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Showing posts from October, 2014

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…

Thoughts on the Kawasaki Vulcan S

Here's a question: Is a Harley-Davidson a cruiser, or is a cruiser a Harley-Davidson? In other words, which is the Form?

In Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy there is the concept of the Form: that all things and, in fact, concepts, have Forms which are the "true" representation of their reality. So, for example, imagine if I were to show you a picture of a beagle, then a whippet, then a dalmatian, then a poodle, and thereafter ask you: "What did I just show you?" 
Your answer might be, quite simply: "Pictures of dogs."
In this case, "dog" is the Form. It is the thing that all the other things are in their essence. We have in our minds an idea, an understanding of what a dog is and we are able to apply it to thousands upon thousands of images despite the fact these images can vary greatly. 
So, again: is a Harley-Davidson a cruiser, or is a cruiser a Harley-Davidson? Which is the "true" thing? Which is the Form and which is the …

Love for the Can-Am Spyder

The UK motorcycling community hates trikes. Actually, that scorn extends beyond motorcycling circles. I once heard someone who doesn't ride describe trikes as "belonging to that section of motoring marked: 'Only For Men With Ponytails.'"
This colours my own attitude toward trikes, of course; we are affected by our surroundings, regardless of whether we want to be. And I will admit my own opinion of traditional two-wheels-in-the-back trikes is particularly negative. I think this is because they remind me of Big Wheels: transport of choice for discerning 4-year-olds. And when I see an adult on a Harley-Davidson Tri-Glide or converted Honda Gold Wing I can't help but imagine them to have the same traits as a 4-year-old: blindly self-focused, incapable of intelligent conversation, not terribly coordinated and inclined to wet the bed.
For some reason, though, my opinion changes if you switch things around and put the two wheels at the front, creating the Can-Am S…

What I want: Ducati Scrambler

Before I address that beautiful thing pictured above, I'm going to step back to Intermot very quickly, I got some of what I wanted out of it; I had been looking forward to the large European motorcycle show for a number of reasons, eager to see what each manufacturer would reveal. 
Victory delivered an ABS-equipped Gunner to absolutely no fanfare (I had to divine the information from their website rather than any news outlet). I am delighted they have done this but not terribly delighted by the bike's price (£10,399 in the UK -- the exact same as the Indian Scout). Meanwhile, there was no adventure tourer from Yamaha, and Suzuki didn't manage to offer anything they haven't already been offering in some slightly different form for the past 20 years. BMW produced a cool-looking R1200RS that I would love to have but that will almost certainly come with an unholy price tag, and Kawasaki managed to make its Versys models quite a bit less ugly.
The two biggest things to come…

Join us

British weather is proof that there is a God and that he does not like you. When you are caught in the middle of some interminable squall, the misery is just too great for such phenomena to be random. No; a higher power crafted this. Some great and awesome mind invested tremendous time and effort fine tuning every tiny aspect to ensure maximum displeasure. 
Sitting in my living room that morning, prolonging breakfast for as long as I could, I had known it would be awful. Now, narrowly skirting yet another completely distracted driver on the A4232, I realised I had underestimated just how great the potential for this ride to suck.
My bike was due its 16,000-mile service and I was on my way to Fowler's of Bristol. The 16K service is the biggest one as far as the Honda CBF600SA is concerned, and committing to having it done is inherently an act of committing yourself to the bike for a good while longer. It's like paying for your wife to have breast implants. You don't fork o…

Feeling practical

I talk a lot about the bikes I want. It's one of the main facets of this blog; there are just so many amazing and cool motorcycles out there, and I wish I could own them all. My daydream is that I could be like Jay Leno and possess a seemingly infinite garage full of bikes. But I'm not a celebrity; I'm just a low-tiered public relations hack with the salary to match.
So, the fact is, almost every bike I swoon over and declare to be The One For Me is, in fact, totally beyond my reach. I don't have the money to buy it and in many cases I don't have the space to store it. Even reasonably priced machines like the Yamaha XV950 are a solid £3,000 beyond the realm of Maybe Possible With A Bit Of Luck as far as I'm concerned.
This is a truth that I find incredibly depressing to accept, so, by and large, I do my best to just ignore it whilst trying to convince myself that the bike I have is better than I give it credit for being. And, indeed, I've been teaching mys…

Are American motorcyclists retarded because of Harley-Davidson?

Man, if that headline isn't link bait I don't know what is. But let me explain: I love Harley-Davidson bikes, but I have a theory that motorcycling in the United States has suffered retardation, i.e., stunted development, as a result of Harley-Davidson's dominance over the past 30-odd years.
When I use the word "retard" I mean it in the technical sense –– not as a schoolyard taunt or politically incorrect description of someone who is mentally disabled. To retard is to "slow down the development or progress of something," according to Merriam-Webster. And that's what I'm asking: Has Harley-Davidson's overwhelming success in the U.S. market slowed down the development or progress of motorcycling in that country?
But, you know, obviously I could have chosen other words when asking that. "Impede" would work just as well, or "hinder," and so on. The word "retard" comes with a negative-value meta-narrative and its u…