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.
Riding the Triumph all weekend had me trained on shifting on the right, so I had that down, but the Norton had an upside-down shift pattern to boot. Yep, one up, three down. Don’t mis-shift!
A few miles into our ride, we got to a clear, open two-lane road and everyone picked up the pace. It was time to see what full throttle sounded like. I opened it wide, nailed the shift from second to third and opened that throttle again. And that’s when I heard it.
Right in the gut.
That bike told me one thing, clear as day and louder than the glorious growl from those open mufflers:
“You need one of these.”
Apparently I was too busy listening to the bike rather than keeping up the pace. We soon stopped for fuel, and Powers said something to the effect of “Hey, I thought those things were fast?” My response shouldn't be repeated here. Shane Powers, ballbuster extraordinaire.
Our crew spent lunch talking bikes. Backus knows Commandos inside and out. He knew what was going on here. It was obvious. I think he even said it. “You need one of those.” Two months later I had one, but that’s a story for another day.
What ride do you remember that led you to buy another old bike? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Even better, If you’ve got a hi-res photo of the bike, send that along too. And next time a bike talks to you, listen.