The Bike Made Me Do It


Landon Hall and a Norton Commando

I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I’ve met a lot of motorcyclists in my life, and I bet 75 percent of you would agree with me on this: Motorcycles can speak to you.

Some days they audibly speak: they misfire, they squeak, they squeal, or when things go really wrong, they grind, growl or just go bang. But that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about the way sometimes a motorcycle tells you something. Maybe it doesn’t even tell your brain. I think maybe it tells your gut.

The bike says, “Hey man, you need one of these.” The last time this happened to me was in July 2016. At our yearly MC Ride ’Em, Don't Hide ’Em event in Pennsylvania, we’d finished up our Sunday Morning Ride, the last of the official events for the weekend. After we helped attendees pack up and get their bikes loaded, we decided it was time for lunch.

This was to be the inaugural unofficial lunch ride. All weekend we had been riding a selection of vintage twins brought to the event by Joel Samick of RetroTours. I’d spent most of the weekend riding his 1970 Triumph T100C (dutifully named Purple Rain by ad man Shane Powers). Light, agile, simple and almost quaint, it did the job and got me around all weekend.

But the hard part was over. No more leading a group or trying to figure out where I was going. Get on a bike, follow editor Backus and see where we can find some grub. (We wound up at See-Mor’s All Star Grill in Normalville, Pennsylvania. We now try to go every year!) We all swapped bikes for the lunch ride. Joel had also brought his 1973 Norton Commando Fastback 750 for us to use (that's me with the 750 below). I’d pulled the Norton out Friday night to start it and run it around the parking lot. I was taught the kickstarting ritual by none other than Brian Slark (!) who was our guest of honor that year.

10/12/2019 9:07:56 PM

Fifty-one years after its introduction, the Norton Commando still has the power to thrill a rider on a par with many modern bikes. Congratulations on your epiphany!

10/11/2019 4:11:23 AM

I've ridden a Norton, so I know what you mean about how great they feel. But my buddy's bike had so many problems, even though it was well maintained, that we ended up naming it the "English Patient". Bikes that have really spoken to me over the years have been a Moto Guzzi V50 (old Italian police bike) and later a BMW R80/7. Made me realize speed is not everything, and that two cylinders (V, or opposed) are just right for me.

Rocky Relationship
10/10/2019 8:38:13 PM

A 1973 Fastback? Think you are mistaken; the Fastback was no longer made by that time, it was strictly Roadsters and Interstates in 73, a transitional year for the 750. I have fond memories of my Roadster, a superb machine.

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