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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…

28 months before

The simplicity of the Triumph Speedmaster
"I wonder if I could put together £8,000 within 28 months," I find myself asking.

That's how long I have until my 40th birthday, which, I keep telling myself, is when I want to buy a new bike. Actually, I'd like to buy a new bike today. And tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. There are dozens upon dozens of bikes I'd own if I had the deep pockets and storage space of, say, Jay Leno. But in the real world, in this life that I'm actually living, my 40th birthday seems the most likely milestone upon which to hang such a target.

I like to do that: set goals for myself and attach target dates that have some sort of greater significance. For example, in July 2005, when London was announced as the host city for the 2012 Olympic Games, I promised myself I would be living in the UK by the time the games took place. As it turned out, I accomplished that goal with six years to spare.

Life throws happy surprises at you. Maybe a new bike will come sooner. But, hell, maybe the bike I want won't even exist until then.

Lately I have fallen into a cycle of thinking about three different bikes as The One I Want Next. All of them are cruisers. As much as I appreciate Aliona and hold the highest respect for motorbikes like the V-Strom and the NC750X, there's something about them that just doesn't tick all the right boxes for me. I mean, I don't know if it really is necessary for this to be a part of one's motorcycle choice, but none of the aforementioned are bikes where I think: "I want to be seen on this machine."

I am perfectly happy to be seen riding Aliona. There is no shame. Indeed, I can't think of any motorcycle -- tiny 125cc machines included (a) -- that I would really be ashamed to be seen riding. I love all motorcycles. But certain versions draw a stronger emotional response than others. For example, when I rode the Harley-Davidson XL1200 I was was out of my mind with boyish glee. I wanted to stop and ask people to take pictures of me on it; I wanted to be seen. I wanted to shout: "Look at me!"

Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two
So, when I daydream of The One I Want Next, I can't help but think about those machines that more directly please the id. Top of my list at the moment are: the Victory Judge, the Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two, and the Triumph Speedmaster.

The fact I am imagining ownership of these bikes in the future helps put them on the list. In 2016 (when I turn 40), all bikes over 125cc will be required in the European Union to come equipped with antilock brakes. As it happens, the UK version of the Seventy-Two already comes with ABS as a standard feature (though that information is mysteriously buried in the literature), but the other two would presently be off any of my lists by default. For me, a motorcycle must have antilock brakes.

The Judge is the least likely to end up as my future machine. Out of the three it is easily the most expensive -- £3,000 more than the Speedmaster and £2,000 more than the Seventy-Two. OK, yes, it's got a hell of a lot more power than the other two (it's got 123bhp and 106 feet of torque) and from all reports is a pretty bad-ass machine. The Victory Vegas has the same engine and this guy rode one of those from London to Iran and back. But its starting price is £11,395. With all of these bikes I would have to invest in a passenger seat, so I'm guessing that would push my costs closer to £12,000.

The Seventy-Two is arguably the best-looking of the three. Indeed, there's a tiny part of me that feels it would be too cool for me, that I simply wouldn't match up to the aesthetic awesomeness of the machine. But certainly I'd be willing to give it a try. With the exact same engine as the XL1200 I rode, I already have a sense of what it would be like to ride this bike, so it is the easiest to imagine. I feel that I could probably get used to all the rumbling of the bike and that an easy-on windscreen would resolve the issues I had on my test ride, feeling I was going to be ripped from the bike at speed. In reviews I've read, the mini ape-hanger bars on the Seventy-Two work well for a person who, like me, is 6-foot-1, creating a comfortable and normal riding position.

Victory Judge
The drawback to the Seventy-Two, however, is that it has an itty bitty tank, holding just 2 gallons of petrol. Assuming typical HD gas mileage, you likely couldn't cover the Twin Cities; 494/694 loop without needing to stop. The Seventy-Two's starting price is £9,195. Assuming the purchase of a screen and new seat, I'd guess the price for the bike I want to be somewhere around the £10,000 mark.

Meanwhile, the Speedmaster was the first bike I ever really fell in love with. I saw one in the flesh on the way to a job interview many months ago and was almost late because I spent so much time staring at that beautiful, sexy thing. Really, pictures do not do it justice. There is something full-on gorgeous about the Speedmaster that makes you feel not just a little bit naughty in your pants.

Despite running with a smaller engine than the Seventy-Two, the Speedmaster's 870cc engine produces roughly the same bhp, though has 20 feet less torque (54 compared to the HD's 73). Additionally, when I factor in the cost of a windscreen and passenger seat and engine bars, its price tag comes in at just a tiny bit shy of £8,000.

So, I find myself frequently pondering that question: Could I put together £8,000 in the next 28 months? That works out to be just a little more than £285 a month, which, interestingly, is only £280 more a month than I presently have spare. Maybe I should start up a Kickstarter or some sort of GoFundMe campaign.

But hey, 28 months is a long time, and life sometimes throws you a happy surprise. Hope springs eternal.

__________

(a) Indeed, I am always wishing Jenn would take a greater interest in motorcycling solely for the sake of our being able to get her a Suzuki VanVan -- I would love to have a go on one of those.

Comments

  1. Okay, that little VanVan is pretty darn cool and something we don't see over here.

    28 months is not so far away..... Here is my two cents on bikes.......

    Bike choice is such a personal thing. Hubby had a Triumph America before he bought his Tiger. He loved it. He railed that thing like a sport bike and did circles around the Harleys scraping the exhaust while leaned into corners. It is a little more cruisierish than the Speedmaster, but pretty much the same motor and it has a pillion seat. Very reliable. He only sold it since the cruiser riding position hurt his tailbone and he wanted his feet under him again instead of in front of him when riding.

    I don't have much experience with Harleys other than my brother worked for Harley for over 20 years. I just think they are so mainstream nowadays. Seems everyone has or wants one.

    Triumphs are different. If you want attention go with the Triumph. You will experience the TDF (Triumph Delay Factor - people stopping you to talk about it) no matter where you go.

    Good luck with the decision and the saving of funds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right. The America and the Speedmaster are almost exactly the same bike. The America is just a tiny bit (2 cm) wider and has a slightly fatter front tire. Beyond that the differences are cosmetic, with the Speedmaster having shorter fenders on the front and back, and more bits that are blacked out. They also cost the exactly same.

      I've seen both and prefer the look of the Speedmaster. I mean, crikey. When I saw that Speedmaster in Bristol it was like in the movies when a guy spots the love of his life on a subway. Almost a year later and I still feel a little sad that bike isn't mine...

      Delete
    2. One day it could be yours. Visit the Triumph shop and see if you can get a poster of a Speedmaster or one of their adverts. Something to hang on the wall, drool over, and motivate you to save those pence.

      Delete

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