It was a glorious day for motorcycling today. 230 miles of twisty mountain roads, cool temps, sunshine and familiar old black leathers, with only minimal mechanical interruption. With all the headaches of business and the needs of a family, it’s hard to take long rides every week. So when I get the chance, I go at it pretty hard. Those who know me know that I am a motorcycle fanatic. I’d own 1000 of them if I could. I have new bikes, vintage bikes, project bikes and many “in between” bikes in the garage. So when a full day of hard, long distance riding is at hand, the task usually goes to the BMW. Germans know a few things about engineering. Don’t ask them about fashion or haute cuisine, but mechanical function, it’s in their blood. They must pay a lot of homage to the Mechanical Gods.
My Softail looked eager to go, but she’s great for trips south of 200 miles long. The vintage stuff, 1950 and back, that’s strictly for show or bar hopper duty. Now once I got inside the garage, PC (pre-coffee), my 1976 Triumph Bonneville just looked so awesome, leaned left on the kickstand. Real chrome headlamp and fenders, twin Amal carbs with perforated air cleaners, old school spokes and dual old school gauges. It lured me. ‘Ride me, Ride me!’ it begged. Forget that I am older than dirt, have finicky points, leak oil, have serious chain lash, kick only starting, and vibrate like an old washing machine above 50 MPH. Reliability? Who needs reliability? I have a road side tool set! The mechanical Gods will shine on me this day, was my thought.
As wild hairs go, I must have had an extra pony tail growing that day. I jump on the damn thing and after two kicks, it roars to life and I’m off, before reason kicks in. It’s 7:00 am, still dark and I’m clunking through 40 year old gears and heading north. Before I could wake up and realize what I had done, I was on my knees in a north Fulton parking lot in front of a Starbucks with the left carburetor in at least 20 pieces. Now, normally you would not expect a lawyer to be elbow deep in gasoline and carb parts on the roadside wrenching an old bike. However, I am most certainly not your father’s lawyer. Although I must confess, while I understand the finer points of internal combustion, a Leatherman and a coffee shop parking lot are not ideal overhaul conditions. You should have seen the looks from the yuppies in their spandex heading from Starbucks to LA fitness, with me in between their Jags and Benzes. I thought someone would say “My dear sir, can you please remove your greasy self from our latte experience?” I actually prayed someone would say that, but it never came. Nor did my New York accent explode into a profane rebuttal, sending Biff and Lovie scrambling to the safety of the family Lexis. At least that’s how I had it all fantasized in my brain. Just as the mechanical Gods had mercy on me and lobbed me an underhand soft ball, I was up and running in 15 minutes. A sticky carb bowl float. “TRIUMPH INDEED!” was the thought that rattled around in my brain, as I puffed out my chest and roared off, leaving a cloud of disdain for my uppity onlookers to choke on.
Once up in the mountains, it never got above 65 degrees, which as you all know, air cooled twins just love. My Bonny makes under 50 ponies, which is not a lot by today’s standards. This means you need to really use the gearbox. The average bikes today are producing 100 + horses and vintage riders have to use every trick to keep up. Acceleration on downhill grades, aggressive downshifting, clutch “feathering” in the corners. It’s tough being the oldest guy out there. Then between Suches and Blairsville it happened. Steep downhill, hard deceleration into a right hander, a handful of front brake to corner right and 30% back brake to make up the difference, and my right toe goes down and keeps going down, no back brake! Holy crappers Batman! I instinctively mash my left toe into the shifter and power shift down from 3rd to 2nd to power down with minimal skid and remarkably make the turn exiting with a tad less rubber on the rear tire. Se La Vie.
Back on the side of the road for the second time in a day. Remember, I am ‘master mechanic’ this day (or just lucky). Diagnosis: rear master cylinder, empty like a gambler’s kid’s college fund. The next car that comes by has a pint of #3 brake fluid and donates it to my cause. Hello Lady Luck. Problem is the master cylinder gasket is all torn up. That’s why the fluid leaked out. It’s not easy to find one in Atlanta on a Wednesday let alone in the mountains on a Sunday. “Hello Improvision,” the ugly step sister to necessity. I carve a new master cylinder gasket out of the folded index card I have in my pocket with my wife’s shopping list scratched thereupon. I’ve defied the Mechanical Gods twice in one day! When done, words cannot describe the elation I feel as I ride off. I want to thump my chest and scream to the world “I am a darn mechanical phenom”! I am THE MAN!! If it is broken, I CAN FIX IT! If the national debt were a transmission, I’d balance the sucker in two days!” Then reality, as it has a habit of doing, sets in. Remember, the Mechanical Gods have a way of telling you things. Don’t be too cocky.
I make it home, but my garage door won’t open. Pocket clicker, house button, car clicker, NOTHIN’! I beat out the Mechanical Gods twice today. I think I’ll take that one on next weekend. We can park in the driveway this week. Besides, I wouldn’t want to make the Mechanical Gods think I was a know it all. The truck is out of warranty, you know. Plus, I still have to go out and get those groceries.
Well, signing off for now. Remember, ride strong, ride safe, and in the end, make sure you ride home.