A picture being worth a few words, I’ll stick to pictures.
First session; three hours.
(click to see larger)
I feel like I should be writing about the ‘new era’ ushered in today, with Obama’s inauguration. Or maybe about the end of blackest era in american politics since McCarthyism. About how history must remember George W Bush as what he is, the worst president in american history, at least in terms of negative effects and failures.
But you know, I kind of feel like that job is getting done.
Meanwhile, it’s all about me.
I’m starting my back piece at noon tomorrow. And I can’t wait.
I don’t expect to have much to post. This is going to take a long time, and we’re not going to rush it. I don’t like sitting for more than two or three hours when I’m getting tattooed (the endorphins run out after two and I start getting fatigued). This will be months in the making, then.
I don’t know what part we’re going to work on tomorrow. But the rough sketch I saw last week was fantastic. Klem understood exactly what I loved about the source drawing, and exactly what needed fixing, and nailed it all effortlessly, working together original feel with modern, personal touches. So whatever portion we attack is going to be great.
I’d intended to post something yesterday but somehow never had time. I was going to post photos, only somehow I never took any (ok, just one).
Words will have to do.
Saturday, I drove up to Concord (an hour and a half away from me) to pick up my Triumph Thruxton at Ace Motorsports (who have the best logo ever).
That the bike would be beautiful I already knew. I’d seen one just like it at a local dealer (though not for sale).
The folks at Ace (Bryan and Jim) were great, and every single person I talked to said that’s a beautiful bike.
My thruxton cane equipped with TOR (triumph factory ‘off road’) exhaust, which makes it rumble and growl. In effect, it makes it sound like a triumph, not like a sewing machine. The exhaust note couldn’t be prettier, and isn’t absurdly loud.
After doing paperwork and throwing down money, I rode off into the sunset, taking clayton road (a mildly hilly route with some nice twists and sweepers) to get used to the bike.
It’s an adjustment. My last two bikes were huge-displacement (1500cc and 1200cc), a cruiser and a sport tourer, respectively. The Thruxton is smaller (865cc), with a classic flat cafe-racer seating position. This bike is lighter, more nimble, more responsive. On the other hand, it lacks the enormous reserve of pure horsepower. It also lacks the full fairing of my old Trophy, so the sense of being one with the road – and exposed to the elements – is significant. Also my back and shoulders aren’t use to more aggressive riding position. I spend half the ride clenched up like I was hanging on for dear life; I had to will my muscles to relax. I was well aware the next day of the combination of tightness and using muscles that haven’t been in use a lot lately. Riding more, obviously, is the answer to both.
This is, I think, the most purely fun motorcycle I’ve ever ridden. It’s got it’s limitations (I wouldn’t take it on a 200 mile run, and it’s not at it’s best on long freeway blasts, not ’til I add a little bikini fairing, anyway). But as far as pure joy, it trumps anything I’ve ever been on. And given that I never do longs runs, the trade is far in my favor.
One of the things that I love about the triumph is that it invites customization. Pipes (done, though I went with the triumph upgrade, not the expensive and much louder options from predator or arrow or or staintune or others), upgraded suspension, performance mods, seats, fairings, light changes, chassis mods, etc. Given time and money,I’d add custom paint and gradually change out anything and everything. But I did replace the heel guard, just because I needed to do SOMETHING to make the bike visibly mine.
Here’s a street-fighter guard from motocyco.biz, who are incredibly cool people:
Later, I’ll get better pix to post. Kenny’s offered to take some, which insures they’ll be better than anything I can take myself.
Three ISP’s, a half dozen servers, several crashes.
It’s been a bit of a ride, huh?
And each yeah it seems like I have less to say about it.
This last year has been a fucked up ride. If you’re reading you know a bit about it. If you haven’t been, feel free to. It’s been a terrible year for me creatively; I’ve written fuck-all, and I’m not seeing that get better yet. Blogging has fallen victim to all this, but so has every other form of self-expression I have.
Here’s to a change in all that.
To all you bloggers out there, write something. Come up for air now and then. Facebook and twitter and myspace ain’t enough.
For me – I have more to say; I don’t know why I’m having so much trouble saying it.
Meanwhile, tonight I go look at a sketch for my backpiece, and tomorrow I pick up my thruxton. Speed and pain, baby.
I just put a deposit on a new motorcycle.
After looking at, and sitting on, and considering everything from retro-clasic ducatis to harley sportsters to street-fighter yamahas, kawasakis and suzukis, I fell back to a motorcycle that really, truly looks like a motorcycle.
I’m buying another triumph.
My last bike was a triumph as well. But it was one of triumph’s modern rides; clad in plastic, curvy and modern, heavy and powerful and comfortable.
Some bikes are good to ride; but others have soul.
I grew up around motorcycles. My father rode little hondas and suzukis; my aunts boyfriend rode harleys. My mom’s bosses at a local bookstore rode bmws. And I grew up trying to decide if I should get a norton, or a harley, or a triumph.
The name Triumph, for people my age, brings to mind Steve McQueen jumping fences in the great escape. It brings to mind the café racer scene of ’60s london. It was the bike of the ‘rockers’, when one imagines mods vs rockers.
The Triumph of that era was a stripped down twin, built for speed. IN it’s day, it was one of the fastest motorcycles around.
I love motorcycles. I always have. I love plastic transformer monstrosities, I love absurdly customized choppers and bobbers. And I’d collect them, if I had time and space and money, one of each type I can imagine.
Motorcycles differ from cars; cars are, almost universally, an exercise in compromise. They’re built to server several purposes at once; cargo and passengers, comfort and safety, economy and performance, reliability and affordability. Very few of them do one thing extremely well, and of those, most are race cars or work trucks.
Bikes though, almost universally, do one thing well. A suzuki hayabusa goes motherfucking fast. A harley low rider looks really cool and grunts incredibly loud. a kz650 ride trails. A gold wing goes long, long, long distances in comfort while having as much storage as a car. Harleys don’t do trails, hayabusas don’t go a long with comfortably with cargo. Sure, there are the few in-between bikes (sport touring), but they’re really one kind of bike with something else grafted onto it.
What this means is, when you buy a bike, you really need to understand what you’re getting.
I’ve spent far too much time over the last month pondering what I wanted. I knew what I didn’t want; no plastic. I knew I wanted light, maneuverable, sorty, fun to ride. I wasn’t looking at touring bikes (I never bike tour), I wasn’t looking at cruisers (when I get one, it’s going to be the real deal, a huge harley). And what I kept coming back to was the Bonneville.
The Bonneville is the triumph of my youth, without the oil leaks and kick starts and electrical problems. It’s a re-imagined version of the bike I wanted way back then. It’s my father’s bikes, but with guts and reliability.
And the one that kept speaking to me was the cafe-racer styled Thruxton.
It’s not a practical bike. It doesn’t have a nice big screen to make long rides comfortable. It’s not a relaxed upright position that would make highway miles as easy as sitting at a desk. And it’s not the fastest bike out there, the lightest. What it is, though, is the kind of bike I’ve always loved. And it suits the riding I actually do; short runs, to and from work and around town. It’s a bike you can get out just to get it out, unlike my Trophy, which always seemed grumpy until it’d been rolling at speed for 15 minutes.
I spent the last two days trying to find one. They’re something of a rarity right now, at least the ’09 version is; which isn’t surprising. Triumph’s fixed a lot little things about the bike with this rev, given it better bars, and dropped in the EFI they’ve been using in other models for years. I found one, finally, way up in Concord.
It won’t be ride-ready ’til the weekend. But I can’t wait. I need to roll.
It’s funny, I almost never get emotional over selling cars. While I bond to them well enough, I don’t name them, don’t spend hours and dollars customizing them to a fast degree.
But there are those I connect to. My jeep – I felt a deep pang of wrongness when I drove away from the dealer where I’d traded it in. NOt for my first chevy impala, nor my first or second pickup truck. Not for my mazda van (the first car to carry the ‘GURU MBL’ license plate), nor when I traded either of the vehicles that followed it. I was happen when I left my Titan in a lot and drove off in my xB.
That one, the xB, may be different when I sell it. This car, I feel something for. A desire to make it visibly MINE. For the first time EVER, I got talked into a personalized plate.
But with motorcycles it’s different. Even the first one – a completely shitty ’83 Virago 920, it seemed like I was abandoning a loyal steed. When my following bike (a Honda Shadow) was turned into a pretzel by another driver, I was as close to murder as I’ve ever been; I still recall screaming at him, me in full leathers and waving my helmet like some sort of bludgeon, screaming “SON OF A BITCH!, YOU KILLED MY FUCKING BIKE !”.
It was pure tragedy for me. Not least because of the injuries I suffered (bruises, cuts, and a severely sprained back), but because the first bike I ever LOVED was brutally killed. It felt personal.
The next bike was an FJ1200. It was a whim purchase; I wanted to go faster, to prove to myself the accident hadn’t broken my nerve. And I wanted a bike that was really different. I can’t say I bonded to it completely, and one week, when barb was pregnant with Olivia and I had two near-death-near-wipeout experiences in the same week, I decided the FJ was just too damn much bike for me at the time (too easy to go too fast). So traded it in on a Kawasaki Vulcan, and even bigger bike (1500cc), but nowhere near as fast. Even so, I wanted to keep the FJ, felt bad about walking away.
The Kawasaki was easier. It wasn’t the right bike for my needs. I had a 30 mile commute each way, and no reliable car. The bike wasn’t well set up for long rides and luggage, and wasn’t comfortable for passengers. When I sold it, I knew I was moving up to a bike I’d always wanted, in spirit at least. And I was selling the Kawasaki to my friend Chris, so it felt like it was in the family (though he turned around and traded it for a moto guzzi a month later, and then traded THAT for a BMW.
But the bike I bought was something important. It was a Triumph.
The name Triumph means something to me. My father rode, his friends rode. My aunt’s friends rode. Motorcycles were a big part of my youth. Names like Norton, BSA and Triumph were always around, as were Harley and Suzuki and Honda (those last two my father’s preference; little japanese bikes).
My father also collected and re-built british soprts cars. MG’s, Morgans, and mostly, Triumphs. We had spitfires and tr2s and tr3s. My father had these little race cars around for most of my childhood (though it strangely stopped when I got close to driving age.
I spent my youth wanting nortons and triumphs. So when I realized that Triumph had risen from the grave and was building new bikes, I started thinking, i need one.
The bike I chose – the Trophy – was a perfect commute bike. Sporty, fast, comfortable, with excellent weather protection and luggage. It was built to roam europe. And it was in one my favorite colors, British Racing Green. And I loved that bike.
The trouble with that bike was simple; it was made to run. Like a racing greyhound or a thoroughbred horse, it needed to move, long and often. But I changed my job, and my commute went from 30 miles to 3.
I had visions of motorcycle trips with friends, but somehow, none of us ever got it to happen. Too many wives, too many kids (though those don’t work for Chris; maybe just too much work or too little ability to commit). Whatever it was, we never once put together a ride. So the Trophy tended to sit in my garage, more trouble to get out than it saved me to ride it. If I’d been freeway commuting 10 miles, it would have payed out. But with my surface road, three mile commute, it actually meant my trip to work was longer, not shorter.
So I’ve had to do more maintenance than needed due to leaving the beast to sit. And I’ve never put the kind of miles on her that I should have.
I’ve tried for two years now to talk myself into selling her – and you see, I’ve now given my Trophy a gender, for the first time ever. I wasn’t quite able to get myself there. Last summer, I put several hundred dollars into maintenance, and then STILL didn’t ride all that much. The size of the trophy (top heavy, tall, not meant to tool around in and out of parking lots) makes it more work to ride. I never took it on an errand, never rode it to dinner, rarely rode it anywhere but to work.
Last month, I started soul searching. Did I need a bike at all? AM I just *over* motorcycles? Or do I need to make a choice that suits the riding I actually do?
I pondered a great deal. Because my heart’s desire isn’t the light and nimble bike I know would be most useful. It’s a Harley, like uncle Doug rode in the 60′s and 70′s. Doug was a real one percenter, a real hells angels kind of rider. And he was a hero to me, with his bad tattoos and his truck full of harley parts, and his drug dealing. He and his friends rode the bikes I had dreams about.
I don’t see Harley as today’s stupid doctors and lawyers icon. I see it as it was before that, when it was a street rod. And that’s what I really want. Bikes like they ride on Sons of Anarchy.
But that’s impractical in so many ways, despite the desire. They’re vastly too expensive out the door, and then they need another ten grand of add-ons to bring performance up and put my own stamp on the bike. And I’m back into the land of big, heavy and awkward.
So I checked down the lists of what I wanted in a rider’s bike.
Naked – no plastic nonsense.
Twin – I just like the feel and sound of a twin better than those inline three and fours most sport bikes are built on.
Price – I had to be able to afford it without breaking the bank.
Sporty and nimble – No giant cruisers. If it wast’ going to be a harley, it wasn’t going to be a big-ass cruiser.
I came up with several options that might work (some too expensive, like a ducati monster and several moto guzis and aprillias, and some just ugly), and came down to a honda, a suzuki, and a couple of triumphs.
As of now, the triumphs are winning. The Thruxton or one of the other Bonneville options. The Harley still keeps calling, but the Triumphs meet my needs better unless someone’s gifting me ten grand for a boyhood dream.
Friday, someone’s coming to buy my Trophy. And I walked out into my garage to look at it, and though, fuck, I don’t want to sell this bike. I’ve ridden it for eight years now, and loved it, no matter how much of the time I’ve spent thinking wrong bike. It’s beautiful, and I don’t want to part with it.
But owning bikes doesn’t make a biker. Riding makes a biker. And I’m not riding enough anymore to earn that name. I need to get out on the road in my leathers agin, and earn my self-description of biker.
So, if things go as planned, I’ll watch a fellow named Hans from teh east bay ride away on my Trophy this friday, with a small fistful of cash in my pocket. And I’ll have to go directly to the local dealer and start to flirt with a need machine, to save me mourning the loss of the old.
They’re not just machines, motorcycles. They’re something else. They don’t have a soul like a vincent ’52, Richard Thompson said; but even so, they have something. And it makes the relationship more intense than some marriages I know.
The second that bike rolls away, I’ll feel incomplete. I’ve been there before, when I lost my Honda; I couldn’t wait even for my court case to end to throw down money on a new machine. I had to roll.
Looks like I need surgery on my left shoulder. You know, the one with the flower tattoos, not the one with the swirly black tribal ones.
This shoulder has given my trouble ever since I took up weight lifting ten years ago, and eventually it got bad enough that I pretty much gave up weight lifting a couple years back (because every time I lifted, I hurt myself). The last year it’s gone from occasionally annoying to painful when I sleep, so it’s now having daily impact.
My diagnosis based on the location and character of the pain was a tear in my rotator cuff.
I had an MRI the monday after xmas, and while it didn’t confirm a tear, it did show a lot of swelling and fluid buildup in the joint, and what my doctor called a “down beak” in the bone which is rubbing on a ligament and causing the damage.
Verdict: I need surgery. At very least the damage to the surrounding tissue needs to be cleaned up, and the bone needs to be ground down to reduce the wear. There may be a small tear we can’t see on the MRI, which he’ll also repair.
The doctor wanted to do the surgery the 14th of Jan, but I have too many schedule conflicts (including a tattoo a week later), so we had to put it off until early Feb based on his schedule.
I’m not looking forward to this. I have little patience with things that impede my physical ability. Pain is no problem, but having my arm useless for two weeks really, really annoys me. The good thing is, it’s going to be arthroscopic so the procedure itself is quick and the recovery reasonably short. Plus, there will be pain medication, which is always a treat.