to stern; little tiny icicles formed a beard on the fairing and hardcases. I stood there in the freezing drizzle for some time, pondering my options. For many reasons that I will not go into here, I realized my only choice was to ride Beast home.
I wrestled into my foul weather gear and fired it up, then sat astride it for a good ten minutes while it warmed up fully (yeah—warming up really takes only about 30 seconds from stone cold), watching the ice melt off the engine, pipes, headlight lens and instruments. I got off and walked over to the roadway to compare it to the parking lot, and concluded it was almost as bad despite the steady stream of departing cars.
By the time I finally summoned up the nerve to put the poor bike into gear, I was the sole remaining outbound vehicle on campus. “What a dipshit,” I thought to myself. But I was counting on my anti-lock brakes to pull my sorry (whatever) out of the fire this time—an almost unprecedented technological leap of faith, given that I’d had no instance to test their performance prior to putting my life in their pads.
I put Beast into gear, and gingerly (, I mean REALLY GINGERLY) let out the clutch. Now, the nice thing about riding motorcycles is that they really know what they are doing, even if you don’t. They are remarkably self-stabilizing, self-organizing vehicles once they get past the awkward transition from still to moving. If you just leave them alone, get the hell out of their way, they know what they’re doing and a little trust will work wonders for you.
So I let Beast do the heavy lifting.
I relaxed a much as I could, consciously focusing on muscles to avoid tensing up. I took a different route home than I normally would, eschewing the superslab (c’mon, I’m not THAT stupid) and sticking to the slow lanes. I even rode with my four-ways on when I was feeling particularly target-like.
When you are riding a motorcycle on ice, you do without certain niceties, like banking into turns, wheelies, stoppies, hanging off and dragging knees et cetera. But you’d be surprised (…I sure as hell was) that it’s not too bad. No points for style or anything.
Every time I needed to slow down, I’d gently apply the brakes and listen for the distinctive ABS chatter—it kicked in less than half the time I braked. I imagine those were critical times, no doubt, but I’d like to think that my keen riding skill helped as well. It only took me about fifteen minutes longer to get home than usual, and when I dismounted I was tired but amazingly relaxed—the kind of relaxed you might feel after a good workout.
Thanks, Beast. Well done. And a shout out and a high-five to all those Teutonic whiz kids in the lab in Bavaria! Now I can check that off my lifetime to-do list and catch the damn shuttle bus home the next time it happens.

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