It won’t be an easy conversation.
I have to sit down with my bike mentor and tell him the tough truth. OK, so he’s my younger cousin — little brother, it’s just as well to say — but of all the riders I have known and know now, he’s the one who most helped me realize my own riding mentality.
He was a sport-bike rider who only gave up his beloved racers because he feared he wasn’t afraid enough. A series of larger, heavier, smaller-engined vehicles may have slowed him a little. It’s tough to say from the other side of the country.
While I am not the speed freak he is, I do like the sporting stance of my old Concours, and revel from time to time in the sharp handling and smooth corners it presents me with.
He was — and is — a firm believer in proper riding gear, wrapping himself in what was at the time the pinnacle of street attire, the one-piece suit. It is abrasion-resistant and heavily armoured, and he steadfastly refuses to ride without it. So adamant is he on this point, he picked up a tiny Japanese convertible for the commute on the really hot days.
You know, the days you see so many riders in T-shirts and shorts. Tiny soup-bowl helmets and flip-flops. Can you say skin graft? Yeah. I might ride in jeans from time to time, rarely, but never, ever without the proper jacket. And do we even need to discuss the full-face helmet? Of course we do not.
One other thing we came to a quick agreement on was a dislike of the cruiser. OK, for me it’s a matter of comfort. I’m relatively tall and long-legged, and I don’t like having to fold myself up to fit the tail-dragging dimensions of your standard, common-as-dirt Harley wannabe. Or the real thing, for that matter.
But … this is where the tough truth comes in. I want one. Not a cruiser, but a Harley. An XR750, which is a race-only dirt-tracker worth well north of anything I’ll be paying in the near future. But a guy can dream.
And when he asks why, the answer will come easily. I like ’em. The sound, the history — it would be like owning a vintage hot rod. That is, a pain. An old hot rod is as temperamental as a teething two-year-old; the maintenance is constant, the practicality is non-existent, the costs seemingly endless.
Ah, but turn the key and push it into gear, and all that becomes meaningless. And there’s just one bike that can give you that kind of feeling. My cousin may even know all this already.
Still, he isn’t going to like it when I tell him.
Ken Simmons, The Telegram’s new media editor, breathes exhaust and exhales clean, fresh air. Twitter @Ken_Simmons_NL/Tumblr