Kawasaki Vulcan 900LT
Soooo many bikes, soooo little time...
Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey
Like any guy, I like to look at machines. My eleven years with Caterpillar has left me with a special appreciation for those big, brawny yellow tractors. A child of the ‘60s, I also have a soft spot for carefully restored automotive denizens from that era. A couple of months ago, I came across a pristine 1967 Corvette Sting Ray, my personal favorite, in a parking lot. I stayed there for a good 30 minutes, walking around, peering through the windows, drinking in the incredibly powerful, yet graceful lines. I couldn’t tear myself away; the owner showed up and drove away, favoring me with an understanding look. Once I got home, my wife wanted to know what took me so long. I mumbled something about traffic and long checkout lines. Somehow, I just knew she wouldn’t understand.
Even though I own a perfectly good motorcycle, that doesn’t deter me from surfing websites, checking out what else is for sale. I freely admit to a serious case of E-bay Envy.
I’ve always been a long-distance rider, preferring touring or sport-touring bikes. Now, I’ve bought my first cruiser. (Actually, my second. I dumped the first one.) It is such a different look than what I was used to. Sport-tourers are narrow and sleek. They seem to want to fly even when parked. A cruiser is entirely different; big and beefy, it’s voice a manly, hairy-chested roar when accelerating. At rest, it rumbles like a barely-stable volcano. The chrome catches the sunlight with a special gleam, those random rays of light that warm the soul of a man.
A cruiser is a brute force instrument; a chain saw instead of a scalpel.
A sport tourer’s lines are sleek, designed to cut the wind, rather than shove it out of the way. The tires are narrower, the body sleekly graceful. The engine hums, the exhaust sings a clear tone. Underway, it is light to the touch, seeking the deep corners where a cruiser could never go.
I like both types, actually. And I’m probably never going to be completely happy until I’m rich enough to own one of each, and able to quit my job and ride all day long.
I thrill at the precision of the sport-tourer as I careen into curves, balancing the centrifugal against the centripetal on a knife-edge of sheer lunacy. And yet, there’s nothing more soul-satisfying than cruising across the limitless expanse of the Great Plains at the end of a long summer’s day, racing the sunset to the horizon, the roar of that exhaust filling the emptiness.
I don’t like sport bikes. My back hurts just looking at them and their power tends to short-circuit a young man’s brains. Scooters, even though they now come with big ol’engines, are still…well…just scooters. Full-dressers, while comfortable, are still a bit too big, even the aggressive Goldwing. And trikes? Fugeddaboudit. Thirty grand will get you a really nice SUV. However, I do think kind thoughts about the Spyder.
That’s one of the great things about motorcycles. Everybody can find one that fits them like a glove, whether scooters, dirt bikes, adventure tourers, naked standards, hooligans, cruisers, sport-tourers, sport bikes, customs, and the touring class of two-wheeled RV’s, there’s a type for every personality.
While I do admit to a strong prejudice, we all belong to the same two-wheeled family, sharing the risks of the road balanced against that singular joy that comes from riding.
If you haven’t ridden yet, I suggest you try sometime. It may not click for you. But, then again, it might capture your senses and your heart with a grip that won’t let go.
And therein lies the trap: You may own the machine, but the machine possesses you.