Friday, June 24, 2011

Slip slidin’ away.

For some reason we northerners insist on being able to drive like it’s mid-summer, even in the depths of winter. And for that reason the authorities apply road salt by the tonne from December through March. (The other reason being, of course, it’s a conspiracy by the auto industry so their cars rot out after 7 or 8 years and need to be replaced more often than would otherwise be necessary.)
Fortunately there are some islands of sanity, including our township which doesn’t use salt in our area. The reason is to reduce the amount of salt that runs off into White Lake and, as a by-product, cut down on the number of deer hit while licking salt off the country roads. Instead they use sand – lots and lots of sand. Which is great on icy roads in January, but not so great on paved roads in June. And since our township is too poor to operate a sweeper, the sand can linger on the roads until well into the summer, inexplicably concentrated in corners and intersections. 
Hence this, the end result of a front wheel hitting a skim of sand in the middle of a off-camber corner.
Fortunately there was nothing hurt but some pride, a bit of confidence, and a signal light lens, but it serves as a good reminder to pay very close attention to the road surface ahead as the wrong stuff in the wrong place will put you down in an instant.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Flashback

Back in the days of my, some would say misspent, youth when I was riding Hondas, Yamahas and Kawasakis (never a Suzuki although I did once contemplate the acquisition of an ‘83 Katana) I was forever lusting after something more exotic than the ubiquitous Japanese iron.
Munch MammothFor a pure head-turning, WTF factor there wasn’t much that would exceed the Munsch Mammut (Mammoth) with its transverse 4 cylinder 1200cc NSU engine. This brute, at 550 pounds, was considered massive for the day. But compared to my Dyna at 675 pounds it’s a relative lightweight by today’s standards.
Benelli SeiIf riding an engineering marvel was more your forte, the Benneli Sei would scratch your itch. The 750cc engine was basically a Honda CB500 with 2 cylinders added. With a rated top speed of 120 mph this machine was a goer, and six separate mufflers were sure to capture any passer-by's attention.
Laverda750But up there among the illustrious Moto-Guzzis and German-engineered BMWs (this was before there was a BMW parked outside every Starbucks between here and Portland) one bike really stood out for me, the Laverda 750. In it’s finest orange livery it was hard to miss, but if you happened to be visually impaired, or busy staring at one of the “nicest people” you just met on a Honda, the sound was a dead giveaway. You have to hand it to the Italians, they do sound very well, and the Laverda was no exception, you could hear it coming a long way and there was no mistaking that twin-cylinder rumble when under full throttle. 
And what brought on this trip down memory lane?
Well today I was in the city running some errands (on two wheels, of course) and I pulled up beside a 1975 Laverda 750 at a traffic light. It has probably been 5 years since I last saw one on the road so I engaged the rider in conversation and found out that the bike was still all original. Of course after 36 years it is showing its age, but it is still a daily rider. The paint has lost some luster and he’s thought about repainting but would like to stay with the original orange. His wife hates the orange and wants to change it, so he avoids the conflict by leaving it just as it is. And when the light changed I held back just that extra few seconds to listen to the bark as he pulled away smartly knowing, I’m sure, just why I paused. Nice.