by Gary Charpentier
Speed bumps are merely launch-ramps for the fearless! This thought buzzed through my head as I negotiated the newly reopened stretch of West River Road. The speed limit here is 25 miles an hour, and they try to enforce it with these mild speed bumps, speed “humps” actually, at arbitrary intervals. Giggling maniacally inside my helmet, I sail over them with ease on Babe the Blue Ox, my NX 650 winter bike.
I actually ride quite slowly along this scenic route. The river, and the various bridges over it, encourage me to take my time and enjoy the scenery. Not to mention the lycra-clad females bicycling or in-line skating on the many miles of paved pathways alongside the road. Spring is in the air, and I can feel it down to my toes. I spotted two geese today, the advance reconnaissance party for the many flocks to come. Soon traffic will be backed up in places where these hordes of long-necked, winged varmints choose to jaywalk leisurely across the street. Watch your step down by the river, there is nothing more slippery than goose dung.
I have been recovering from reconstructive knee surgery for 3 weeks now. The pain kept me off my bike for two whole weeks, by the end of which I strapped my crutches across the back of the bike and rode down the center of the lane, wide as a car! People stared, I stared back. They actually gave me room! Something to think about, I guess…
I have seen some of you venture out already, on your shiny Harley-Davidsons and various Japanese cruisers. How do you do that without a helmet? Perhaps there is nothing left to freeze. Blue faces, windswept hair, and sunglasses…what style! This must be Minnesota! How many of you trailered your bikes down to Daytona? Nice tan. Aw hell, don’t mind me, I’m just jealous.
Well, here we are on the verge of the last riding season of the 20th century. Motorcycles were created almost 100 years ago, and now we are about to see our first honest 200-mph street-legal bike: the Suzuki Hayabusa. It sure doesn’t look much like it’s predecessors. I wonder if the Japanese have bought exclusive rights to the alien technology that everyone knows resides at Area 51 in the Nevada desert? What’s next? Ion drive? Anti-gravity crash avoidance? I have read where riders testing the Yamaha R6 have said that the bike will rail into a corner with a mere change in facial expression! Soon after the turn of the century, I expect frames and engine cases made of Unobtainium, bodywork composites of carbon/kevlar/depleted-uranium, and wheels and brakes made of solidified helium for that lighter-than-air unsprung weight to keep us trading in two-year-old, obsolescent mounts for the next latest and greatest, ad infinitum.
How many people are waiting out 1999 to purchase their new motorcycle in the year 2000? I am, but my motivation is purely financial–I don’t have the cash this year. But I’ll bet there are a lot of folks out there who are riding the old iron one more year just to buy a two-triple-ought CBRGSXFLHZX when it comes out.
So, I have been racking my brain trying to come up with a new ride for this year. I have a wonderful CL450 Honda Scrambler which I’ve been thinking of building into a little coffeehouse screamer. Todd Hennings has a bunch of extraordinary hop-up parts designed to make these bikes into AHRMA 500-class vintage racers, and I think these would do nicely for an off-the-wall cafe racer. Polished alloy tank, hump-backed solo saddle, clip-on bars, and engine mods would make for a unique and interesting ride. Cheap insurance as a bonus, I can’t go wrong there.
Has anybody noticed all the cameras perched on poles high above all the major arteries in our fair Twin Cities? Those are for traffic monitoring only, right? Big Brother isn’t really watching you, is he? Technology really is a double-edged sword, I’m afraid. They have a thing called GATSO over in the UK that combines radar with cameras which automatically photograph your license plate when you pass them at extra-legal speeds. All you see is a flash in your rearview mirror, but then a couple weeks later you receive a ticket in the mail. How long until they implement that over here? Stay tuned.
I have been riding alone all winter, for obvious reasons, and I find that it really isn’t that bad as long as I plan ahead. For instance, if my ride is going to take me to a coffee house or restaurant, I make sure to take a good book along. Nothing is more boring than going out to eat or drink by yourself with nothing to occupy your mind while you wait for that pint of Guinness to settle, or that El Grande Burrito to arrive, (watch that plate, it’s HOT!). Much better to take old Charles Bukowski or Ernest Hemingway along for the ride. Time passes quickly when you are lost in a good writer’s words.
Finally, I have just received news that I am going to be a father. Go figure! After six years of marriage, resigned to the fact that we would have to enjoy/endure each other’s company for the rest of our lives, the unthinkable happened. How do I feel about that? Oh, let’s not go there. Fate is a very large dog who has me gripped in his mouth and is shaking me vigorously, I am merely along for the ride. I will teach my child about life from the saddle of a motorbike. What I will learn from the experience has yet to be determined. I am sure this will slow me down a bit–that’s okay. My own frame is showing signs of fatigue, and my motor doesn’t have all the compression it once did. But I swear I will resist the purchase of a minivan to my last breath!
Maybe I’ll talk to Vic about that side-hack.