Saturday, January 14, 2017

Of Cars And Bikes

When I started this blog I had not intended it to become solely about the Mustang. The concept of Motorosophy was to examine transportation devices with a philosophical bent. The Tungsten Gray pony provided a wonderful foundation upon which to examine a number of things but I do have other interests. While I have always been a rabid car enthusiast, in recent years I have become enamored with motorcycles.

On the surface they are both transportation devices but things quickly diverge. A motorcycle exposes you to the world while a car provides a cocoon for you to pass through it. There is little I enjoy more than the feeling of a tight car suspension generating g forces through a turn. You might expect that a two-wheeled bike would be even more thrilling. I suppose for some people it can be but in my sphere of observation they are actually two very different experiences.

Though I began my vehicular piloting at an early age with a mini bike and later a Honda Z-50 I was never particularly fascinated by motorbikes. The entire time I had the little machines I really wanted a go-kart with four wheels. Once I finally reached driving age cars took over and I paid little or no attention to anything with two wheels. The problem I had was that I didn't ever really understand motorcycles or what they offered. Decades later I inexplicably turned the corner in my thinking, purchased one to 'try' as an experiment, and never looked back. With quite a few miles under my tires it is still difficult to put into words just what it is about bikes that is so compelling. Riders will, however, nod in silent agreement as I attempt to relay the open feeling of being a part of the landscape I pass through. It is a unique feeling of freedom, combining the natural world with the sensation of speed. Operating a motorcycle is even more of a dance with the controls than in a manual transmission car, and thus more engaging. The brain needs to 'run in the background' more with a bike than with a car and because of this many of us find riding therapeutic. There is more to attend to and concentrate on while riding, yet most of it takes place in the background of the brain. It is an oddly cleansing experience mentally. I may return from a ride physically tired but mentally it is as if the cobwebs have been vacuumed from the corners. I'm not sure what other tasks in life offer the same cleansing feeling.

Choosing the right machine is a difficult task. The thing about bikes is they come in a variety of formats, each with capabilities and restrictions. Couple to this a frequent limited adjustability, and what I mean by this is that a bike needs to fit your physical self. You cannot typically move the seat, handlebars and pegs to suit your physique. There are aftermarket options of handlebars, seats, lowering kits and so on but they can be a frustrating hit-or-miss solution. The best route to happiness is to find a machine that fits you as it sits as well as one best suited to the tasks you intend to ask of it. Long distance touring will require different bikes than outright speed or dirt road capability. There is no single machine that will do it all well, though there are some that can do several things with a level of competence. The expensive truth is that with bikes you will need more than one to fully enjoy multiple styles of riding.

Much as I did with S197 I eventually settled on a motorcycle that has classic good looks coupled with modern reliability. Everything that drove me to a modern Mustang applied to my eventual purchase of a 2008 Triumph Bonneville. To my eye no other bike exhibits the look of what a motorcycle should look like as does a late 1960s Bonneville. It is the perfect machine just as a 1968 Mustang fastback is the quintessential muscle car. My 'modern' Triumph shares nothing with the original other than the silhouette but it also works flawlessly. With a few changes (exhaust, fork gaiters, tail lamp) I never tire of looking at it; it looks 'right'. Also like S197 I find it an absolute joy to ride. It handles decently, has adequate power and is surprisingly comfortable. If I were to have only one bike it would be this one, just as if I were limited to just one car it would be the Mustang. Both conveyances fit me perfectly, do what I need to do without being boring and continue to draw my eye. Another brilliant blending of the past with the best of the present day.