Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Centerstands

Yesterday, as my family chilled our way through a Monday off, I found that it was time for a bit of routine motorcycle maintenance.   The shiny yellow 'Strom was slightly less shiny following a few sustained jaunts through driving forty-degree rain, and while spatter and road grit add character to a bike, they really don't do much for your drive chain.

So out onto the driveway I went, and for about 45 minutes, I performed the necessary ablutions and applications of solvents and lubricant.  For the first time in almost twenty years, I found myself hiking a bike up onto a centerstand.  Not since my first ride, a '72 Honda CB750 purchased way back in my late teen years, have I had a centerstand.

I've missed it.  My last two rides were a bitty little cruiserlet and a sportbike, and both cruisers and sportbikes don't have centerstands.   The reason varies, depending on the type of bike.  A centerstand is a great big dangly thing, a mass of steel that snugs up under the chassis.  It ain't purty.

And cruisers are purty bikes.  Purty is their raison d'etre.   They're all rumble and chrome and glossy shine, with elemental lines that catch the eye as you style on by in your do-rag and chaps.  Centerstands work for that aesthetic about as well as a life vest on a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.  

Sportbikes are bellisima bikes too, but they're also shrouded in many thousands of dollars worth of plastic for the purposes of aerodynamics and attitude, and that leaves no room for a stand.  A centerstand cuts deep into lean angles on a low bike, so that's strike two.  Sportbike designers are also as obsessed with weight as a high-school wrestler, which is strike three, and means that big hunk of steel has to go.

But on the 'Strom, tall and lean and rangey as a Masai warrior, it works perfectly.  It means that I don't have to stash a paddock stand somewhere in my cluttered home.  It means I can maintain my chain and work on the bike anywhere I can find a bit of flat ground.   It's just so deliciously practical.

Almost no bikes in the United States have them any more, of course.  Bikes aren't meant to be practical things here.  America has become a binary land of sportbikes and cruisers, and gas is still cheap, and our bikes aren't transportation.  They're lifestyle statements that spend most of their lives pampered and polished and gleaming.

Nothing wrong with that, of course.  But for four season, rain or shine, day in day out riding, you just can't beat a bike with a centerstand.

I'm glad to have it back.

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