Narratives about motorcycling on Northern California's back roads; Reflections on the history and geography of the North State; Memoirs and early recollections of youthful visits to towns and forests and mountaintops.
Also middle-of-the-road takes on current issues in politics and education. Middle of the road? Isn't that dangerous?
Thursday, May 9, 2013
That’s Italian for “mojo”
Constantly on the lookout for a
new-to-me riding experience, the idea of a cruiser has winded its way into my
thoughts.The urge jump-started
again the other night when PBS introduced a series on the US Constitution featuring
Peter Sagal from NPR’s“Wait!
Wait! Don’t Tell Me!” Sagal cruises the nation’s highways on a custom painted
Road King.This got me to thinking
that Harley Davidson, the standard against which all cruiser model bikes are
judged, must make a pretty good mount.Which, of course, they do.
Over time, mine eye has been drawn to Victory’s big V-Twin Cross
Roads Classic.Victory is
America’s non-Harley cruiser producer.The Classic is a beautiful bike you sit in, not on, cuddling your butt
in a way that invites day upon day of long-distance adventure.It’s American, so that’s cool, and it’s
not a Harley making it somewhat unique which is also cool.Plus, people who have ‘em, love ‘em.
Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Honda all make Vee style
cruisers, each of which requires a discerning eye in order to distinguish it
from a Milwaukee product although the true Harley guys certainly know a poser
when it putters up on them.These
metrics are probably less costly to maintain than the American iron.
I was disappointed when BMW discontinued their
outside-the-box boxer 1200C series several years ago.BMW’s iconic horizontally opposed engine made the “C”
I’ve always liked Triumph’s take on the cruiser format as
embodied in the Rocket III.Big,
powerful, much different than a Harley.It was easy to picture myself visiting far-flung corners of the country
on one of these.
Recently, Honda introduced a
plastic-and-weight-stripped-away version of the Goldwing.Hefty, but looking leaner, it proposes
a competitive alternative to the Rocket.Perhaps less temperamental than the Brit – which, I’m told, isn’t
temperamental at all – and with a more robust dealer network.
So Harley has some pretty and legitimate competition, each
of which I’ve looked at, sat upon and thought about longingly.But just not longingly enough.
Today, however, I viewed, sat on and
barely walked away from a cruiser with the uniqueness many a cruiser rider say
he or she cherishes and a visual character – so elusive – most cruisers can
only dream about.
(c) Moto Guzzi Americas
Admittedly, my introduction to Guzzi about two years ago
shifted my thinking about things Italian.Always a pleasing design, the “Fix It Again Tony” maxim distanced me
from owning anything from Italy that came with wheels.Then, while waiting for a tire change
on my GSA, a BMW salesperson coaxed me into test riding a used Moto Guzzi Breva
that had come to them with 9500 miles on it.Now with nearly 16,000 on it, the B-1100 has become my
preferred ride.Sweet.Comfortable.Musical. Eye-catching.A
bit quirky: Saab-like, someone said.And most surprisingly to
me: rock solid dependable.
Sitting on the Moto Guzzi California 1400 Custom, twisting
the inert throttle and squeezing various hand levers, I immediately pictured
myself cruising life’s many highways on this sculpted example of Italian form,
function, and emotion melded into a rolling piece of art.The distances we would travel.The vistas we would explore.The admiring glances we would gather.The stories we would…
(c) Moto Guzzi Americas
“Do you want me to crank it up?” asked the salesperson.
“Maybe take it for a ride?”
“No,” I demurred. I knew what would likely be the
result (including sleeping in the garage with it.)Still, I sat on the thing
for a long, long time.
Eventually, I drove home on my own, paid for, example Italian art: my beloved little Breva.And I was perfectly satisfied.Almost.