I guess what seperates bike-riders from bikers, is that bikers ride out of passion.
Riding is a lifestyle choice not a mode of transport. Two-wheels defines us, and what we ride is a reflection of who we are – or at least who we want to be.
I’ve been riding all my adult life, and my biking has evolved from being something I do for pure riding pleasure; the adrenalin-rush of speed, the grand entrance, the noisy departure – to something I also do to be part of something – with friends, or, to escape from the world – into the purest possible space… Space that’s single-minded, and all mine.
…Something I control in a complex world. My passion. My waste of time & money, on things I want, and not things I need.
…Something that friends stop questioning, and assume I will do without reason. I’ll ride when I could drive, get wet and cold when I could be warm and dry. I arrive and leave when I want (but don’t expect me to be able to bring anything). My clothes need to work when I’m operating machinery – at speed – with sturdy boots, thick denim, and the protection of a leather jacket, with a non-fussy haircut that defies the abuse of hours in a crash helmet. Kiss goodbye to gelled hair, ironed shirts and soft shoes. (…and good riddance)
As I get older I get slower, but somehow quicker. This quote from Colors maybe says it all?
There are two bulls standing on top of a mountain. The younger one says to the older one: “Hey, pop, let’s say we run down there and fuck one of them cows?”. The older one says: “No son. Let’s walk down there and fuck ’em all”.
I know what I want, I have a better idea of how to get it, and I’ll make less compromises and suffer fools less gladly, and when it comes to my bikes, and my biker friends, other things often take a back seat. Right at the very back.
The core components of my biking nirvana are timeless beauty combined with practical quality. What looks right is right, where practical engineering seemlessly meets iconic design. I’ve moved on from stupidly fast and high tech bikes, to surprisingly quick and low tech, but low tech that is still at a level with most people’s actual riding ability.
What good is a BMW S1000RR to anyone on normal roads? …a 200mph bike tamed by traction control and ABS that can only be ridden safely by the inexperienced with all the rider aids tuned up to the max.
Yawn. It’s souless, uninspiring and ultimately useless. Even the ‘exciting’ new Ducati Panigale Superquadro engine will only work because of the advances in ECU-controlled fuel injection. Put carbs on it, and it wouldn’t even idle. Like the Eurofighter: Turn off the computer and it’s not aerodynamic enough to even glide.
So, where am I today? I’ve joined some of my wiser friends in the world of the timeless bike. The cafe racer / flat tracker / streetbike – whatever you want to call it. It’s all about the simple basic bike, with no sell by date……Like a cartoon motorcyle drawn by someone who knows nothing about bikes, except how they should look.It’s a vehicle of cliche parts; a twin-cylinder, finned, aircooled engine with twin exhausts either side of the wire-spoked rear wheel, mounted on twin-shocks, fronted by a round headlight and white-faced analogue clocks – and nothing attached that doesn’t need to be there.
Oddly enough my ‘old school’ pride and joy was born a little late – in 2009 – a Ducati Sport Classic 1000, but it’s air-coooled, tube-framed roots begin with the Ducati 750ss and the eras of Mike Hailwood and Paul Smart. I could have been more of a purist and got something more fragile, with skinny wheels and a couple of oil leaks, but I’m not ready for that just yet.
I’m very drawn to those gorgeous 70s and 80s conversions of Japanese and European bikes from the likes of Sprirt of the Seventies, Wrench Monkees, Untitled Motorcycles, Deus and Co, and would love to own something so precious and bespoke…
…but what really counts is making your ride your own.