Jan 22, 2009


That's what a friend of mine used to call all the things that surround motorcycling, from the swag to the bike to the specialized lingo to the shop you bought it from. He also used words like "Ducatisti," which is the nose-in-the-air term that Ducati owners call themselves by. It's easier to say than "Stuck Up Snobbish Italian Superbike Riding Barstard." But I digress. Mi scuzi.

I got to delve back into motoculture some today, as I brought Sally up to Natchitoches (about a 45 minute ride) to get her pipes put on. I knew I'd end up staying there for the time it took to do the work, so I asked for an open-ended morning off and headed out.

Now, it's been cold here, or coldish. Yesterday it was close to freezing. This morning it was more in the high 30's range, but the humidity was hovering at 100% (read: fog.) So, I dressed warm--thick socks, winter gloves, thermal shirt, jacket and jeans, balaclava. All in all I thought for certain I was ready for the cold. Well, I was wrong. I know, shocker, but it happens. I didn't take into account the wet, and I made it about fifteen minutes from my house before I realised that I couldn't feel my fingertips anymore. The wind rushing across them had simply numbed them, so I pulled over and took care of the problem. My core temperature was fine, my chest was, well, not warm but not cold, it was just that damp, cold wind passing at 60mph over my fingertips that was killing me.

I've ridden in cold weather before. I've ridden in NUMBINGLY cold weather before, temperatures below this morning's, but the dampness beat me. So, I did the best I could do. I dug in my saddlebag and pulled out my summer weight (medium thickness) leather gloves and slipped them on. Then I pulled my winter gauntlets on OVER my summer gloves. Then I held my hands down by the engine for a few minutes until the feeling came back and I drove out. Oddly enough, it worked. :)

I got to the bike shop with ample time to spare, time for the pipes to cool down before my appointment to have them replaced. Damn I'm thoughtful! I happily endured the jokes from the two salesmen because I knew it was done from grudging respect--both of them ride, and both of them were in their trucks this morning. It sometimes takes a rider to understand what a real rider willingly endures with a smile. I warmed up, heard my girl fire up and drive into the shop, and of course that was when I heard the train pass, the only train I was to see all day--with my camera gear still strapped to the bike that was now in the shop on a lift.

I don't think I gritted my teeth too loudly.

After the temptation to race in there and seize my camera passed I set about spending two hours waiting. I did so by immersing myself in motoculture. I walked around the showroom. I looked at bikes. Crotch rockets, cruisers, dressers, the works. I looked at features, tires, seats, rims and paint. I remembered with sad fondness the days when I worked in a bike showroom, when I could read the manufacturer's press releases when they arrived. I'd pore over them, learning displacements and weights and colours of the next model year months before they were on the floor. I knew every brand, marquis and model, and loved every minute of it. Today I was surprised to see models from Honda I'd never even heard of.

I looked at swag, too. I peered into the visors of helmets, tried on gloves, and examined leathers. When I got tired of that I wandered into the storage area of the shop and looked at bikes still in their crates, looked at old used bikes parked in corners gathering dust, running quietly to ruin. I ran my hands over a whole wall of stock exhaust systems removed and subsequently abandoned by customers going to custom pipes over the years, and spent some time trying to guess the make and model of the bike from each chrome setup. After a while I even wandered into the front of the shop itself, a place where I discovered something important and wonderful.

I've always encountered some bit of every bike I own, a nut or fastener or bolt that seems to have been designed to be serviced by some extraordinary Special Tool. Some left-handed propane-fired driver that the manufacturer specially designed to do the job perfectly, but I only have a socket set so I have to make do. Well, I finally had proof. Fourteen square pegboard sections lay in front of me, each with a manufacturer's logo splashed proudly across the top and screen-printed photos of dozens of Special Tools and their purpose carefully printed thereon, each fitted with Special Hangers from which the Special Tools hung. Odd things hung there, weird tools that looked like they might take an eye out along with that Yamaha Special Design Sprantenbranger Washer. Hand tools that looked like they required more than the usual number of hands to operate. Delicate instruments that looked like they could remove the seeds from a cucumber without disturbing the peel. Tools that required other Special Tools to be attached before operation. It was a banner moment.

Plus I got to watch Mike (yes, Mike the Mechanic) put the finishing touches on Sally's new pipes--tightening the last few bolts, reattaching her floorboard that had been removed to facilitate the removal and subsequent installation, and cleaning the new chrome down with cleanser and a shop towel. I got to hear the first sharp bark of those new pipes as he test-started her, pumping the rear brake pedal to make sure he'd not unhooked an important cable in the process. Then she was lowered to the cold concrete floor, I was slipping my gear back on and ready to return home.

This time the trip was taken sans most of the winter gear--the temperature, you see, had raced up to 70 in the intervening two hours. A few miles from the shop I had to stop on a quiet side-road off the highway to take my T-shirt off so I could get rid of my thermal shirt and open up all the zippered vents on my jacket to keep from sweating straight through my leathers.

The best part? After a quick lunch here I returned to work, letting the myriad images and sensations of the morning sink in. The glorious hour and a half spent on the open road. The sound of Sally, the extra horsepower and the spryness brought on by the shaving of some twenty pounds of OEM steel off the exhaust. The smells of new rubber and cosmoline that haunt even the cleanest showroom. The ring of the phone, the softly spoken words of a deal being made. The smells of metal and oil and dirt of a shop, and the noises of air wrench and compressor, tool and metal. The pleasant soreness in back and buttocks, hands and arms that said "You haven't ridden in a while and you've just spent a fair chunk of time in the saddle."

The best part? Smelling the soft brown scent of new leather on my skin, mixed with the warm green bite of Outside air, reminding me I'd been out riding.


Gordo said...

Dampness is the killer when it's cold, that's for sure. Last week, when it started to warm up here, I went out one morning to start the van and was startled to find that -16C felt far worse than -26C two days before. The dampness had started to creep in and it gives the cold an extra bite.

"Delicate instruments that looked like they could remove the seeds from a cucumber without disturbing the peel."

You, my friend, have a gift for descriptive language and it's a pleasure to come across new examples. :-)

Stucco said...

Pictures? Hello?

Irrelephant said...

*s* Thank you, Gordo. I try to pepper each post with some little something purple, something with a smooth way or a few sharp teeth. It's one of the few good traits I have as a writer.

Stucco, how about the next post? I know it's not motorcycles, but hey. Anyway, it stays so damned overcast out here that every photo I take turns out grey.