by Gary Charpentier
The rider sat tall and straight in the saddle. Burbling along at a reasonable pace, he was oblivious to the five rip-snorting Ducatis chomping at the bit behind him. His mount was a mid-sixties Triumph 500 Daytona, and he rode it with a style that bespoke many years experience and an intimate familiarity with his machine. At one point, noticing the eager Italian entourage behind him, he attempted to wave them on, but the leader of those Dukes declined the offer and remained a respectful distance behind thinking, “We’re riding with The Man, Peter Egan. We shall not pass.”
For those of you who read Cycle World or even Road & Track, Mr. Egan needs no introduction. This is the guy Road & Track sent to Italy to test drive the new Ferraris! His columns are a window on a world most of us can only dream of, yet meeting him impresses upon me the fact that he is really just a gentleman gearhead like the rest of us. He’s also a great writer, of course, and some of the obscure references one finds in his columns and articles reflect an education rich in variety and depth. But deep down is a fascination with fine machinery with which his readers can readily identify, which makes him a really cool guy to talk to. I left him with a copy of this magazine (with my first column in it) and a very fine cigar, both of which he promised to enjoy that evening while sitting in his latest acquisition: an early Jaguar E-type roadster.
I met Mr. Egan at the Slimey Crud Motorcycle Gang autumn cafe racer ride. It was a perfect setting with perfect weather and a perfect bunch of people to share it with. That about sums it up. The roads around Madison, Wisconsin are a fascinating blend of curves and elevation changes all set in a bucolic agricultural scene made all the more dramatic by the season in which we experienced them. Autumn is a time of brilliant color, nature showing us its best just before bedding down for another long, cold winter. It is also the time of the harvest, which means that farm machinery can lurk around any given curve or over the top of the next hill, and large clumps of dirt and other organic matter dropped from tractor tires lie right in the middle of your apex-strafing line. Gotta be careful out there!
Several hundred bikes were on display in the parking lots of the two meeting places: Jakes bar in Leland and Sprechers bar in Pine Bluff, Wisconsin. Every genre and era was represented, with the emphasis on sporting motorbikes from Europe and Japan. There were a few Harleys, as always, and some of the “other” cruisers, but anyone with an appetite for the obscure or exotic was not disappointed at this gathering. There was no organized time or route for the run, simply a map with the two “marshaling areas” and a maze of tasty routes in between&emdash;all the better for variety’s sake as well as for keeping the local constabulary guessing.
As things began to wind down for the day, I adjourned with Gene Rankin (who was riding his gorgeous DB-2) back to Jakes Bar to get acquainted with the members of SCMG and learn a bit of the history of this august group of motorcyclists. It seems that the Slimey Crud Motorcycle Gang was hatched by a group of graduate students at UW Madison as a way to share their favorite pastime with like-minded individuals. The name itself was selected rather tongue-in-cheek, making fun of the biker-mania which was prevalent in the popular media of the time. These gentlemen are neither mother stabbers nor father rapers, however their idea of a good time doesn’t always agree with the strict definition of law and order. Membership is a hazy affair, as there are no “colors” to speak of, and my host Gene was even uncertain of his status, though he had been “hanging around” since the second meeting way back in, well, a long time ago, anyway. Everyone I met who was associated with this group would be a fascinating interview in his own right, but they all had places to go and… you know. I have promised myself I will visit them again. I believe they have another ride planned for the first Sunday in May. Anyone care to join me? GaryCfirstname.lastname@example.org