Motorcycles Vroom Vroom
Motorcycles. They've been a part of my life from the very beginning. I started riding when I was 5 years old and along the way ridden on my Dad's bikes. He had a string of Triumphs and Harleys on the road and always had Japanese dirt bikes, Honda mostly.
So it's only natural that I started riding. My first bike was a tiny little 50cc Italjet, a scaled down dirt bike from Italy with an automatic transmission. By automatic, I mean it was a "gas it and go" like a moped. It looked just like a big bike, but smaller. I ran that little thing to death and loved every minute of it. I would only stop for fuel and a drink of water. Well, and dark because it didn't have a headlight.
I spent 5-6 years as a parts guy at a local Honda-Yamaha-Kawasaki dealership owned by an old friend of the family. During middle school and high school I sold motorcycle parts instead of flipping burgers. I got to hang out in the shop all the time and got a really good discount on parts. This is much like giving the fat kid 50% off on candy. I didn't get a paycheck in a conventional sense. It was more an exchange of my labor for parts. When you're in high school and living with your parents, expenses aren't too bad.
Lately, I've been obsessing about a Ducati. Italian V-twin. If you're unfamiliar with these bikes, just think hot sweaty Italian sex that you can ride to work. Something like that, anyhow. When I see one on the road, I turn off the stereo and open the window. I explain to my son that this is what a motorcycle sounds like. He's two years old, so I figure it's time he learns. You might say I have a "problem".
Walking in from the parking lot at work I spy a 748 superbike. It's fly yellow (the exact same paint used by Ferrari, on license to Ducati) and it's sitting in the same spot as the yellow Ducati ST4S touring bike that belongs to a guy that's in an office one floor below me. I'm accustomed to seeing the bulky touring bike, but this one looks like it's muscular punk little brother. Not far from the truth. Hmmmm.
The bike is obviously a war horse. It's not cosmetically perfect and looks like it has been used. The tires are scuffed all the way across. Serious. It's in fine shape, but something just tells me it's been ridden in anger and didn't complain. There's a little road grime here, a little oil spatter there. Sitting in a herd of Harleys and Japanese touring bikes in the parking lot, it looks a bit like a track star among couch potatoes. It's not a garage queen. It's just hanging out until its Daddy gets off work and then they'll go raise some Hell.
So I approach the guy downstairs and ask if it's his 748. Yup. I said that I thought the 748 was his track bike and that he'd converted it to a "race only" configuration, minus lights and street gear and with other bodywork. He said yes, that's the one. I stared.
He road races this bike on weekends at a local track. His touring bike was in the shop for a service. He "converted" the race bike back to street duty to ride for a couple of days until the touring model was ready. I asked how long it takes to convert it. "About an hour".
Ugh. To go from full-race configuration to street duty again it takes an hour. This gives you a feel for how damn aggressive these things are right out of the box. This is a race bike that's very thinly veiled as street legal, not a modified street bike. The Italians designed a race bike, then as an afterthought said, "Ah, Guido. Let's stick a license plate here, and, uhm, stick on some turn signals too. Dats a good."
Immediately I asked when he leaves work and if he would mind if I came down to check it out with him. He gave me a look that said "Uhm, are you hitting on me?" but I didn't care. He made sure he mentioned his girlfriend, just so I wouldn't get any funny ideas.
We walked out. He fired it. At idle there's a layer of dry clutch jingle and airbox gulping for air. The idle was like a serious of shots going off rather than a cooperation, like one cylinder wanted to get in line in front of the other and they were both pushing and shoving and elbows to see who fires first. He had the factory clutch cover but with no gasket, which made the clutch a little louder. If you've not experienced it, most Ducati bikes have a "dry clutch". This means that instead of being encased in a nice little sealed compartment of oil inside the engine cases, the clutch is just a basket with a bunch of dry plates rattling around in there. Because of the intense heat it generates, these plates have to fit loosely when it's cold because they expand quite a bit when heated up. I've heard the sound described as "shaking a bag of nickels" but I think it sounds a bit like rapping on a dinner plate with a butter knife. It's a clatter. It's metal on metal. Staccato. It goes in time with the engine's firing pulses, so it's like a ting ting ting ting kinda noise. Some people find it really annoying, while others wear it as a badge of honor. Either way, it's unique.
Ohh man. He blipped the throttle a couple of times and it responded instantly, ready to inhale anything in its path. Eager. Angry. It would sit and idle but it wasn't happy about it.
The further underscores The Mission. There are two kinds of race vehicles: street vehicles modified to be race worthy and race vehicles designed from the ground up.
He let the thing warm up a bit, suited up and took off. I was amazed at how quiet it was. At idle it was very aggressive, but even with the carbon fiber race pipes, once the revs come up it's smooth as silk and not loud at all. A typical 4 cylinder Japanese bike is WAY louder with a pipe. I expected a wave of noise and it was actually quite mellow. A thrum sorta sound. Like heavy strings of an upright bass in an orchestra.
Wow. The hairs on my arms stand up. I get a tingle.
I must have one. I must.
Any machines that have this effect on you?