Monday, June 15, 2015

The Practical Motorcycle

No-one wanted it.  No-one.  It sat, unwanted, for a year and then another.

The reasons were many.

It was designed to be a practical motorcycle, and really, who wants a practical motorcycle in America?

A motorcycle that is described in reviews as "comfortable" and "respectable" and "nonthreatening?"  A "good buy for the value customer?" That comes in a color that was intended to be the Rommel-esque "Desert Khaki," but that could be just as easily described as "tan" or "beige," the color of your grandparent's '69 Dodge Dart?

This will not appeal to the young and testosterone-addled, or the receding-hairline mid-life crowd.  We want our rumbly Hogs or our screaming crotch-rockets, the "lifestyle choices," bolsters to our market-anxious egos, a sign that we are loners and rebels and born to be wild for payments of $249 a month.

Oh, sure, it was fast.  The one thousand thirty seven cubic centimeter engine that throbs under the tank was derived from the legendary TL1000S "Widowmaker," notorious from a decade ago.  It was a motor whose power so overwhelmed its chassis that even the most experienced riders would be thrown high-side like drunkards from a mechanical bull.  But designers corralled those wild horses and that snorting torque with an excellent chassis and suspension, antilock and traction control.  It is swift, but not wicked.

It was also not expensive, not ever, and from a brand that bears no aspirational provenance.  They make quality, competent, great motorcycles, sure.  But their competence is real, and less about brand identity.  For better or for worse (really, for worse), it's not a marker of wealth and success, a way to peacock your prowess to the world.

It was quiet, in the sort of way that if you fire it up on a Sunday morning to go to church, the neighbors won't even notice.  That great big stock muffler means no babies will be woken.  It's just so very civilized.  Polite, even, like Brando after a particularly productive anger management class.

And it was a little ugly, a peculiar beaked goony-bird of a bike, looking for all the world like one of the Skeksis from Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal.

So there it sat, swift and comfortable, perfectly capable of doing just about anything one could ever want.  Commuting?  It's just perfect.  Riding to California tomorrow with your wife on back just because?  Absolutely, if you inhabit the alternate universe in which she's up for that.  Light-duty off-roading?  It'll do that.  Embarrassing Corvettes and Mustangs?  Sure, if you're in that sort of mood.  It is a motorcycle made for riding.

But still, no one wanted it, as the price was slashed again and again and again.  There it lay among the shinier bikes, like sweet little Corduroy on the shelf, overlooked and sad and missing a button.

Which is why I just had to bring it home, because...having counted what I saved in my piggy bank...I knew it was exactly the bike I've wanted.