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Showing posts from March, 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…

Patience is a virtue

I never really told the story of my almost buying a Bonneville, did I? Back in February, I took a test ride on the Triumph Bonneville and was instantly enamoured with the idea of owning one. Triumph's TriStar financing would have been necessary to make it happen. The sales guy drew up a quote for me and I went home to mull it all over. 
In my retelling of the test ride on this blog, I took a little literary license in expressing my enthusiasm. I would like to point out that, in fact, I had arrived at the dealership having already decided I would not make any buying decisions on the day.
Still, I did love the bike, and it took a while after I got home for me to get my head into a balanced state to really consider things. First off, there's that whole issue of financing; I'm not against paying for things on credit, but all those years I lived with a Mormon (they don't see debt as outright sin, but they're pretty strongly against the idea where it can be avoided) had…

What I want: Honda NM4 Vultus

EDIT: This bike is set to arrive sooner than any of us would have thought. My local Honda dealer is already taking orders.

"Sometimes we make a certain machine simply because we can and because we want to." -- Keita Mikura, project leader for the Honda NM4 Vultus.
First of all, take a moment to think about just how bad ass that statement is. Sometimes Honda makes a certain motorcycle simply because it can. Because it is bigger and better than everyone else in the game. Who's this bike for? Who cares? Honda will build it just because it can. Has Harley-Davidson ever done that? Would it? Could it? Nope. Nope. Nope.
Honda can. Honda does. That is rock n' roll. That is Bob Dylan saying "Play it fucking loud" in response to the folk purists who called him Judas for plugging in his guitar. That is when arguments of the Great Harley-Honda Dilemma fall apart. Because maybe those of us who think Honda isn't cool are just so stupid and so stuck in a singular mind…

The great Harley-Honda dilemma

"Sounds to me the CBF600 has everything you want in a bike except for the image you seem to be looking for."
That's a comment from Steve Johnson in response to a previous post about reconsidering my opinion of the Harley-Davidson Sportster. It's always interesting when someone is able to do that: when they're able to deliver an absolute truth in a single sentence. When they're able to get at something about you faster and more directly than you could.
Because, yeah, what he said is pretty much dead on.
The other night, I found myself riding along the motorway in the clear quiet of late evening. It was the middle of the week, the moon was out, and I had the road pretty much all to myself –– to the extent I was able to relax a little, to expand my thoughts beyond the constant spinning of: "What's in front of me? What's behind me? What's beside me? How's the road surface? How fast am I going? What's in front of me? What's behind me?…

Through the fog

Fog is a part of the British experience. It works its way into countless Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle tales, serving as a sort of plot device to allow terrible things to be done unseen. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, pollution-laden fogs known as pea soups brought inhalant death. In 1952, a crippling fog that hung over London from the 5th to the 9th of December ended up killing upward of 12,000 people. 
Even without pollution the fog kills. In 1991, a heavy fog in Berkshire resulted in a 51-car crash that killed 10 people. In 1997, a 160-car fog-induced pile up killed three people in Worcestershire. Just a few years ago, seven people were killed in a 51-vehicle crash that occurred within a great abyss of fog and smoke from a nearby bonfire. 
That last one took place just a few miles from where I was headed Thursday night.
I was going to Bristol, to a literary event at Cube, in the city's centre. Lately I have been trying desperately to kick start my li…

Rethinking the Sportster

You know what would be really clever? If Harley-Davidson dealerships could issue false invoices that you could show to your wife. So, you could come home with, say, a $15,000 motorcycle but produce for your life partner a receipt claiming you had paid only $9,000. 
"Yeah, babe," you could say. "I talked 'em down."
In truth you would have paid full price, plus the Stage 1 tax, but your wife would never know. Except for your refusal to buy new clothes for the next decade or so.
In fairness, this is not something I would need for my wife. Recently I found myself thinking very seriously about getting a Triumph Bonneville, and even got all the way to the point of scheduling an appointment to go in and work out the financing. Over and over I gave Jenn the opportunity to kill the decision by telling me it was impractical. But her argument was that owning a motorcycle is in its nature sort of an emotional thing, so it's difficult to discuss the issue of practicali…

Ride by wire

I tend to get pretty excited by the prospect of electric motorcycles. First of all, there is the fact they sound like a TIE fighter. How could you not want that? Sure, there is something cool about the low-rev grumble of a cruiser, but, dude: a TIE fighter.

Then there is the whole environmental aspect. I've been on the planet nigh 38 years and have seen it change in that time. I have seen cities expand, trees and fields disappear. I have seen former swimming holes turn toxic. I have seen the black dust of car exhaust gathering on my doorstep and eating the mortar of my home. The pessimistic side of me says there's not much I can do, that the best hope is in the fact nature has always proved more resilient than any one species. So, human beings will probably kill themselves off but the toughest of microbes, plants and cockroaches will survive and slowly thereafter reclaim everything and make it beautiful for insentient eyes.

I love motorcycling, I love the freedom and sense of…

Dear Indian: Please make a smaller bike

I got a chance to see the new Indian motorcycles in the flesh today –– both the Chief Classic and the Chieftain. They are incredibly beautiful machines, but great googly-moogly are they massive. It is comically huge. I mean, this thing is gigantic. Colossal. Monumental. It is an informal monster.
Take, for instance, the Streamliner-esque fairing on the Indian Chieftain. It is beautiful and stylish, but it also contains a dashboard larger than that which you would find in an economy car. It is just this whopping great console right in your face. It is so big, and so loaded with bits of information, that I'd be worried about its obstructing my view. Since you really sit "in" a Chieftain rather than on one, it seems the Chieftain's dash would eat up 40 percent of your vision.
The Chief Classic struck me as even more enormous. Its alien laser cannon of a headlight is incredible. In-credible. It is too large to be a credible bit of a bike. I'm pretty sure that headli…

The motorcycling heart of America

The other day I read an interesting article on Asphalt and Rubber that highlighted where America's motorcyclists are to be found -- both by volume and per capita. By volume, there is nothing surprising: California, Texas and Florida take the top spots. Shocker. California, Texas and Florida are also the most populous U.S. states. 
So, the existence of lots of motorcycles in these states isn't necessarily a comment on the states' consistently good riding weather or the attitudes of people there; it is just a reflection of a large population. More people means more things.
Per capita numbers, however, give a better sense of how popular something is. And in those we find that motorcycles are most popular in South Dakota, New Hampshire and Iowa. One in 12 persons owns a motorcycle in the Mount Rushmore State. Whereas the numbers are 1 in 47 in the Golden State. Sure, the actual number of motorcycle owners in California is almost equal to the entire population of South Dakota…