The other week I happened to be at my local KTM dealer buying some consumables for my dirty bike. Said KTM dealer also happens to be the new Kawasaki dealer in town. As luck would have it, there happened to be a test ride day coming up on the weekend. So I was informed. "Anything you would like to try mate?" "We have pretty much the whole range of roadies available" Now at this point in time I have a confession to make. In the dim distant past, I have to admit that I actually owned a cruiser. Not only owned one -but actually quite enjoyed riding the thing. Which may came as a bit of a surprise to anyone who knows me or has been on a bit of a jaunt through the hills with my good self. Now the truely surprising part, my cruiser ownership occured simply due to the fact that I saw this particular bike ride past my work & I thought it sounded cool. Not only did it sound cool -but I thought it looked pretty cool as well. As cool as a Yamaha XV 750 special could look anyway. That was it. I had to have one. As you can tell, it was a totally rational, balanced & considered decision. Not. Just like every motorcycle buying decision should be. In my opinion. How does this relate to my tale you ask? Well, sitting in the middle of the showroom was a cruiser that just happened to catch my eye. A metallic lime green VN900 custom to be precise. Complete with 21 inch billet front wheel as all good cruisers should. "Is the VN custom available?" I ask. "Yes it is. See you 1pm Saturday then?" Done. Saturday arrives & I find myself with helmet, jacket & gloves at the dealership. Fill out the paperwork & sign it without reading a word of it -even though it most probably entitles Kawasaki Heavy Industries to my house, right arm, left testicle & my first born son should anything go awry during the test ride of their precious metal. Better not to know anyway I reckon. More likely to make you nervous. Listen to the speech about the 3 second gap rule, don't pass the ride leader blah blah blah blah. "Ready to go then?" I heard that bit So I start looking for the key. Hmmm. Not in the top triple clamp. Look some more. Not in the instrument cluster on the tank. So where is the little bugger? Under your left thigh. Thats where. The most logical place you could imagine is it not? Not in my imagination it's not. Thumb the magic button & she settles into a nice steady rythmic idle. So far so good. Engage first gear. Well I would if I could find the friggen gear lever. Look down. OH MY GOD. THERE'S NO FOOT PEGS EITHER. Someone must have nicked them when no one was looking. Quite by chance happen I look fowards in the general direction of the front wheel. And bugger me -there they are. Why someone would intentionally place footpegs way up there where the front axle on a normal bike resides is quite beyond me. It must have something to do with comfort I tell myself. I certainly don't remember them being there on my mighty Yamaha XV let me tell you. With that small dilemma sorted we are finally under way. Ease out the clutch & she surges foward. Well sort of. Eases foward is probably a fairer & more accurate description. Run up through a couple of gears and settle back for the ride. Hmm -not too bad at all. The sun is shining, the grass is green & the birds are singing. Then the traffic lights ahead turn red. Everyone starts to slow so I reach for the brakes. Give them a nice gentle squeeze as per normal on any other bike I have ridden. Not a lot seems to be happening in the retardation department. Squeeze a bit harder. And harder. And harder again. HOLY CRAP WE'RE NOT GOING TO STOP IN TIME CAPTAIN. FULL REVERSE THRUST. In cruiser speak this means apply rear brake. So I have learned. Post ride mind you. I manage to split the gap between the ZX6 & ZRX1200 & come to a halt about 3 feet into the intersection. If I were a smoker I would have called it quits right there & then & stopped for a ciggy. Or ten. But not for me. I am made of sterner stuff than that. Slowly the heart rate returns to something resembling normal. I ignore the strange looks from my fellow test riders & we continue. Sedately. Until the first real corner comes into view. A nice smooth 35km/hr marked constant radius corner. This time I am prepared. Brakes are applied with plenty of real estate still between myself & said corner. Postion myself out near the centre line & gently ease the VN over on her side & aim for the apex. BUT WAIT -SOMETHING HAS GONE HORRIBLY WRONG. Well thats what I thought had happened. I honestly believed this brand new Kawasaki VN 900 custom had suffered some sort or catastrophic mechanical failure. Why you ask? Judging from the ungodly sounds of metal being ripped from the undercarriage of the bike & the most magnificent fireworks display trailing behind the bike (as later described by the two riders following), that was the only logical explanation available at the time. Combined with the bucking & lurching of the bike as we headed alarmingly close towards the centreline & oncoming cars, I honestly thought my time was up. But there turned out to be a far more simple explanation. Confirmed somewhat by my foot being dragged from it's perch & ending up flailing wildly somewhere out behind me. Yep, you guessed it. We had run out of cornering clearance. At the mind blowing speed of about 40 km per hour. In a 50 km/hr area. In the middle of town. I honestly do not remember my mighty XV displaying any of these alarming traits. Well at least I now had plenty of room to myself, as all the other test riders in the group positioned themselves as far as humanly possible away from the lunatic riding the metallic green instrument of death & destruction. Any thought of enjoying the rest of the ride evaporated instantly in that one small moment of sheer terror. I could not wait to get off the thing. So I resigned myself to the most humiliating position of any group ride. One spot fowards of the tail end charlie. Only those who have ever been there themselves can truely understand. As I now do. I now have some questions. How the bl00dy hell do you people ride these things? Where does the enjoyment come from? I now have great respect for those that mange to pilot these clearly dangerous but beautifull two wheeled conveyances without inflicting horrendous damage to their bikes or themselves. What has happened to progress? I clearly remember being able to chase the sport bikes of the same era on my 1981 XV 750 without risking life or limb. Even if the sport bikes of the day were only GSX 750's, XJ 750's, GPz 750's & the like. It is beyond me that a manufacturer in this day & age can produce a bike that has no power, no brakes & no cornering finesse as long as it looks pretty. And that people are obviously buying them Please somebody point me in the direction of something that I can test ride that will restore the rose coloured memories of my younger days tearing around the countryside looking & feeling someone out of Easy rider. Please pretty please.