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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

In defence of Aliona

Aliona and me
She's like a girlfriend I once had in that she tends to look better in person. What I see in her doesn't seem to show up well in photos; perhaps because what I see is so affected by what I feel. And very much like that aforementioned ex-girlfriend, Aliona's sleek body and performance overcome a somewhat goofy face.

No, the front end of a Honda CBF600SA isn't really goofy. It's kind of bug-like. Mosquito-esque. It's a style that isn't really timeless; I can't imagine the hipsters of the 2050s lovingly resurrecting this particular model.

Whereas one can be certain that Harley-Davidsons will look pretty much the same 40 years from now, in only about 5-10 years the Honda CBF600SA front end will start to look awkwardly dated, like the square tail ends of 1980s sport bikes.

That said, there is a certain quality to it. Not so much bad-ass, but menacing. Rather than being the machine Captain America would ride into battle, it is more the transport of choice for, say, the person who will hunt you down and do very terrible things to you with very sharp objects. And behind that cowl the tank rises up like the muscled, lean shoulders of a race horse.

She reflects these features in her behaviour. Whereas getting up to motorway speeds was a chaotic (but somewhat thrilling) experience on the Harley-Davidson 883 SuperLow and 1200 Custom I rode recently, Aliona just does it. There is no monster roar, no feeling of screaming at God like Lt. Dan in a hurricane; she just does it. Efficiently, easily, quickly.

Emphasis on quickly. I had a lot of fun on those Harleys but they did not get up to speed as deftly as Aliona. You think it, and she does it. Though, if you are keen on speed and its intoxicating physical effects, Aliona delivers there as well. If you are inclined, you can really push her and there is a feeling of being strapped into a bungee seat –– a slingshot sensation –– and when you look down at the speedometer you are already breaking the law (a).

Note that I say "strapped into." There is no wild, reckless, shaking sensation to riding the CBF600SA at high speed. She is solid. More solid than some cars I've owned, as a matter of fact. That beloved old Ford F250 I drove in high school would put the fear of God in you above 70 mph. Meanwhile, I found myself recently moving along the M4 on Aliona, briskly but casually, when I suddenly noticed we were going 95 mph. (b). She. Is. Solid.

And when I am dumb enough to move at such speeds, she has, too, the ability to stop me. In my previous post, I mentioned an incident coming home from Bretforton in which I failed to pay a great deal of attention to an 18-wheeler until way too late. Had I been on any number of other bikes I would not be writing this now; the anti lock brakes on the CBF600SA saved my life. Indeed, they made me realise that I will never again seriously consider a machine that is without them (sorry, Triumph).

I like the sound of the bike as well. It is not the roaring devilry of a cruiser, no, but something different. At idle there is a quiet, low hum, like the didgeridoo that plays in films shortly before a person is attacked. At high speed, the noise is not overpowering, which allows me to hear instead the engines of the cars around me. I think it is far more useful to be able to hear the sudden increased throttle of a car than your own monotonous cacophony.

And with the adjustable seat elevated to its highest position, the bike is relatively comfortable for my 6-foot-1 frame. Though, that has taken a little time to develop, to be fair. But after my 220-mile ride recently I suffered no ill effects the next day –– no soreness in my back or knees, etc. And the wind protection is enough that I don't feel I'm hanging on for dear life.

Having sat upon the Honda NC700X, I know it is possible for a bike of Aliona's ilk to feel lighter, but she is still pretty damn easy to move around. As my riding confidence grows, I find my bike is evermore capable of fitting through tight spots in traffic. And she is not so heavy that I struggled to pick her up after (stupidly) dropping her, nor is it a challenge to do side-stand turns.

In certain reviews, the CBF600SA is dismissed as a bland machine, but I can't understand how a machine capable of 140 mph could ever be bland. It's certainly not the case for me. And though I sometimes find myself eyeing different bikes, the capabilities of my bike mean that for many I will never do more than look (until very recently, the Harley-Davidsons would have been written off my list for their lack of ABS).

I'm sure one day I'll find a bike I like more, but in the meantime I will enjoy zipping around on my menacing digeridoo of awesomeness.

–––––––––

(a) If there are any members of South Wales Police reading this, please be aware that this statement is false. I would never break the law.

(b) Again, if there are any law enforcement figures reading this, that claim is a total lie.


Comments

  1. Chris,

    Having parted with my Kawasaki Ninja Katie Scarlet it has been incredibly difficult to connect with my V*Star Gracie. All of the things I like about her remain the same, but she's just not Katie. Not light and nimble, nor an excited puppy ready to run. Gracie will never be Katie and I mustn't compare them, yet I do.
    When the day comes you'll know, but I imagine you'll be less impulsive than me. For now appreciate your steed and ride with wild abandon, until you end up with a made.
    Smooches,
    Sash
    Www.sashmouth.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. There is a lot to be said for quiet competence.

    My Suzuki VX800 was lumped in to that same "bland" category, along with the Nighthawk and pretty much every other bike that ought to be described as a standard. They just work. Maybe they don't excel at the fringes of performance or style, but they do a damn fine job of being a motorcycle. Yes, they can be outrun by high-performance bikes. Yes, they're somewhat lacking in style. But who gives a crap? It's still a motorcycle.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a great picture of you and the bike. It shows how much you like riding her.

    I am surprised your Triumphs don't have ABS over there. The Speed Triples and some Tigers and the larger touring Triumphs have ABS over here now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, I should have clarified. Many Triumph models do have ABS, just not any of the Bonneville range (Bonneville, Scrambler, Thruxton, Speedmaster or America), which are the Triumphs I like.

      Delete

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