Does my sportbike have a place on the road today? (my long rant)
Life as a sport bike rider?
I pull in my driveway and my thoughts are much like the many other nights when I finally park the bike. Wow, I canít believe I didnít get arrested! In fact, I didnít even get pulled over. I wonder if itís just a matter of time? I wonder if in fact Iíve grown wiser in the way I ride or just continue to be lucky. My enigma, the question that troubles me daily sits right in front of me. I stare at it with childlike wonder. This incredible machine that makes me feel so alive. This machine that does so much more than I thought it could. Does my sport bike really have a place on these streets? Do I really have a place on these streets?
The most troubling frustration I face is that I really do love to ride. I really love to ride fast. I look down at the new Pirelliís and make mental nod with great satisfaction. I finally got to the edge of those new 190ís. The pitch fork (so appropriately molded) onto the edge these new Pirelliís is scuffed up but still visible. The irony is uncanny. Did that mean I was playing with the devil? Dancing with evil? Doing devilish things? Maybe it just means there is plenty of grip on the edge where I hung out today. Like a pitchfork into a bail of hay, I just stuck a massive corner. I managed to drag some gear and have some cool new scuffs to show for it. Of course, that is the point of the dilemma. These new scars on my gear that I admire so much means that I broke a law or two to get them. Was there another way? This incredible machine is my stress relief. Itís my double scotch on the rocks since my drinking career ended short some years ago. Without it, I wonder if my sanity would suffer?
I toy with ideas that I never had before. Get another bike and donít ever let myself enjoy this pleasure that could possibly end horribly someday. Torture myself by turning this sporty ďstreetĒ machine into a ďrace track onlyĒ bike, an option that can only be enjoyed at a greater cost and with more seldom regularity to me, or just quit riding all together?
This hasnít been a new dilemma. I have seen my fair share of traffic violations, and all kinds of interesting consequences that a sport bike rider lifestyle seems to include. Iíve had a change in attitude because of my personal evolution. Iíve grown up. Iíve started to see the futility in fighting with ďthe manĒ. Iíve recognized that 2 objects of similar mass cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Iíve learned that the larger and more stable mass i.e. cars, buses; tractors will always win in a space sharing war. 15 years of riding has made these once fleeting thoughts a quest for resolve. Every year, my bikes get faster. Every year, I marvel at the new ideas and technological breakthroughs and every riding day, and every year more frustration sets in.
I used to enjoy taking my machine from place to place, a form of cheaper and more interesting transportation. I would show up to Holidayís and family functions inappropriately dressed because my passion ran deeper than my social obligation. The thought of one sunny 70-degree day going by without riding was more inappropriate to me. I even dressed up my loved ones in interesting gear and forced them to create alternative hair and shoe solutions. Now, 15 years later, I wonder if my time has past. I never envisioned a life without riding. I still canít.
It all hit me like a sledgehammer to the head several days ago when I was scrambling to get new tires on the bike. Trying to get them on fast enough so that I am not late for one of my new ďresponsibilitiesĒ that have come with age. I was so excited to have new ďmeatsĒ. I envisioned better handling and faster corners. My heart was racing like a kid that couldnít wait to go downstairs and tear open the first newly wrapped gift Santa left just for me. A quick lava rinse in the basement laundry tub and some new clothes (of course inappropriate for the occasion) and I was on my way. Saturdayís were once the best day. A day filled with new back roads, fast food and hat head, now give way to a more mature ďresponsibilityĒ driven lifestyle. A lifestyle now filled with pre-determined routes and destination times, but hey! I am still on the bike. Out of my driveway and instantly a smile appears. I can feel it the moment I ease onto my neighborhood street. This is going to be great. I plunge the bike side to side, scrubbing the new compound into a tacky surface ready for the roads that lie ahead. My smile settles to a slightly lower spot upon my face as I follow the white station wagon to the main road at 24.3 miles an hour. I felt good about my decision not to speed past this old woman in a residential neighborhood. The same neighborhood she has probably lived for 30 years without the new aged sport bikes zooming past her with disgust. I know my time is coming. Finally, I reach the main road and not a moment too soon. Itís starting to get hot in this leather suit at these speeds. The main road, which is normally 8 divided lanes of quickly moving traffic, has been reduced to four lanes of not so quickly moving traffic. Four lanes (2 in each direction) have been quarantined off for highway workers to re-surface a much-abused 2-mile stretch of shopping, bars and restaurants. The smile is gone now but I am still resolute about getting around this temporary slow spot in my route. Several minutes of this and the sweat reminds that I should have packed an extra stick of deodorant in my tank bag. I wonder if once I reach the freeway, I will be able to cool down and let the bike return to its normal operating temperature. Lastly, I reach the Freeway. The smile starts to re-appear until I get on the onramp and notice the unusual heavy traffic in front of me. I ran through the local news in my mind trying to recall something I forgot. Was there a local event I did not remember? Was their an accident or construction I did not factor in this morning? It took another 15 minutes for me to determine that it was just another day of heavy volume of soccer momís en-route. The sledgehammer hit me again in the chest. Damn, itís always backed up nowadays. Traffic is always heavy on this road. Why did I expect any different? Maybe the excitement of new tires blinded me to the facts that I had to be on that road. I had to be somewhere specific. I quickly dismissed the thoughts of fast corners, wheelies and speed and settle into my usual thoughts. God, I hope I can just get the bike up to a speed that is comfortable to ride in. Time would prove that it was not possible today; much like the last 4 times I was able to ride my bike on Saturday. Unlike the days where satisfaction grows from the new tread lost at the edge of the tires, the same feelings existed. Does my sport bike really have a place on these streets?
So, I am left to wonder yet again. I struggle to come up with a solution. How do I co-exist peacefully with this need I have to ride a sport bike. The years have gone by and I have gotten faster but the traffic has gotten slower. I have noted the lack of patience of people on the roads today that force me to maneuver in order to survive on a bike. The ever-growing distractions of cell phones, spinning wheels, DVD players and 1000-watt stereoís erode the focus from people who would normally notice me on that little sport bike tucked between them in traffic. Of course, there are my needs also. The need I have to maximize lean angle, to learn to throw my weight from corner to corner, feel that front wheel gently loft up and down from the power of second gear. The need I have to release a weeks worth of stress and put a smile on my face that only comes from a passion I have had held since I was 12. The question is still unanswered though. Does my sport bike and I have a place on the road today?
John Temelko Ď03