Monday, April 30, 2012

Ride 'em Don't Hide 'em!

Two pieces in two separate motorcycle magazines, related only because they both referenced Vincent motorcycles got me thinking today.

One was all about the history of this one particular specimen. (Apparently, there are some avid Vincent enthusiasts out there who archive every detail they can about every bike the company made). It goes on about an American and his quest to own a Vincent, then the current owner's quest to obtain it. It was a pretty interesting article, but I won't go into details, mainly because I haven't bothered to get any authorization from the author or the magazine. Anyway, decades after the original owner parked the bike for his last time and covered it with a tarp, it was bought, and brought back to life. The decision was made to leave it as is, with the original tires and everything. Now, I respect not wanting to tart it up and try to make it look like it just rolled off the dealership floor. But the sad thing, which really upsets me, is that there is NO intention of riding it. Blah, blah, blah... need to preserve blah blah blah ... future generations ... yada yada yada...

Come on, by my estimate (which is based on absolutely no real information), approximately one quarter of all Vincents ever made are being "preserved for future generations to appreciate". Fuck that. It's a motorcycle! Ride the damn thing or sell it to someone who will. It wasn't designed and manufactured to be preserved. It's a machine, and taken out of its context, it loses its identity. It becomes statuary. If you want a sculpture of a motorcycle, hire a sculptor; it's probably cheaper than buying and restoring a Vincent anyway.

The other was a letter in another magazine, referring to a previous issue. This other magazine had run an article on Falcon Motorcycles, who created a sweet custom bike based on a Vincent. The letter writer was offended that the builders would desecrate what he considered to be some holy grail of motorcycle perfection by modifying it. Guess what, dude? People have been modifying motorcycles since the dawn of motorcycle time. Hell, the existence of motorcycles is owed to people modifying bicycles!

Again - a bike is not a relic, it's not a museum piece - there are plenty of those already. If you have an antique, ride the damn thing or sell or give it to someone who will. I can understand not making it a daily rider due to reliability, comfort or parts availability issues, but don't turn your garage or living room into a shrine.

I understand some folks want to hold things like antique motorcycles sacred, but let's be honest: sacred cows make the best burgers. Anyone hungry?

(Originally posted in )

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Riding Matters

One of the really attractive things about riding, and what makes it matter so much to me, is that it makes me matter.

At times, we all start to feel like we don't matter much, like we aren't respected, or wanted, or listened to. I'm no different.

A lot of times at work, I feel ignored and disregarded. I want to give up, throw in the towel. But I can't, I have a job to do, and more important than the job, and how I feel about it, is the two kids I support and insure through that job. So, I put up with the bullshit, even though I often don't feel like my input matters to anyone but me.

Any parent can understand when I say that sometimes, when the kids don't listen, you feel like you don't matter to them, either. Of course, deep down, you know you do (unless you're a real shit parent). But the feeling can bring you down.

My Other Half is an independent, very intelligent woman, with thoughts and strong opinions of her own. As is perfectly normal, we often have differences of opinion, and again - I can start to feel disregarded, like my input or opinion is inconsequential. Yes, I know it's not true, but go with me here - it's that gut feeling, that initial reaction I'm talking about.

That all goes away on the bike. I get out on the street or the road on two wheels, and everything changes. My input is the only thing that matters then. I lean left, the bike goes left. I hit the brakes or let off the throttle, I slow down. Shift gears and twist the throttle, I accelerate. My life is literally in my own hands. More so than in a car, because of the lack of a safety cage around my body. My input not only matters - it's crucial.

So, while it's far from the only reason I ride, feeling in control is a big part of the attraction for me.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I Like Bikes Like I Like Women

(Originally posted June 22, 2011 on my other blog)

I like bikes like I like women:

Naked, fast, no baggage, and low maintenance.

Seriously, though. Bikes, in my opinion, should be about simplicity. I don’t mind complexity if it’s something that makes the ownership more simple; fuel injection instead of carburetor, for example. As long as it works and doesn’t leave me stranded on the side of the highway at night holding a pair of vise grips in one hand, a poorly adjusted crescent wrench in the other and a flashlight in my teeth, cussing loud enough to hear myself over the not-stopping-to-help-me traffic.

I admire the guys who can build choppers. Cutting and welding the frame, building an engine from swap meet treasure hunts. Laying on custom paint. Making the bike that exists in their own mind.

I respect the guys keeping the cafe racer thing going. Taking an old bike and tearing off anything that’s not needed to make it go (fast), stop (hopefully), or be legal (ish). Tearing down the motor and rebuilding it to make it faster.

I have to give a nod to the restoration guys, too. It takes a lot of dedication, time and work to track down period correct pieces and parts to make those antiques look, sound and run like they did when they came off the showroom floor.

I’m talking mainly about the guys who pull this off in the garage or shed or backyard picnic table at home. I admire the skills of the pros, but they have big budgets, all the equipment, and space. Plus, it’s their job. The real respect goes to the guy who builds his dream after working all day, and does it with whatever tools he has at hand.

But I digress. Back to the topic. Choppers are cool, but usually high maintenance and they don’t handle well in corners; cafe racers handle corners just fine, but again – the high maintenance issue. Plus the point of the cafe, “doing the ton”, or hitting 100 mph, is easily achieved by almost any stock bike now, so it’s mainly a matter of style. Don’t misunderstand me – nothing wrong there, and choppers and cafes are both really cool styles in my opinion. If I could have multiple bikes, I’d take one of each. Full restos really aren’t my thing, honestly. I truly don’t care if the seat bolts I use were made in 1952 or 2011. Plus, most of the totally “correct” restorations are trailer queens. I just want to ride.

Which returns me to simplicity.

The right bike for me is naked – no windshield, no luggage, no fairing. I could see making allowance for a small flyscreen, but definitely no fairing. Also, it needs to be strong; powerful. I don’t necessarily mean racetrack fast. Just enough to show off a little when my inner hooligan wants to take the throttle. Again, simple: got to be low maintenance. I hate having a bike that breaks down all the time. I don’t mind routine maintenance, and even the occasional repair, but dammit, let me spend more time turning the throttle than a wrench!

I’ve looked at some of the baggers and dressers being manufactured and sold under the guise of “motorcycle” in the last few years. Jeeeeesus! You damn near need a pilot’s license to make sense of all the switches, buttons, and knobs on these things. Not to mention the monitors…. Not simple. If I wanted to be in a bubble where no wind hit me, and have controls to adjust everything from the suspension to the windshield height to the radio to mission control in Houston, I’d drive a car.

I’m not knocking any kind of bike. You ride whatever you like. My opinion doesn’t count when it comes to your bike. But then again, this is my blog and this entry is about what I like.

I’ll take a bike with no baggage, no “wind protection” (defeats the purpose, eh?), and no frills. Make it simple. Make it go fast, turn fast, eat up miles and not break down. It could be a standard, or a naked sport bike, or a stripped down cruiser. It’s most likely made in Japan. Bonus points in my opinion if the Yuppie “bikers” turn their noses up at it.

Naked, fast, no baggage, and low maintenance. The way the motorcycle gods intended bikes to be.

Of course, at 42, with a second, brand new baby here, a Kawasaki Vaquero or a Yamaha Star Stratoliner Deluxe with a sidecar containing a baby car seat attached is starting to look acceptable…..
Well, maybe as a fourth bike.

Choke On, Turn Key, Push Starter Button

Hello, and welcome to my new blog. I have other blogs, but they were, much like my own mind, unfocussed. I've decided to start a blog to reflect my obsession with all things Motorcycle. Okay, most things Motorcycle. I don't have any interest in off-road riding. Nothing against it – just not my thing. Same with dual sport. Same with full bore sport/track/race bikes. Riding on the streets and highways and back roads is my thing, and that's what we'll be talking about here, boys and girls. I'll leave the metaphysical/religious out of it. No political posts here unless I believe they're solidly related to the world of two wheels. (On that note, I highly recommend you join the AMA, ABATE, or other MRO if you don't already belong. And if you're in a club, I also recommend the COC – Confederation of Clubs).

I'll be “importing” a lot of posts from my other blogs, but rest assured they're my creations. I don't normally repost anybody else's blogs, but if I find myself compelled to do so, full credit will be given to the original author (or at least the person I took the post from).

I hope you enjoy yourself here. Feel free to comment early and often. No flame wars, no racism, no hatin'. Otherwise, it's a free speech zone.