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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…

What I want: Honda Valkyrie (aka Honda F6C)

Here comes the sexy
I'll warn you now: this post is a meandering one...

I am fond of pondering the When It All Goes Horribly Wrong scenario. This is a what-if scenario that started showing up in my usual daydream repertoire sometime after my first wife left me. At that time I didn't really have a prepared response for such a happening, so I just spent a year or so wallowing in utter misery. I taught myself to play a few chords on the guitar and wrote two bittersweet love songs for an imaginary girl, but by and large that time was ill spent.

Because what you are supposed to do when something traumatic happens -- if films and rock songs have taught us anything -- is suddenly veer onto a life path that is generally out of character and more awesome. You are supposed to travel to Italy, India and Indonesia and thereafter write a book about it. Or at least change your hair style and start a new career. I often think that one of the greatest appeals of Doctor Who is his ability to regenerate: when everything turns to poop the Doctor literally becomes someone else.

So, to ensure I won't make the same mistake again, my imagination has decided, rather unimaginatively, that future response to a When It All Goes Horribly Wrong situation is to drop everything, take to the open roads of North America and live the life of a vagabond.

As it happens, I was in the early stages of finally forming this response when I first met Jenn. I was even to the point of looking online at cars that I thought might be up to the task of serving as my home. In particular, I had my eye on a relatively low-mileage Ford Econoline. The whole plan was shelved, of course, when I fell in love with Jenn. It slipped back into the realm of daydream and, as you might suspect, these days the vehicle of choice is a motorcycle.

"If Jenn ever leaves me," I tell myself, "I will sell everything I possibly can, pack up and ship myself back to the States. Then I will buy a motorcycle and set out to roam the vastness of North America in my loneliness, surviving only on my wits and my incredibly profitable writing ability (a)."

It is, as I say, a cliche daydream, but the beauty of it is that it can also be adapted into a When It All Goes Terrifically Well scenario. So, you know, rather than imagining the utter misery of being without my wife, I can daydream such an action as a response to our winning the lottery.

Indeed, I prefer this second scenario. I mean, life without Jenn -- even one spent awander (b) on a motorcycle -- would be a great big mountain of suck. Besides, it is easier to travel a place from a position of financial strength. And that latter truth would certainly come in handy fulfilling the part of the daydream that I spend the most time on: the question of which motorcycle I would choose as my cross-country steed.

For a while, my machine of choice was the aptly named Victory Cross Country. A big, comfortable beast that can serve as a sort of home base for a person. Sure, the bikes people actually use for making round-the-world trips are more often than not V-Stroms, KLRs and other 650s, but when the idea is to permanently trundle across a continent you -- or, at least, I -- want something with more heft. Something that's too heavy to steal. And I like, too, that the Cross Country is (86-percent) American-made.

Since the return of Indian Motorcycles, however, the Cross Country has in my heart been replaced by the Indian Chieftain. With its ridiculous train-like fairing it looks cooler and has the je ne sais quoi of heritage.

But my love of Honda is well documented, and when you're daydreaming about living every day astride a bike, the reliability of a Big Red machine starts to sound pretty appealing. Even in fantasy scenarios. So, it is usually not too long into the daydream that I start to consider the Honda F6B. Basically a Goldwing without the old-man top box, it's a bike that's won a fair bit of accolades since coming out not too long ago.

The F6B has a unique look that possibly doesn't yet encourage goofy stereotypes of its riders, and it has more technological wizardry at a lower price than a Chieftain (the "deluxe" version of the F6B costs $2,000 less than a standard Chieftain). And, unlike the Chieftain, it's shaft-driven.

My history of really wanting a Triumph but choosing in the end to just get a Honda (and thereafter tell people I wish I had a Triumph) suggests I'd do the same sort of thing again in this scenario. I'd get the F6B, then stare longingly at each and every Chieftain I saw.

All that said, one thing sort of bothers me about the bikes I put into this daydream: I'm not entirely sure I like baggers. I mean, those hard bags are just things that will break when I inevitably drop the bike, right? And the nature of them somewhat limits what I can put in them. In my (very few) long trips thus far I've found I prefer the utility and, it has to be said, look of things like dry bags. As I've mentioned before, nothing says "I'm on an adventure!" better than having bags strapped to your bike.

And do I need all the fairing that's on the Chieftain and F6B? Well, maybe. I would be travelling here there and everywhere, after all. But the cowls on the F6B and the Chieftain hold speakers, which is something that doesn't really interest me. Having a sound system seems to me just a load of extra weight and equipment that likely won't hold up well to heavy rain. Besides, I'm the sort of person who listens to Danielle Ate the Sandwich; I probably don't need to broadcast that to my fellow riders.

Though, it would be hilarious if I did. I would love to roll into Sturgis blaring "Indiana."

No, perhaps a screen is all I'd need. Or just a more rigid constitution and increased forearm strength. And with that thought in mind I have often entertained the idea of choosing an Indian Chief Classic as my vehicle of choice. I think it would look kind of cool bedecked in Kriega and dry bags, and I reckon it's the sort of machine that would age well (in terms of looks, at least). But then, this week Honda announced the new Valkyrie.

Oh, my. I mean, oh. My.

That is an insane-looking machine. I've deliberately allowed myself a meandering post just for the sake of being able to put in loads of pictures of it. Basically, a Goldwing that's been stripped down even more than the F6B. This thing is a great big hunk of futuristic sex awesomeness. Paint it in dark grey with red trim and it would look very much like the ride of choice for Judge Dredd. And for a kid who grew up bouncing around his bedroom screaming the lyrics to "I Am the Law" that's pretty much all the selling point a bike needs.

But, no, it looks even cooler than that. I love those huge radiator vents, giving it the look of something you'd use to attack a planet. The headlight looks like some sort of disruptor cannon. I don't even know what a disruptor cannon is; I just made that phrase up. But still, that is what the headlight looks like.

OK, yes, the Valkyrie is ungodly heavy and would probably be a whole lot of Not Fun to ride in a challenging urban situation. I'm guessing it filters with the agility of a drunken moose. And you probably wouldn't want to ride up the notoriously steep streets of Duluth, MN when going to pick up your Aerostitch Roadcrafter, risking getting stuck at a light while on a 23-percent incline. But with that weight comes the ability to ride through tornadoes and test the structural integrity of country bridges.

Also, how awesome is it that Honda names a motorcycle after the Norse harbingers of death? In Norse mythology, a valkyrie is a female form that rides into a battle and determines who will live and who will die. It's appropriate imagery, I suppose. No doubt one would feel like a member of the Riders in the Sky when tearing across the continent on this thing.

No, not that Riders in the Sky. This Riders in the Sky -- the one driving a ghost herd. Because that's what one does on the Valkyrie: takes control of demon animals. Demon animals from space. Which you shoot with your disruptor cannon.

Someone buy me this bike. I have cities I want to conquer.

__________

(a) Hey, it is, after all, a fantasy scenario. The fact I've thus far failed to support myself with writing doesn't need to stand in the way of my imagining it.

(b) It would appear that "awander" is not actually a word. It should be.

Comments

  1. Hey fellow Texan, rider stuck in the UK where there are tons of cool bikes. What about a sidecar trip across Europe...

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have not stopped obsessing over those radiators ever since this bike was announced. Been waiting years for a stripped goldwing 1800 with a twin spar aluminium frame. Looked at so many photos online and still am. Am in Oz and it will be a while till I can touch one in a dealership. No worries though as I can't afford one anyway, so a few more months may create a financial miracle for me yet. Everything crossed! I haven't pined for a bike so bad since the yamaha warrior xv1800 a few years ago. Ended up with a honda magna! am ready for this modern take on the muscle cruiser.

    ReplyDelete

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