Sunday, November 2, 2008

Motorcycle mania

So, Adam (my youngest brother at 19) made it into the MTC this week without significant drama, and we had fun with my mom staying with us this week. She even made bread! I came home for lunch one day kind of randomly, and several loaves and a pan of rolls still warm from the oven awaited - it was awesome.

Anyway, my mom was asking what my ideal job would be after school since now the end is in sight. I had a few fun ideas including designing race cars, high performance OE cars, et cetera. Then the real ideal hit me - automotive/motorcycle/guitar journalist. And honestly, writing about guitars ranks far behind the other two, though I would still take it.

So yesterday was fun for me at least. First, after sending Mom off to the airport, I went to play guitar with friends Austin and Erik. It was my first time to play with a drummer. A few weeks from now our betrothed bassist will join us when his senior film project is wrapped up. It was cool, but I saw a lot of need for improvement for me. I am certainly the weakest link in our fledgeling "band." My concept for starting the band is to play whatever sort of music strikes any of us from, as I tell people, bluegrass to metal to house/trance. 

Side note - Carrie is playing with the girls in a traditionally me fashion - laying on the floor as they swarm over her. This sounds bad, but I am much better at being trampled than her. I respond coolly to the tortuous subjections of my daughters so they stay cheerful at least, if not calm. Carrie worries a bit more which lends some tension to the girls. There is something I do "better" as a parent! Yea! I have a niche!

So anyway, on to later yesterday. Last week, I went to the local Aprilia store to test ride a Shiver 750SL with my friend Will. It was a fun, fast and comfortable bike, but it left me feeling a bit cold. The steering was a bit heavy, and something was missing. I just didn't love it. I certainly liked it, but it was not a striking machine. That said, I rode a Tuono R (998 cc 60 degree V-Twin) yesterday, and aside from an ever-so-slightly less comfortable riding position due to the higher pegs, I liked everything else about it more than the Shiver. Also, aside from the cost. The Tuono starts at about $5500 more. 

Getting on the Tuono with the engine running was exhilarating before even putting the stand up. The engine is raspy and crisp. It revs quickly, and the revs fell just as soon as I released the throttle. The bike is essentially a Mille RSV sport bike shorn of its full fairing and given a single-piece handlebar raised a few inches. The chassis is largely the same, and the peg position is virtually the same. I will admit being a little nervous and shaky as I put my helmet and gloves on, putting the stand up, and kicking that sweet shifter down into gear.

As I throttled away, it pulled smoothly with the engine behaving itself at low speeds with a gentle on/off throttle transition. Tooling my way out of the parking lot saw me noticing the nice dash and learning the basic controls like the turn signals and horn - which would have been better to notice before rolling off. Pulling on to the street, the power came on smoothly and easily. Going slow is doable and natural, but a quick flick of the wrist leaves speed limit signs feeling unloved in a hurry.

I only stalled once, and I still feel like a man because the clutch is a bit more than I am used to with my bike having 1/4 the engine. So I should qualify that: I still feel like a man with a 250. I could stand having a gear position indicator so I don't have to count like most other 2-wheeling plebians out there. I feel confident I am above such banalities. When I got to my second stop sign, I made my right and saw a bit of no one in front of me and thought it a good time to feel the power of a Rotax twin. I saw a healthy multiple of the speed limit (which is certainly too low - Utah is conservative in many ways) fast. The brakes work great, too.

As I approached my first and only roundabout in my test loop, I wondered how much speed I dared carry. I stayed conservative - the bike isn't mine. Further, I want to stay married, and buying a wrecked Italian exotic could strain that status. The Tuono stayed incredibly composed and stable, but I was going slow. As I got to the underpopulated side of the freeway, I felt the urge to open a gap between me and the car ahead. So I stopped. Then I promptly closed that gap. I have read of the bike's propensity to go one-wheeled, so I leaned forward and kept it sticky side down, expensive side up. And the bike rips. When I start talking to myself aloud in my helmet, that generally means that I am liking what is going on. I was bordering on schizophrenic.

The next while was spent following other cars in light traffic, and it gave me time to notice that it is quite easy to miss the turn signal switch and honk Turret's style at random houses I passed. Turning back on to the major thoroughfare I discovered a trait I had not noticed before in the articles I have read - low RPM in higher gears and big throttle movements are not welcome here - downshift necessary. Back on the throttle, and the smile again masticized over more and more of my face. I turned back off the major road to hit a few more corners before I returned the bike to safety. The bike leans and corners with incredible composure - it feels like gravity changes direction temporarily the way it maintains stability even at healthy lean angles. That said, I had a lot more lean clearance to explore, but again, public roads and tester bike. I had a little more time in regular traffic, and I was surprised by a lack of apparent reaction from my fellow roadsharers. The bike just plain behaves and is comfortable. I has having visions of commuting, road-tripping, and canyon-blasting in sublime serenity and comfort. 

Upon returning, I was happy and sad. Happiness is obvious in this particular situation to most people with a pulse, but the sadness was that I won't be able to buy one for a while. The used prices are going down, and it sounds like even the early models have comparable performance, comfort and features which is easy to understand given the model's relatively short life thus far.

Now I will need to try the Speed Triple from Triumph before I pass final judgement on my dream future bike. As of now, I want to go Italian.


Morgan said...


Admittedly I chuckled when I read you wanted to be an automotive/motorcycle/guitar journalist. But then I read your blog...and I got through it. Now that must mean at least two things: 1) you're an excellent writer (I have little patience for anything less and would have given up if it weren’t so) and 2) you might actually have a future in it. Just don't tell Carrie I said so. I would hate to be accused of encouraging your thrill for motorbikes and guitars.

Brian said...


Admittedly I said "whatthacrap?!?" when I read the first part of your comment. Then I continued, and I laughed heartily.

I would freakin love to be a journalist about something I love so much, but the thought of taking the plunge to try to be a writer is suffocating in the manner of jumping out of your canoe into a cold water spring without testing the water temp first. If you've tried it, you know.

Carrie read your comment and laughed, too. She says she would like me being a writer about those things for two reasons. 1) Clearly, I would love being paid to dink around with stuff I love and 2) I would have some other outlet to talk about this stuff with other than her so we could have "grown-up" conversation. But anyway, thanks.

Jennifer said...

I actually like the post, too. I think you'd be great at writing about motorcycles.