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The Ride of yourLife

By Joshua Dowling, Sydney Morning Herald Motoring Editor

  1. Mouth
    The ride of your life
    By Joshua Dowling, Sydney Morning Herald Motoring Editor

    Each time a motorcyclist sets off on a...
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  1. Who could possibly not approve of making riding safer?
    BUT there is another side, not to say facets to this, the human impact based on real road life experience:

    Picture this :
    The year is 1975. A young 19 yr old German works for one whole year on a farm in outback Canada in order to save up for the big dream -owning and riding a dark green metallic Honda GL1000 his mechanic mate is selling. He's fitted her with bikini fairing and ace bar to copy those of their idols on the race tracks. It made the handling of the bike a bit unstable, but bar dampers helped to counteract the wobbliness. And, hey ,she looked the part..follow pride and pleasure when he takes her home, for her maiden voyage and the first of many shared trips from exotic places like Imatra in Finland to the TT's on the Isle of Man. Hundreds of bikes from all corners of Europe would come together here,with so much chrome to dazzle the onlooker. Young fullbearded men, roughnecking and camping, with their bikes, would outdo each other beautifying their dream machine with even more individualistic bling - safety aspects not even given a HINT of a thought.
    It will be another year, before we have to wear helmets by law, on hot summer days we and some girl we managed to pick up, ride carefree, hair blowing in the wind, Easy Rider style. Alcohol is flowing freely, not always are we entirely sober when riding home. Mild and serious crashes, maiming or death of someone we know are the order of the day, the police resignates, mothers hope their sons grow out of this, very soon. The Wild Ones...
    I still don't know how this happened-perhaps many drinks too many- but suddenly one evening, I find myself off bike and in a deep watery ditch, slowly sinking and my closed helmet gradually filling with silty water, so my mate tells me later. He managed to rip off the vizor and yank me out of the foul smelling broth..
    The only time I've seen my father's face turn as white as a sheet was, when I asked him a week later if he would lend me money to repair my bike to get it back on the road as quickly as possible ...

    Somehow most of us survived the first wild years, no heroism in this just pure bl.....dy luck. Most stepped back a bit from riding, when marriage was swiftly followed by the arrival of the first offspring. Most of the very few girl riders in our gang never got back on their bike, once they were faced with motherhood.
    Only gradually did we re-form old or new connections, and we have all grown a bit more sensible and responsible by then. Some of us were still surprised by drivers suddenly pulling out at a cross road.
    Traction control? ABS? A bit of experience but mostly luck, decent , thick made to measure leathers and a good helmet were then the only chance of surviving that more or less injured.

    Fast forward three decades.

    Still riding same old Goldie. Marriage was dissolved long ago, kids are grown, some partners stay longer than others in between longish solo stretches. When jouining mates for a ride round the block, they keep nagging me to upgrade to keep pace with FJR,s, newish Harleys,Hondas, Suzys and even the equally 'old' -"vintage!" I shout -Honda CBX 1000...

    I bump into an old, puppy love from 37 years back, we had shared one or two rides on my very first 50cc Hercules, but, against hopes, nothing more had come of it. Then. The very first girl on my very first bike
    Yes, we were both free to go for a coastal ride the next day. A friend would lend gear provisionally, even a well fitting helmet was found and off we roll into the sunset, on Goldie.
    Over the next months she takes us across the Continent, once my new old soul mate and I agreed on taking her for a thorough going over including expert carburettor adjustments, undertaken by her first owner, aforementioned mate who sold her to me and who's been keeping bikes running from his bike mechanic's workshop for well nigh forty years now.
    Okay, so her frame has become a bit shaky, and she doesn't like hot weather, I've to remember to hit the radiator fan switch regularly on our trips and to zero the fuel gauge after filling up. Regular Air pressure, oil and water checks are ritual. The riding became honed to conservative, as Goldie takes a bit of time to get from 100 to 0, especially with two and fully loaded. Better keep a bit of space between us and the rest of the world, we are in no rush, anyway. And 160kph on the Autobahn, gobbling the last miles home is quite enough, our fate in the palm of our maker, anyway.

    Three years on in 2011:

    To much hype there is the launch of a new German six cylinder touring bike.
    The local dealer is another pal from the old days. "Why not give her a spin round the block?" We laugh " You know we are happy enough with Goldie"...although....if we have another say 15 to 20 years of riding,together...perhaps we should start scanning as to what is available nowadays. We go and test the Pan...nice bike, but, well the Gwing is ok, too, isn't she.
    Okay, let's take that sechser and see if it delivers what it is cracked up to do.
    Hmm, not much chrome or bling but she looks okay...kind of german, solidly-sensible rather than really beautiful, lacks the classic beauty of the Goldwing...well, in shape a daughter of her time. Not much to see of the six engine.

    Pillion sends rider for a solo spin to get the feel of the machine.

    Face is beaming when returning. "God, it's unbelievable:handling, banking, BRAKING... This is the first bike other than Goldie I feel immediately at home in"
    ABS, Traction control, different ride modi, bum and grip heaters.."Sounds almost as extreme as the GL1800, I might just as well get into a car!" sneers pillion, but gets on for a flight across the 100km home run. Yes, this is a different world, not just 0 to 100 but equally from100 to 0.
    "Yeah, okay you are right. But be fair, there is 35 years of technological development between Goldie and this newfangled thing. And you are expected to pay a fair bit for all this Safety packet malarky plus all the other stuff you never knew you needed or wanted. What about all this Motronic stuff? Don't you get to rely just a bit too much on that and not enough on your riding skills? How long before those are not longer repairable, forcing you to buy another bike? We know what is already happening with cars, this is car technology in a bike.
    Then teething problems -you are bound to be a paying test rider with a new concept bike with so many gizmos.......but -how about hiring her for a week and taking her for a tour to the Harz Mountains?" Said and done. Follows endless 'sechs" pillow talk.
    And three weeks laterwe strike a deal between the two of us, as good as but more substantial and fun than a wedding ring...entering this three way relationship open eyed, with only few illusions left..at our age. " I didn't want to waste time in waiting for xxxx(company) to perfect the machine" as one fellow owner put it.
    "But never, ever let go of the old lady. She will still be repairable long after the newcomer on the block has had the last of her possible software updates done to her."

    We take Goldie out for less arduous homely runs. "God, isn't she shaky!...A novel experience, having to engage BRAIN again, speed and the more aggressive riding style on the six are toned downed to suit the lesser braking power and stability of Goldie.
    "Yes, but I don't mind once in a while this more relaxing way of riding. Good to see that you've still got the skills of traction control and can assist the braking and Goldie's winter bum heater (Black thick Sheepskin) is just as warm..." Pillion sees less of the action but feels more shielded from the elements.

    Two worlds at opposite ends of bike universe, both have their merit.

    Admittedly, for longer trips we would reluctantly return from a time and place of incresed safety features despite...well, that would fill another book.
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