Like I said, sometimes Mona smiles down at me from whatever place it is she lives and she tosses me a bone. Not one of those skinny, anemic bones but a bone with a lot of meat still clinging to it, a bone thick with marrow and lots to chew on.
Motorcycles are funny things. Not funny "haha" but funny "emotional triggers." Motorcycles are the very epitome of The Endless Waltz.
The Endless Waltz is the way I've always thought about riding. When you ride it's like being a tiny fast mammal in a world of huge, slow, stupid dinosaurs. You move and you weave and you dart in and out in these elegant curves and parabolas, the engine whining high notes and the vacuous stares of the cage-bound passing in your peripheral vision.
There's even different sorts of mammals out there.
There's standards, which are few and far between anymore, and are mostly the 70's and earlier bikes. They're basically flat from stem to stern, and riding one is rather like riding a sawhorse only without all the strange looks. You sit on top of a standard, and put your feet wherever is handy. You're more or less an extra, hanging about for the scenery.
There's cruisers, on which you sit IN. Most cruisers are built around a Vee shape, with the seat at the low point. Handlebars are high and wide, the tank is way up in front and tilted sharply, and if you're on a chopper then the rear tire is bigger than the ones that came stock on a 1978 Trans Am. Pipes, loud. Chrome, bright. You, yards and yards of black leather and a bug-spattered scowl that you copied from Peter Fonda.
Then there's crotch rockets.
Crotch rockets are sensual things, all bright bodywork and naked aluminum frames with massive, elegant engines shoehorned in. They are spare and sparse and for real; they're made to be fast and sexy and violent. On a crotch rocket you don't wear a jacket and boots, you have SWAG. You've got colour-matched leathers right down to your gloves, and it fits you tightly, like a second heavy skin all patterned in bright colours. It's tight so if you come off it doesn't move, doesn't tear off as you slide along the pavement, but all you know is that you look damn good zipped into it.
When you swing your leg over the little seat pad, click it into first and roll off, lifting your feet to the pegs you know you're in for a time. Your feet are tipped back under you, your knees are forward, and they're all tucked up against the bodywork, touching from ankle to groin. Your hands are very close together on the clip-ons, your butt is way back on the thin, wasp-waisted seat pad and your shoulders are low. You are very, very close to touching the machine all over. The tires are short and wide and thick, the shocks tight and unforgiving, and those mechanisms telegraph every bump and waver in the road to the base of your spine. You feel connected, as though you had some extra sensory organ rooted to you like an invisible tail that can feel the road. It is a feeling of power, of confidence and of agility. It is how a cheetah feels when it's running down an impala, and it is the sensation of a falcon diving in the crisp air.
When you're flying down the road and click down two gears, when you whack the throttle open and the front tire wants to point at the sky you tuck in, and suddenly you see why the bodywork is so sharp and formed, why the tank is so curved and high--it fits up against your stomach and ribcage and thighs and elbows like a lover's embrace, all warm and smooth and welcoming. You lower your head behind the windscreen, pull your elbows in close against your chest and suddenly you and the bike are one thing. You are a cyborg, part steel and oil and rubber and part skin and blood and gristle. And you are fast. Terribly, ruthlessly fast.
You take your crotch rocket out to a quite country road, or perhaps the rocket belongs to a friend. Doesn't matter. The engine is whining between your knees and under your hips with a sound like canvas ripping. The heat drifts up to you when you stop, but you're rolling, fast. Very fast. No stopping now. The night envelops you and you follow the bright spot of light from the headlight while the blue glow of the few instruments reflects tiny starshine off your visor. You twist the throttle, accelerate, and you tuck in tight. You embrace your lover, and you push. Hard.
When you're tucked in good, when the chin of your helmet is pressed hard against the low spot in the top of the tank made for it your tail knows you're moving fast. When you can't hear the exhaust anymore because the wind is a steady keen outside your helmet, when the landscape is a blue-black blur, when the dotted lines on the road are one single white band you know you're moving fiercely fast. The six gears seem impossibly far apart, the tachometer reaches easily for that redline. You leave one eye on the black ribbon in front of you and shift the other eye from the tachometer to the speedometer and you see that you're going faster than you've ever traveled before. You're doing one hundred seventy four miles an hour, clinging to a machine that doesn't even weight four hundred pounds.
You're going one hundred and fifty miles an hour. Over twice the interstate speed limit and the bike has more to give you, it WANTS to run, to stretch it's legs but your wrist has bent back so far you feel like you can't move it anymore and it's okay. If you crash now, if you panic or lose control you will be pulverized. You will simply cease to exist, but it's okay, you're not going to panic. The bike is steering itself now, the engine pouring out power. The muscle forces needed to budge the bike from that straight line is far more than your body could possibly generate. Steering is no more, there is simply aiming. You and the bike are a juggernaut, a rocket with only one destination: straight ahead.
It's okay but it's also terrifying because you can feel that the wind screaming over your back is pulling you, plucking at you like a huge insistent soft hand. It feels like thick fingers trying to pluck a bug off a twig, it's trying to slip into a crack between you and the steel tank, between you and the seat, to find any small place to separate you but you won't let go. It wants you to let go, it wants you to float in the still night air like a moth in bright-coloured leathers but you hold on, you clench your thighs around her waist and you tighten your grip and open the throttle more. You push yourself to the point that you feel the primate scream echoing around the base of your skull and you glance down for just a moment.
The needle is pointing at three numbers: 174.
You hang on and the road that seemed so very long just a few minutes ago is suddenly incredibly short, and you're downshifting, pulling the front brake lever and pressing hard with your right boot on the rear brake pedal but the speedometer is moving down so slowly, your speed still terrifyingly fast. When you scrub your speed down past one hundred and into the double-digits you know you've still got a very long way to go. You're still going dazzlingly fast and the cheetah wants so desperately to run, to speed up again. You feel the tightness in your jaw and your cheeks and you know you've got your teeth bared in a silent scream mixed of equal parts exaltation and terror. Before the bright red octagon gets too much closer you're only rolling again, no sign of the struggle, no roar of wind pulling at you. You coast to single digit speed and gently twist her head until she rolls around in a circle. You point her back the way you came and ease on the gas.
It's a lot longer going back. It seems to take seven forevers.
When you finally drive it back into the circle of men and women at a sedate fifteen miles an hour they can see it in your eyes. When a trembling leg kicks the stand down and you slip the other leg over the saddle and slide the gloves off they see it in the white strain of the muscles of your knuckles and your jawline. They don't laugh, they only smile knowingly. They've felt the beast pull at them, they've felt the cheetah in their muscles, felt the blood pounding in their skulls. They know, because they've been that way too.
Empowered. Dangerously close, dangerously aroused.
Post scriptum: I sold my VFR, The Strawberry Bitch II (pictured above) a year or so ago. It wasn't with her that I went to that unholy speed but I did take her up to 155 once, just to see what I could do. I decided it was time to sell her when I was taking the 45mph curve on the way home at 100mph every day just because it was So Damned Easy. So very addictive.