Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Like Bikes Like I Like Women

 I like bikes like I like women:

Naked, fast, no baggage, and low maintenance.

Seriously, though. Bikes, in my opinion, should be about simplicity. I don’t mind complexity if it’s something that makes the ownership more simple; fuel injection instead of carburetor, for example. As long as it works and doesn’t leave me stranded on the side of the highway at night holding a pair of vise grips in one hand, a poorly adjusted crescent wrench in the other and a flashlight in my teeth, cussing loud enough to hear myself over the not-stopping-to-help-me traffic.

I admire the guys who can build choppers. Cutting and welding the frame, building an engine from swap meet treasure hunts. Laying on custom paint. Making the bike that exists in their own mind.

I respect the guys keeping the cafe racer thing going. Taking an old bike and tearing off anything that’s not needed to make it go (fast), stop (hopefully), or be legal (ish). Tearing down the motor and rebuilding it to make it faster.
I have to give a nod to the restoration guys, too. It takes a lot of dedication, time and work to track down period correct pieces and parts to make those antiques look, sound and run like they did when they came off the showroom floor.

I’m talking mainly about the guys who pull this off in the garage or shed or backyard picnic table at home. I admire the skills of the pros, but they have big budgets, all the equipment, and space. Plus, it’s their job. The real respect goes to the guy who builds his dream after working all day, and does it with whatever tools he has at hand.

But I digress. Back to the topic. Choppers are cool, but usually high maintenance and they don’t handle well in corners; cafe racers handle corners just fine, but again – the high maintenance issue. Plus the point of the cafe, “doing the ton”, or hitting 100 mph, is easily achieved by almost any stock bike now, so it’s mainly a matter of style. Don’t misunderstand me – nothing wrong there, and choppers and cafes are both really cool styles in my opinion. If I could have multiple bikes, I’d take one of each. Full restos really aren’t my thing, honestly. I truly don’t care if the seat bolts I use were made in 1952 or 2011. Plus, most of the totally “correct” restorations are trailer queens. I just want to ride.

Which returns me to simplicity.

The right bike for me is naked – no windshield, no luggage, no fairing. I could see making allowance for a small flyscreen, but definitely no fairing. Also, it needs to be strong; powerful. I don’t necessarily mean racetrack fast. Just enough to show off a little when my inner hooligan wants to take the throttle. Again, simple: got to be low maintenance. I hate having a bike that breaks down all the time. I don’t mind routine maintenance, and even the occasional repair, but dammit, let me spend more time turning the throttle than a wrench!

I’ve looked at some of the baggers and dressers being manufactured and sold under the guise of “motorcycle” in the last few years. Jeeeeesus! You damn near need a pilot’s license to make sense of all the switches, buttons, and knobs on these things. Not to mention the monitors…. Not simple. If I wanted to be in a bubble where no wind hit me, and have controls to adjust everything from the suspension to the windshield height to the radio to mission control in Houston, I’d drive a car.

I’m not knocking any kind of bike. You ride whatever you like. My opinion doesn’t count when it comes to your bike. But then again, this is my blog and this entry is about what I like.

I’ll take a bike with no baggage, no “wind protection” (defeats the purpose, eh?), and no frills. Make it simple. Make it go fast, turn fast, eat up miles and not break down. It could be a standard, or a naked sport bike, or a stripped down cruiser. It’s most likely made in Japan. Bonus points in my opinion if the Yuppie “bikers” turn their noses up at it.

Naked, fast, no baggage, and low maintenance. The way the motorcycle gods intended bikes to be.

Of course, at 42, with a second, brand new baby here, a Kawasaki Vaquero or a Yamaha Star Stratoliner Deluxe with a sidecar containing a baby car seat attached is starting to look acceptable…..
Well, maybe as a fourth bike.

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