|Biker Dude (2010)
by Bruce Sexauer - NOT guitar related
I fancy myself a modern guy. An evolved product of my time. I move through life with a good grip on any racist or sexist tendencies, I am into recycling and favor natural fiber clothing. My only child has matriculated from the Waldorf School program, my wife drives a Prius, and I believe that pretty much nothing mankind is doing right now is more important that getting over our petroleum based lifestyle and economy. Nonetheless, I like going around corners fast on a motorcycle, and I want to hear the exhaust while I do it. There is some evidence that I am a redneck!
Years before I was able to afford a motorcycle, I spent a surprising part of my assets acquiring motorcycle magazines. Despite an aggravating inability to memorize a single line of the poetry the school system put in front of me, I could retain the technical specifications posted at the end of a motorcycle road test in a single reading.
Before I was fifteen the man who was briefly married to my mother tried to bribe my devotion by facilitating the acquisition of a Clinton lawnmower engine powered doodlebug. This could have worked as I did accept and love the machine, but it was not enough to win my loyalty. Not even the addition of a Mini-Max hydroplane built from Popular Mechanics plans could overcome the specter of a violent drinking railroad man taking it out on Mom in a paranoia inspired jealous rage.
At sixteen I discovered Howard, a near neighbor with a serious addiction to 2 wheeled trouble. I am not sure what was in his garage, but his basement was absolutely stuffed with partially disassemble bikes. Among these was my first true motorcycle, a 1939 Indian flathead twin with 37 cubic inches. That’s 606 cubic centimeters in contemporary metric jargon, but the Indian was quintessential American iron, so I will respect it by speaking its native language. The frame had been cut apart at some point with the intention of “chopping” it to make it longer and lower, and the $50 I paid for the bike included Howard welding it back together in much the same shape as it had been. With it’s metallic purple paint, lack of a muffler or lights, a constant loss ignition system requiring a series of freshly bought 6 volt lantern batteries, and my oil soaked black jeans over engineers boots, I am sure I presented the image of evil to the parents of my peers.
At seventeen, I traded the Hydroplane for my first Italian made machine, a Capriolo 75cc street bike. This was a genuinely rare piece of equipment. In my entire experience I have seen just two, and the second required that I go considerably out of my way to see it, once I had heard it existed. At this point I had heard much of the Italian Ducati motorcycles, and I entertained myself by imagining that my Capriolo was a mini-Ducati. Certainly the Capriolo bore a passing resemblance in its styling, and in its general demeanor. Unfortunately, the transmission was not up to the quality of the rest of the machine, and I was not up to the task of repairing it.
My high school pal, Mike, was the first person I knew who tangled with a car on a motorcycle. He and his passenger had a head-on collision between his Honda 90 and a car turning left across his path. Mike survived but has lived with permanent disability. I do not believe he rode again. I am certain he never rode the Honda again because I bought the motor from his father and succeeded at putting it into the Capriolo frame. This involved cutting away the major front structural component of the frame in order to hang the engine from the backbone, and it created handing problems due to its flexible frame that are unlikely to be seen in any legally produced vehicle. And yet I survived without any physical disabilities at all!
I graduated from high school at eighteen, and in that summer I acquired a Honda CB-92, a 125cc bike styled after the emerging Honda factory road racers. This was a machine that could actually keep up with traffic in most situations, capable if over 75 mph, and also had brakes that worked. So capable, in fact, that it was able to carry me and everything I actually owned away from my mothers house and into my first attempt to fend for myself. It did not however last long enough to return me to her house 8 months later, let alone long enough to carry off again when I made my second and lasting launch 4 months after that. What surprises me most about that bike is that I have no idea what I did with it.
It was a few years till I had bootstrapped myself up to affording another motorcycle. I bought a brand new Suzuki Titan 500 from a dealer in Vancouver, British Columbia. This is the only new bike I have ever owned. He sold it to me despite the fact that I actually wanted something smaller, the 250c Suzuki X6 Hustler. I was young and not yet steeped in the ways of the salesman. Though much more powerful and sophisticated than anything in my previous experience, I never loved this bike.
I do not know how I came by my Ariel Arrow, though I easily recall how it passed from my hands. The Arrow was British made, a 2 stroke, and seemed very proper and traditional to me. It was reliable and had great character, but was quite stodgy for a middle 20’s man about town. Its personality seemed a perfect match for the fellow I was then sharing a workshop with, and imagine my surprise at discovering that he had a Ducati 250 single in his garage that he thought too sporting for his needs. We made a fair trade swap and were both happier for it.
The Ducati of my dreams, then, was called a Diana Mark 1. The differences between the Monza I had acquired and the Diana are relatively subtle to the casual observer. Externally the dimensions and engine are the same, but internally, as well some aspects of the bodywork such as the tank and the seat and the exhaust system, there are differences which affect performance and ergonomics that make the Diana far more sporting, nearly a road race bike. I wanted a Diana.