Jul 3, 2006

Harley Bashing 101

Buy a Harley
Ride the best
Drive a mile
Walk the rest.

Truer words were never spoken. And before I turn an entire chunk of you guys against me because I can't stand Harley Davidson and their piss-poor quality product, I'll stop, but right after I say this: If you're going to buy a motorcycle, do your homework, don't let your little head and/or popular opinion think for you. Check out their quality, ask mechanics for the truth, and look at the fit and finish. REALLY look at it. Then, look at Honda and Yamaha and Kawasaki and Suzuki and BMW and Ducati and Moto Guzzi and Triumph, and see how much more bike and how much more QUALITY you can buy from ANY of them, for a third the price.

Kay, I'm done Harley bashing.

Still with me? Cool.

There is nothing in the world like riding a motorcycle. Nothing. I've heard people tell me that it's like flying a private airplane. I've had people tell me it's like driving a personal watercraft. I've heard more comparisons and more metaphors and more words on the subject than you could imagine. None of them come close.

If you don't ride, you owe it to yourself to find someone you trust at least a little who owns a motorcycle, and you need to ask them to take you out. I don't mean ask the squid down the street with his new Ninja ZX12 with eleven miles on it who has ridden for exactly four of those eleven. I mean ask the older guy or gal who has his/her head screwed on tight, who wears a helmet and protective gear. Ask the guy with the Goldwing, or your lady neighbor who rides the big BMW touring bike. Ask them, and see what it is to ride. All a kid wants to do is prove how big his dick is by scaring you. An adult will show you the REAL experience of riding.

I often tell people who ask me how a bike is different from a car that it's as different as night and day. Driving a car, I tell them, is the same as sitting in your living room watching the television. In your car you've got big glass squares all around you, showing you things. The inside of your car is soundproofed quiet, and comfortable. You've got air conditioning turned up, the radio is playing music at you through a sound system better than most people have in their homes, and you can't hear a thing from outside. All you're doing is sitting at home in your easy chair with your coca-cola in easy reach, and you're talking on the phone watching television. The difference is that you're zoned out moving at 70 miles an hour.

A bike takes you out of that environment (bike people call cars 'cages,') and puts you IN the world.

Did you know that the temperature changes outside as you travel across different areas? And I don't mean checking your rearview mirror for the outside temperature, I mean that you can FEEL the air temperature change, sometimes drastically, sometimes as fast as one block to the next. You can smell things outside. Imagine that. Imagine riding past the neighbor's house and smelling that crisp green smell of his grass as he cuts it. Imagine smelling pine trees, hot asphalt, salt water breezes, everything, all the time. Did you know that if you're following a cage driver who is smoking you can even smell their cigarette or pipe smoke when they blow it out their window? True.

Driving a car involves you sitting still, facing forward, turning a wheel in your hand that has hydraulic assistance to make it so pitifully easy that a four year old could steer your Lincoln. Your gas and brake pedals sometimes aren't even hooked to the carb and brake shoes anymore, it's all done by computer and fly-by-wire, all power-assisted so it takes a feather touch. You are as removed from the real process of operating your vehicle as it is possible to be and still be considered driving it.

A bike requires that you work with it. To steer a bike you don't simply turn a big round wheel, you have to push the handlebars, you lean your entire body with the bike, you maintain your speed and position with all of your body. You and the bike are one thing, working toward the same goal. You feel the wind pushing on you, you push forward on the bars and the bike leans over into that beautiful curve, and you hammer on the throttle, the bike roars and you lean wayyy over to help her around, and then you're at the apex and out, smoothly roaring along. It's as sensual as a dance.

Most any motorcycle when tuned and ridden properly can outperform most any car on the street. We as motorcyclists are more nimble, faster, and more accurate than you. We can ride three across in the same lane that can only hold one of you, and we can cut turns far faster and more accurately than you can. We can vastly out-accelerate you, and in most cases we can even outbrake you. And all for far less cash than you forked out for your cage.

Riding makes you learn, too. Riding shows you just how careful you really have to be when you're on a road, if you're on a bike or in a tank. It makes you humble, and builds you up beyond anything. Riding makes you live again.

Riding is not for the weak of heart, nor for those who want to ride on pretty days only on the weekend. If you need to buy a trailer to carry your bike around you might as well not buy one. Fair weather riders are asking to get hurt. If you want to ride you make riding your all. You throw your heart and mind and body into being the best you can be. You ride often so your skills are second nature, and you ride well because that makes all the difference.

And when you do that, riding is the only sort of heaven you will ever find. It will fill your eyes and your heart and your mind, it will expand your universe ten thousand fold.

And you'll never want to stop.


Nancy Dancehall said...

This is an incredible essay. This coming from someone who's never ridden (who now suddenly wants to. :-) )

Vulgar Wizard said...

You gotta give a nod to two negatives, Papa . . . one, you could smell a skunk, and two, cars don't require wet suits. BUT that's it. There are not more negatives. Just skunks and rain. P.U.