by Victor Wanchena
Being on the outside edge of middle-aged and having settled into the predictable enjoyment of large touring bikes, it is rare these days, too say the least, to catch me on a real sport-bike and my friends like to remind me that my wife’s R65 doesn’t count. As time and riding habits have changed, so have the bikes that I own and ride. High power-to-weight ratios have been replaced with comfortable seats and full-coverage fairings. It really wasn’t a conscious choice, more a steady progression from the energetic enthusiasm of youth to the easy chair practicality of age. So it was with a slight amount of trepidation that I took to the road on this month’s road test, the Moto Guzzi V11 Sport. Any misgivings about a sport-bike and me disappeared rapidly, as did the horizon in my mirror and by the second tank-full in the midst of a long lakeside sweeper I “got it”. By that I mean that I understood the appeal of the sport-bike to a rider. The power and handling wrapped in a sleek sexy package, it makes sense when you are in the mood for a spirited ride.
This got me thinking, what other varieties of two-wheeled fun have I forgotten or do I not understand? The fact is there are a few. Like many riders I have painted myself into my own motorcycling niche. And as is inevitable in this sort of situation I have become so focused on my favorite flavor of riding that I became blind to the rest. It is easy to do in my curmudgeonly state and consequently I forgot the reasons why there are so many flavors. Instead of looking at a sport-bike and seeing a two-wheeled amusement park ride I would see an over-powered torture rack. Cruisers were underpowered, four ibuprofen loud, look-at-me machines and retro bikes made me think, “Wasn’t crappy enough for you the first time?” I had quite a lot of pent up motorcycle misunderstanding. If I was in therapy (like many of you I think riding is all the therapy we ever need) I would have made what is known as a break through. I realized what I was doing wrong and moved past it at 85 mph with a peg scraping. My newfound appreciation reminded me of what a wise friend of mine has often said, “That’s why they have 31 flavors, not everyone likes vanilla.”
With my fresh outlook on the many genres in motorcycling I continued on. But where to go? Without some moto-bigotry, what would I do for humor? Who would I complain about? Every silver lining has a cloud attached to it. I am now faced with a dilemma. I certainly don’t want to slight any of the many fine ways to enjoy motorcycling. No, the break through was far too important and besides my new therapist wouldn’t allow it. But on the other hand, I have far too much fun maligning riders and bikes that don’t fit into my scene. Would I be consigned to a life of ignorant moto-bliss? Maybe I could pick one genre, like choppers, and lament their place in the world? No, my now enlightened state wouldn’t allow it. Alas, I realize that there is no going back. Maybe this just the last throws of my youth escaping and with years and patience I can foster my inner curmudgeon back to the surface.
So this month ride fast, take chances and do it with an open mind, for now.