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.