ONCE, WHILE WALKING A NARROW STREET IN LUCCA, during a tour of village Italy, a young-to-middle-aged woman approached from the other direction on a bicycle. Dressed nicely, sitting erect, an early morning loaf of bread protruded from a wicker basket affixed to the handlebars. Something about this completely normal circumstance said “elegant.”
THE INITIAL TEST RUN (after I purchased her) would include a 30 mile blast east up Interstate 80, followed by a 26 mile sojourn from Colfax to Grass Valley on State Route 174. From there I would hit State Route 49 and head the 40-plus miles home. No time for pictures. This would be a “business” trip.
My first thought was, “Damn! The pegs are too close to the seat.” I’d had a similar concern with my R1100R prompting me to have to dismount within the hour and work out kinks in my hips. Not so with the Breva. Something about how the seat is engineered allows for more space or more movement while in the saddle. And no crampy hips. I did the whole nearly-100 mile loop in one sitting.
I don’t like riding the slab. I-80 from west of my home is like a NASCAR race with untrained drivers. Between road construction, road needing construction and idiots in cages, avoiding I-80 west is a matter of survival. I-80 east is a bit different story. Up the hill from Auburn, the air cools, the route goes from four lanes to three, to two and most folks chill out. Perhaps they are enjoying how the rolling hills give way to deep views of the American River followed by thick thick green forests of the Sierra's western slope. Such changes may well restoreth thine soul. I know they do mine.
The B-1100 clips along nicely at 65, 70 and 75, in keeping with the speed of the travel. Truck traffic prompts some over-use of the left lane and often times – heh heh – drivers fall victim to one of the world’s great speed traps. Such was the case today. More black and white on the side of the road than field yellow or forest green. I dampered things down a bit wondering:
- When might one ever need to use 6th gear in this baby? and
- Might the gentlepeople of the CHP give me a courteous hand-down motion as a blast by – like they do when I’m on the BMW – or might they just pull me over and write me up?
STATE ROUTE 174 winds through Placer County and into Nevada County. It crosses the Bear River just below Rollins Lake. Climbing out of the canyon, the road heads toward a bucolic region of fruit orchards and grazing land known as Chicago Park. From there, it moves through Ponderosa Pines, past meadows and small ranchettes, eventually connecting with 49 in the historic gold rush town of Grass Valley.
A bit timid on this new ride, I enter the curves with more reserve than I might on my GSA. I note that the bike seems to want to stay upright and I come up with the term "gyroscopic" to explain how it feels. I can push just a little bit to force the bike into the curve, but I’m not sure I have the hang of it – at least initially. I know this is a characteristic I’ll need to master.
With all of the bikes I’ve owned, there comes an epiphany where, for some reason, I feel one with the machine. For the R1100, it was a few months in. For the RT, a bit sooner. With the GSA, somewhere between Eureka, Nevada and Ely on US 50. For the little Breva: on this first loop. At some point, I quit worrying about the gyroscope and just began to be one with the ride. Not sure why. I note that, in and out of curves, the transmission operates like silk. No missed shifts what-so-ever. The 1051 cc V-twin wants to pull me through the backside of sweepers with a sophisticated urgency. And the non-ABS brakes prove to be all business when the blue-haired woman in the Buick Century didn’t pick up my presence on her radar as she exited the lot from the Safeway at Brunswick east of Grass Valley.
THE LAST LEG carried me down state route 49 from Nevada County into Auburn. Traffic was somewhere between moderate and heavy with some driving way too fast and others holding up the show. Toward Auburn, a series of stoplights control everything except for the inpatient driver’s angst. The lights are where I am reminded of the tallness of the Breva’s first gear. Unlike the granny-esque low on the GSA, it takes a bit more hand-hand coordination to twist the throttle and slip the clutch for a smooth departure. Not much practice however.
At one light, a fat dude under a screw-the-cops helmet and wearing a sleeveless jacket and tats roars up on a Harley. The ground shook. My first thought was that the rapture had arrived three weeks late. The fat boy on the Fat Boy braps the throttle and looks over at me. After a moment, he pulls his dark glasses down his nose, checks out the Guzzi, and lifts his hand from the twist-grip. He winks and raises a thumb.
AS THE LIGHT CHANGES, I feel even better about the purchase. The Breva 1100 proves to be comfortable, capable, sporty – and as the dude on the Harley confirmed – elegant. Certainly no Italian fanciulla in bicicletta, but perhaps, the one of those next best things.
Church of the Open Road Press