Sunday, 29 December 2013

Oh, uhm, Merry Christmas, by the way

Sunset on Bodmin Moor.
Things on the ol' blog have been relatively quiet these past several days because Jenn and I were out in the wilds of Cornwall. Which is about as wild as one can get in the overpopulated mess of southwestern England. We were staying in a cottage on Bodmin Moor, the bleak nowhere made famous by Daphne du Maurier's novel Jamaica Inn. The roads were only wide enough for a single car and mobile phone signal was non-existant.

It was only when we were out hiking the tors (craggy rocks that serve as promontories on the moors) did my phone grasp just enough signal to alert me to comments on my previous post about the downfall of RideApart. I genuinely appreciate the fact that Wes took the time to leave a comment, even if it was snarky and insulting. Be valuable, indeed.

Perhaps it was for the best that signal was too scarce for me to reply. At the time I had a fair few snarky and insulting things I wanted to say in response but now, meh, I don't care. I feel morally superior enough in the fact that, whereas Wes deleted my criticisms from RideApart, I stood atop a tor in gale force winds waving my phone about to ensure he got his chance to insult me. And we'll leave it at that.

Cornwall was beautiful and restorative, and its tiny, badly maintained roads had me again thinking my next bike should be a V-Strom or some other machine with really good suspension. But more importantly, I've come back from Cornwall feeling inspired. Being out there away from the internets and the everyday reinforced my desire to explore –– to get out and see whatever there may be to see. 

Looking forward to the year ahead, I am already planning at least one big trip. In March or April, I'm not yet sure, I'm hoping to ride up to North Wales, take the ferry over to Dublin and thereafter do a wee explore of Ireland. In May, if everything works out, I'd like to ride up to the Lake District for a weekend.

The goal is to push myself in 2014, to extend my boundaries, to move out of my little comfort zones. I think it's going to be a good year.

Friday, 20 December 2013

The strange and sudden decline of RideApart

UPDATE: I wrote this piece in December 2013. A lot has changed since then, including the fact that I am now managing editor for RideApart. Here's a link to all the stories I've written. The site has largely moved away from the things that I criticise in the post below and with every piece that I write for RideApart I hope I am doing my part to make it a quality, interesting site that will continue to inspire people to ride motorcycles.

RideApart now churns out crap like this.
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll have likely picked up by now that one of my favourite motorcycle websites is RideApart. Or, rather, was RideApart. In the last few weeks its quality has rapidly decreased and it has become something that both angers and saddens me, whereas it used to inspire.

And if you're a long-time reader of this blog you may remember my story: I got my motorcycle endorsement in Minnesota when I was 18 years old, but didn't actually make any effort to ride until almost two decades later. Then, suddenly, I had to ride. The reason for that instant awakening of interest has always been tricky for me to explain satisfactorily. It just sort of happened, just sort of became impossible to ignore. But I can, at least, pinpoint a handful of things that had a major effect on me -- things that lit the fire:
  1. Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by Hunter S. Thompson. It wasn't all that great of a book. The writing is pretty weak at many points. But it helped open my mind to the idea of a motorcycle as transportation, rather than a shiny way for an old man to compensate for erectile dysfunction (a).
  2. The "You Know, I Know and They Know" video. There is a whole genre of self-aggrandising hipster/chopper motorcycle videos out there and I've probably sat through every single one. The best and most beautiful, though, is this one.
  3. That episode of RideApart when Jamie goes to Sequoia National Forest on a Triumph Bonneville. Jamie Robinson is a Yorkshireman who was once England's best grand prix racer. He retired in 2008 and now makes a living being the guy you wish you could be by riding all kinds of bikes in all kinds of places. The great appeal of Jamie is that he maintains an enthusiasm for all bikes regardless of type or engine size; if it's got two wheels, it's fun.
    1. By extension, "Hell for Leather," the accompaniment website to RideApart. Originally, RideApart was just the name of the video series. Early in 2013, the old Hell for Leather name was dropped and everything was joined under the RideApart name. Jamie left for MotoGeo and the RideApart site got a rather commercial-looking overhaul. That may have been the first clue...
First of all, you're in Canada...
Be it in the guise of Hell for Leather or RideApart, I read the site religiously. The first thing I would do each morning at work was click on my computer and read all the new articles. RideApart influenced everything from my attitude in riding and toward riding, to the gear I wear. I found the articles to be interesting, informative and engaging. In general, they held that Jamie Robinson enthusiasm for all motorcycles and the truth that being on a motorcycle does not mean having to adopt some sort of accompanying lifestyle; i.e., if you ride a Harley that doesn't mean you have to dress and behave like a member of the Cult of Latter-day Harley-Davidson. I also felt that the general tone of discussions in the comments were more friendly, more intelligent and more fun than one finds in many other places.

Then, one day it all started to go south.
To my mind, the downfall of RideApart began with this article, in which executive editor Wes Siler basically did a big tinkle all over everyone who has the audacity to be really interested in motorcycles. You know, like, those stupid noobs who would read a motorcycle-focused website. 
"No, I don't want to help you learn to go faster. No, I don't want to spend my lunchtime talking about Marc Marquez, again. And yes, I've ridden that route before," he whined in an article that I'm sure he would tell you was supposed to be funny. 
But it lacked a key element in funny stories: anything resembling a sense of humour. Read that article and you can see that Wes is serious. He thinks he's pretty damned special. And he thinks you're pretty damned stupid if you don't already know all the things he knows, if you don't adhere to his view, if you don't subscribe to his way. It is an article that is a complete rejection of the erstwhile all-encompasing RideApart philosophy.
I called him on his arrogance at the time. In a comment, I suggested he needed to humble himself. I told him to re-watch the video episode of RideApart where he gets The Fear and starts crying on the freeway and realise that he is not so much more fantastic than the people who help pay his salary by visiting his site. The comment was deleted.

When I knew RideApart had jumped the shark.
Since then, RideApart seems to have fallen into a long slide. Articles are increasingly arrogant and centred on sportbike riders who live in Southern California. Or, well, those are the articles worth reading. The rest of the site is filled out by intolerable fluff. RideApart seems desperate to turn itself into the Buzzfeed of motorcycling, with every other article written in list format and almost none of it having any real content. 
"4 Reasons I don't Split Lanes," "10 Reasons You Shouldn't Date a Motorcyclist," "13 Things More Dangerous Than Riding a Motorcycle," and on and on and on with an endless torrent of effluent. These articles are completely devoid of any actual content. There are a lot of words and pictures in them -- enough to get you to click at least twice in the sory to increase page views -- but no actual information. The lane-splitting article was merely a collection of unfounded opinions, the list of things more dangerous than a motorcycle was a list of things that were not in any way comprable to motorcycling and which were mathematically proven by one of the commenters to not, in fact, be more dangerous.

In that aforementioned article I commented that I felt RideApart had lost its way, that its endless lists and general alienation of all but a core segment of readers was offputting and disappointing. The comment, of course, was deleted.
So, I'm saying it here: You've let me down RideApart. Whereas you were one of my big inspirations to finally get on a motorcycle, you've now turned into the sort of thing that makes me just a little bit embarassed to be a motorcyclist.

____________________

(a) Unfortunately, the Minnesota I grew up in had a whole lot of dudes who were clearly using bikes to compensate for the lack of something. They instilled in me a dislike of bikes and bikers that caused me to over-generalise and oversimplify motorcycle riding.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The wind, the fear and the ridiculous

You know that advice they always give about riding with a passenger? "Take it easy," they say. "Make everything as gentle as possible. Don't frighten your passenger."

They have obviously never met my wife.

"YAHWOOOOOOOOOOOO!" she screamed against the wind as the two of us zig-zagged down the A449 Saturday.

We were flying down the dual carriageway ("freeway" for those of you playing along at home) at 90 mph with crosswinds kicking us around in our lane. In curves, the wind would occasionally push us upright and I'd have to fight to drop us back into the lean. At other times it would punch so hard it felt almost tangible, as if an animal had jumped out and headbutted us. Leaves and sticks and all manner of things swirled in the air and plinked against our helmets. Jenn was having the time of her life.

We had ridden that morning to the Farmer's Boy Inn, a pub 10 miles west of Gloucester, which I had spotted during one of my many Staring At Google Maps sessions. I spend hours staring at Google Maps, imagining various road trips, from the practical (e.g., an afternoon ride to a pub) to the overly ambitious (e.g., a multi-day peregrination through Ireland and Scotland's western islands).

We had travelled to the pub through the Forest of Dean, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that borders England and Wales. The roads had been wet and curvy and leaf-covered and gravel-strewn, and I had struggled to take them at anything other than a snail's pace. In terms of actual experience I am still pretty green and still haven't worked out how to hit curves with full confidence even in the best of conditions. Add the weight of a passenger on these roads and I was a jumble of nerves. 

Cars lined up behind us and I could feel drivers' frustration mixing with and exacerbating The Fear. British drivers have the patience of cocaine addicts with hemorrhoids. If you hold them up they become panic-fixated on the NEED to get past you. Never in their lives has anything ever been so singularly important as getting past you; and they will risk everything, particularly your safety, to accomplish that task. They are not the people you want behind you -- right behind you -- when you're gingerly making your way around yet another blind hairpin.

On top of this, I could sense that Jenn was miserable. She was too cold. This was the first time she had ridden with me since early autumn and she had not worn enough layers. I just wanted to get her to the pub, wanted to get away from these angry drivers, and away from these crappy roads. 

One of the less-enjoyable aspects of riding is that sometimes -- not often, but sometimes -- all these little pins-and-needles frustrations build up in you and you find yourself wanting to pitch a fit. As we rode along, I half-fantasised about just stopping, pushing the bike to the ground and throwing a tantrum, like a toddler who's simply had too much Christmas shopping.

I didn't do that. We made it to the pub safely and I felt a deep sense of happiness in shutting off the engine and putting the bike on its stand.

The Farmer's Boy Inn is a ridiculous place. It reminded me of Johnnie Fox's in Ireland, a place with so much tat on the walls it makes you dizzy. Farming equipment, mugs, bits of brass, a million things for which you cannot even begin to guess the purpose, and a great superfluity of "hilarious" apothegms such as: "The day I stop drinking is the day I stop breathing, and the day I stop breathing is the day I stop drinking."

Appropriately, the Farmer's Boy Inn is run by an enthusiastic Irishman who cheerfully and rapidly banters with everyone in the pub at once. There was a roaring fire and after a mug of tea and some wine Jenn felt more herself. I had a boar and cider pie, she had a burger. Jenn noted that it was a proper inn, i.e., a place that has rooms for the night, and we briefly entertained the idea of just staying there and getting drunk rather than venturing back out into the cold and wet.

Practicality won over, though, and we geared up to head home. To help keep warm, Jenn wrapped each foot in 3 feet of toilet paper before putting on her boots. 

I decided to take a quicker route home and soon we were opening the throttle on the straight and wide of the A449. A road that runs down a mountain valley it is always windy, but it was particularly so on this afternoon. Sharp gusts jabbed at us from all directions and the bike danced its way toward the M4. In my head I kept repeating the mantra of gyroscopic effect: a motorcycle at speed is naturally inclined to stay upright. Effectively all I needed to do was stay on the bike -- keep loose, don't over correct -- and physics would see us home.

According to the internets, wind was gusting at 60 kmh (37 mph) that day and I'll admit that I wasn't really enjoying being bullied by Mother Nature. That is, until I heard Jenn whooping and cheering. She was having a blast. With her shouting above the roar of wind I started laughing.

"That was like being on a motorcycle," she said afterward. "Usually it's just, you know, sit there and look at stuff. But that was like a real motorcycle."

I can't say I'm not a little hurt by that remark. It suggests to me Jenn feels I take things a little too easy. The cliche is that wives always complain their husbands are reckless, mine seems to think I'm over-cautious. Perhaps she should be the one steering and I should be the one holding on.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

I think we may actually be better

Why wouldn't you outlaw this?
I've spent a lot of time thinking about this: if I'm ever riding in Minnesota and find myself in a situation where I deem filtering to be appropriate, I'm just going to go ahead and do it. If any drivers shout at me, I will say this: "Actually, it is legal. Check Minnesota Statute 169.974, particularly subdivision 5, clause E. See, the reason I know that is because a lot of people think it's not legal, but, really, it is. I'm sorry to have frightened you, though."

The statute referenced is, of course, the exact one that explicitly forbids filtering ("No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of moving or stationary vehicles headed in the same direction, nor shall any person drive a motorcycle abreast of or overtake or pass another vehicle within the same traffic lane"). But the driver won't know that. 

If I get stopped by a police officer, I will mention living in the UK and explain that I was confused. I will apologise profusely and hopefully he or she let me off with a stern talking to. Or, you know, I'll get hit with a $128 fine (a).

I'll risk it, though (at least until I get fined), because I love me some filtering so much. I've written about filtering in the past, so I won't rehash that argument except to say that I genuinely cannot understand why any motorcyclist would be against such useful facet of riding. Sure, I can understand why a motorcyclist might personally feel a little uncomfortable with the idea -- because he or she has not yet developed their skills to that level. But I can't understand why they would say: "No. There should be a law and we should all line up in orderly fashion, like good little automatons."

And, yet, there are people like that. RideApart last week ran an essay from a person whose argument effectively consisted of, "Ooh, scary. Me no likey." 

Dude, everything is scary. No, really. Every. Thing. Take a moment to think about asteroids, for instance. An asteroid that is only 60 feet across, if it struck the Earth would have the effect of an atomic bomb. If it struck a populated area, instantaneously 70,000 people would die. Poof. Just like that.

This may be the last thing you read.
And want to take a guess at how many such asteroids are floating in our solar system? Oh, at least 25 million. Or, well, the fact is, NASA can't reliably spot anything smaller than 100 feet across, so there are at least 25 million of those asteroids. Smaller yet still-totally-deadly ones? No clue.

Also, there at least 8,000 asteroids that move directly through Earth's orbit each year, roughly 1,000 of which are 1 kilometre across or more! A kilometre-sized rock would fuck Earth up, yo.

Think about that. No, stop, take a moment, and really think about how terrifyingly likely is your instantaneous death. That is scary. Far scarier than the idea of navigating a motorcycle between two stationary or slow-moving vehicles.

As I thought about my response to that RideApart article I thought, too, of an exchange I had with a representative from the Minnesota chapter of ABATE not too long ago. I had written to them to ask what their stance is on filtering and whether they are making any effort to see it legalised in my beloved Land of 10,000 Lakes. 

The short answer is: nope.

In ABATE's reply (b) they said that I was only the second person to have ever raised the issue with them. But I got the feeling that their overall attitude toward filtering was as lacking in enthusiasm as that of  the American Motorcycle Association. And in that reply I was offered this beautiful gem of a quote:
"It is important to remember that the average motorist in Minnesota is not as talented as those in... England. This is fact not opinion (we can't even begin to grasp the concept of a zipper merge at road construction sites). This would make lane splitting very dangerous in Minnesota."

And all of this led to my suddenly asking myself: "Wait. Are British riders better?!"

Maybe I'm just thinking that because I ride and learned to ride in the UK. And certainly there are plenty of exceptions to the rule on both sides of the pond but I think, just maybe, yeah -- they're better over here. 

An actual "road" in Swindon
The UK has roads that in some cases were designed almost 2,000 years ago, when the Romans were here. Look, here's a map of Roman roads, and here's a map of UK motorways. Note that the motorways are in exactly the same places as the Roman roads were. And that's just layout. In some parts of the UK, the actual width of the road has not changed, despite the fact the modes of transportation have (for an example of narrow roads, check out this guy riding in northern Scotland). And on all UK roads, maintenance is notoriously appalling. The street where I live, for example, looks as though it hasn't been taken care of since the Nazis bombed it.

These narrow, poorly maintained roads are used by an overcrowded population. Southern England is the most densely populated area in Europe. And across the UK we have squeezed twice the population of Canada into a space the size of Oregon. We are shoulder-to-shoulder all up in this island and that tends to create short tempers. British drivers are some of the most road-ragey people I have ever experienced and they are extremely aggressive in their driving. 

Watch this video -- look at all the things that are swirling all around him, coming at him from every direction. But he is so used to it that his only concern is being annoyed by the behaviour of a rent-a-cop (c). That's how we roll, yo. Many years ago, I was driving an American through Cardiff and she started crying because of sensory overload -- she was convinced we were going to die, and I had been taking it easy.

Meanwhile, on top of our narrow, poorly maintained and overcrowded roads, and alongside our multitudes of angry, inattentive, aggressive, selfish and usually distracted drivers we have the joy of British weather. It is always cold. It is always wet. It is always blowing a gale. If we held to the standards of some of the American riders I've encountered, our "riding season" would consist of approximately one day.

The best way to commute.
I suspect that all of these things are reasons that motorcycling faces so many challenges in the UK. Many people simply prefer the all-weather shelter of an automobile. But that's a truth that serves as a sort of filter: there is a natural weeding-out process to motorcycling in Her Majesty's United Kingdom. And those tough enough stupid enough to put up with all the chaos and climatological misery display a dedication that I think, on the whole, results in their being better motorcyclists.

As an American it pains me to admit that, but I think it may be true.

__________

(a) Yeesh, Minnesota. When did your fines get so expensive? I can remember when dicking around only set me back $15.

(b) Which was very much appreciated by the way. I am pretty critical of ABATE and the AMA because I feel that they are too hung up on the issue of helmets and fail to focus on issues that are of greater actual benefit to riders. But I appreciate the efforts they make overall to promote riding.

(c) OK, yeah, PCSOs are not rent-a-cops, but you get my point.

Friday, 6 December 2013

20 things I've learned about motorcycling

Aliona and me
Today marks exactly six months since Aliona came into my life. That's not all that much time in the grand scheme of things, but she is, of course, my first motorcycle. So, a lot of things have happened since that exciting June day I took the train out to Cheltenham to pick her up. And from all the experiences since then, those thousands of miles travelled, I feel I've gained a certain amount of knowledge. So, here are 20 things I've learned in my first six months of motorcycle ownership:
  1. When kids wave at you, it's awesome
  2. Expect spiders to be hiding in the motorcycle cover
  3. Expect spiders to be hiding in your helmet. They will usually only reveal themselves when you are taking a curve at 80 mph.
  4. Baby wipes are your friend. They are especially useful in cleaning your helmet -- inside and out. 
  5. Cold tires really are slippery. That's not just something that people say. 
  6. Pay attention to tire pressure. And the chain. And fluid levels. And tire tread. And all the other stuff they tell you.
  7. Your hands will always have grease on them. If your hands are clean that means you've been off the bike too long.
  8. Confidence ebbs and flows. Sometimes you just have a gut bad feeling about a corner or filtering opportunity, etc. and it builds The Fear in you. It's OK to back off in these moments; if necessary, pull over, stop, turn off the engine, get off the bike and take a break. 
  9. Seriously, learn the value of taking breaks. Really. Even if you're not tired. Turn off the bike; listen to the sound of the world. 
  10. Nothing makes you feel more like a magician/god like turning your bike on the side stand. Learn how to do it. 
  11. Keep practicing all that stupid stuff they made you do in training. Yeah, you feel like a loser doing circles in a parking lot on a Sunday morning. But when you find yourself having to U-turn on a stupidly cambered road in some place where drivers have the patience of hornets, you'll be glad you did. 
  12. Getting angry at bad drivers accomplishes nothing. Expect them to do stupid things; acknowledge; move on. Punching their car only hurts your hand and the reputation of all other riders. 
  13. The overwhelming majority of drivers are not that bad. For every crappy driver you encounter think of the thousands upon thousands that you pass without incident. Often, a friendly wave or nod will pull drivers out of their little zone and they will suddenly become courteous.  
  14. Check the weather of the place you're going. Just because it's not raining where you started out doesn't mean it won't be pissing rain in the place you end up. 
  15. Expect it to rain. Because it will. Even if you checked. The simple act of getting on a bike is a taunt at God, saying: "I dare you, Almighty Universe Creator, to make me wet and miserable." And he will almost always take you up on that challenge. 
  16. Get used to chatting with old guys. Bees are to pollen as old men are to motorcycles. If you ride, you are effectively communicating to every old man within sight that you really want him to come over and tell you every single motorcycle-related experience he can think of. 
  17. You will drop your bike. It's like death and taxes, yo. Accept it. 
  18. Riding will make you hungry. As Sash has already pointed out, riding a motorcycle works up an appetite. Make sure you eat enough; not eating makes you stupid. And being stupid makes you crash. 
  19. Make sure you work out. Not just for the sake of contradicting the negative effects of eating too much, you should try to keep as fit as possible. Your riding will dramatically benefit from the increased strength and stamina that comes from working out regularly.
  20. Everything is an adventure. If you're like I am, you get caught up in the romanticism of great road trips, and somehow this results in your forgetting to appreciate the everyday. So, you'll want to go for a ride but think: "Nah, it's dark and I've got work in the morning." Get on the bike, you idiot. Even if it's just for a few miles.
Did I miss any? What are some of the most important lessons you've learned?

Thursday, 5 December 2013

A small request

Hey, all y'all with motorcycle-related blogs: Can you please not have white text on a black background? I mean, it's pretty much every single one of you. Clearly, it's a look that a lot of people like and one of the general rules of this here blog is that I don't like to piss on things that other people like -- especially when it comes to things that are motorcycle-related. 

But, see, here's the thing: white text on a black background induces headaches. No, really, look it up. Web designers hate light text on dark background, but more importantly up to 50 percent of the population may suffer adverse effects from staring at that combination too long. That is especially true for me. The two times in my life that I have suffered a migraine headache came after reading white text on a dark background for too long. So, now I generally don't do it.

This means that for many of you, I don't really read your blogs as much as I'd prefer unless I can find a workaround. For example, I only read Sash's blog on my phone, because the mobile version produces traditional black text on light background.

As I say, though, A LOT of motorcycle bloggers like that dark background look, so I'm definitely not criticising anyone for the way they choose to express themselves online. I just wanted to point it out and apologise to those whose blogs I can't read.

Monday, 2 December 2013

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.