Friday, November 30, 2007

The Big Test Ride

Well, some of you know that I recently had some new aftermarket suspension components installed. They are made of titanium, which offers the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal, is extraordinarily corrosion resistant, and very durable for load-bearing surfaces. I'd describe them to you, but I never got a look at them before they were installed. (Suffice it so say they weren't cheap).

Anyway, I decided to road-test the new parts Wednesday. This was my first ride in...let's see...two-and-a-half months. Not a bad day for late November. Sunny, bright and temperatures stuck in the mid-forties. A few wispy clouds here and there.

I got on the bike gingerly, delicately testing the new parts to see if I could feel any difference. Bounced on the saddle a few times, shifted my weight around, slid back and forth a far, can't feel a thing. Obviously, the real test will be once I get the bugger fired up and get on the road. Mercifully, the road crew has just completed grading our little lane, so the massive washboarding and rutting is gone for the first time since summer a year ago. In its place we have a nice, smooth, broad and well-packed roadway. Yippee!! VAMOS!!

Despite the long hiatus (and the generous coating of sawdust and cobwebs) the bike came right to life. After a short warm up period, it settled into it's familiar steady grumble. With a little bit of trepidation and a deep breath, I rolled the bike back from the shed, dropped it into gear and let out the clutch. WOO-HOO!!

Boy, I had forgotten how much fun riding is. The last ride before the hiatus was one Mary and I took in mid-September, and for reasons unknown, it was a ride neither of us enjoyed at all. Though it was only 100 miles and less than two hours, it seemed to never end, and was the first ride on Beast that I recall being tedious. But it only took a few seconds to erase all memories of that ride. This is how I remember riding!

Down the dirt road! Up the dirt road! YEE-HA!! On to the pavement! Faster, Pussycat!! WHOOSH!! Highway, here I come!

This is nice. Mountains unfolding in front of me, the road rolling along beneath me. Did you know that I alone, using just this motorcycle, am responsible for the rotation of the earth? I stand still here; the tires are actually spinning the planet beneath me. I choose which way it will go. You may have actually noticed the slight extra spin I gave it, just for fun.

So far so good. I notice nothing from the new components; nothing at all. That's exactly the result I was looking for. In fact, to be honest, I feel a whole lot less than I felt before—which is the desired outcome. The ride is infinitely more comfortable, more relaxing, more about the ride and less about the rider.

So, after this brief test ride—twenty-some miles out, twenty- some miles back, freshen up the tank with boutique petrol (did I mention the stopover at the local distillery and the backpack stuffed with fifteen pounds of malt?) , grab the mail at the postbox, I reluctantly roll back into the shed and slowly, stiff from the cold, dismount. I'd say the new parts passed the test 100%, flying colors et cetera.

(BTW, you won't find these parts in the SNAB; they're strictly aftermarket.)

Monday, August 13, 2007


I've been meaning to tend to this unfinished business for a long time, but always turned away at the last minute. It seems like an eternity ago when I started writing about riding, and at that time riding meant something completely different to me. It was an alternate universe to the daily grind, one that I was delighted to explore at length and that satisfied some intellectual curiosity.
What I enjoyed most, and the blog clearly reflects that, was to discover thoughtful pieces that others had written about riding that belied the common perception of motorcycling and motorcyclists. I felt there was an imaginary reader I was writing for, a singular audience who I was conducting a private conversation with. Moving out of an old life to a new one changed riding from an escape (that I no longer had so much need for) to a--dare I say it?--chore that had little to recommend it. I tried commuting on Beast 120 miles a day for a brief period, and abandoned that to a mind-numbing routine of getting up hellishly early and going to bed hellishly early.
Riding is not the thing that makes sense of my life anymore. But I hope it will eventually find its rightful place as relaxation, as recreation, and as a portal to an internal intellectual world that I still cherish. Just remember:

"We are motorcycle people; we walk tall and we laugh at whatever's funny. We shit on the chests of the Weird...But when we ride very fast motorcycles, we ride with immaculate sanity. We might abuse a substance here and there, but only when it's right. The final measure of any rider's skill is the inverse ratio of his preferred Traveling Speed to the number of bad scars on his body. It is that simple: If you ride fast and crash, you are a bad rider. If you go slow and crash, you are a bad rider. And if you are a bad rider, you should not ride motorcycles."

PS: If any member of that mystery audience is still out there, drop me a line.