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I’ve tried to kick the habit, but I’ve been a user too long, and when the world seen through my eyes seems flat and grey, well – could another little fix do much harm?
The pleasure starts in the ritual, in its way the same every time, key in hand as the shed is approached. Already the first thrill of anticipation. A deft movement; insert, rotate, release. The padlock comes away. Opening the door a crack to release the promissory scent of oil, petrol, rubber, metal. I swing the doors open and chock them. Hello my lovelies, how are you today? Oddly, even these most masculine of toys are somehow always female. I pat a seat, stroke a glossy flank. Make my choice. I wonder – do the others mind? Today it will be the Laverda SFC1000. Tall and curvaceous, dressed in bright red, gold and silver she is my luscious Italian mistress – demanding, exciting, rewarding.
Another key, another lock. Petrol – Oil – Water – Electrics – Rubber: if all is in order, this spells POWER. Part of the magic, but not all. Off the stand, and oh-so-carefully heave on the bars to ease the bike backwards out of the shed and across the gravel. Let the ground take the weight, keep it all under control; once over centre away from one and it’s the merry tinkle of broken indicators and bent controls. Enough to spoil a chap’s day. Onto the centre stand again. Close, bolt and lock the doors.
Take a little time in dressing; distractions we can do without. Again the ritual, the warrior dressing for combat. Well, what else is it? The enemy: the inattentive – the incompetent, the downright bloody minded – and then there’s you yourself? You against the elements – at best a gale; at worst contact with the unforgiving inanimate. So on with boots, jacket, trousers, helmet. If this isn’t armour, what is? Are dark glasses needed? No good having stereopsis wrecked by an arrow of sun piercing the corner of one eye; too much at stake going into a bend and misjudging the line, the stopping distance, the traction.
As the earplugs expand, the noise of the world diminishes. Time to go.
Fuel on; choke; ignition – half a crank and the engine fires. The triple-beat of the exhaust marks out a promise of what is to come. Then, up the revs and warm the engine, no sense in stuttering off the mark, feet paddling ineptly. Two minutes at 2000 rpm, allows time for a quick pre-flight check: now she’s ready to go. Clear the clutch with a blip of throttle, drop the revs to idle and then ease down into first. As the clutch finds full engagement, both feet up and visor snapped down.
Pour on the power smoothly, favouring the cold engine, and snicking through the gears as the red needle on the white face of the massive tacho mirrors the revs’ rise. No call to hurry – relax, settle in and start to move, picking an easy line as the road opens up. Concentrate and let reflexes warm up with the engine oil and the tyres. Here comes the first bend; position for road surface and hazards, radius and line of sight – safety, stability, view.
Push distractions to the corner of one’s mind. Concentration suggests focus; but that’s wrong, that’s narrowing. For this, concentration means expanding the bubble of one’s senses, not shrinking them, allowing sight, hearing, touch and smell to plant one right
here right now, and forewarn where one is going to be in the next split second, the split second after that. So, expand every sense to the periphery, to perceive and to predict. Transcend focus to achieve flow.
Hazard ahead. Remember the mantra: information – position – speed – gear – acceleration: IPSGA for short. A Micra, driver giving information: ‘A little girl: 8 lb 5 oz; and a whole head of lovely black hair.’ – that’s right dear, look at your passenger when you’re talking to her, it’s only polite. Micra – Always in the Lead!
Have you every watched a replete cat playing with a mouse? They do it for practice, so that when it matters – when they’re hungry – they are at the top of their game. Safe overtakes require good judgement, co-ordination, timing, commitment – just like catching mice. Practise when it doesn’t matter. Plan, check, execute; up change as the Micra recedes in the blurring mirror and ease the throttle to slip into the landing-point without braking.
Sound and thrust combine as the next bend approaches fast. This is a bike of the eighties; a much better chassis than some, but none-the-less kept taught by tension in the final drive chain. Can’t afford to throttle off – to bottle out half way round; keep her steady with some thrust, trust the rubber, and ease her over a bit more. The steering is typically Italian, she’ll want to go straight on unless given a firm hand. So counter-steer for the exact angle of lean: in slow, ride the throttle on the vanishing point and ease the bars to the bring the bike upright again as the view and throttle open in concert.
That swoop in, swoop out when the speed and line are right leads to a compulsion – for the next one, and the next. This is close to flying, given a gradient, the banks and turns: two-and-a-half dimensional motion. Every second the world changes: hedges, junctions, road surface, camber, light, temperature, scents and traffic – cues and clues to what’s coming next. Never the same, always a challenge; it’s physical, cerebral, unbeatable. Gathering pace, the revs rise to 4000 rpm and 80 miles an hour; the engine smoothes, mirrors steady and the fairing starts to work; don’t even need to hunker down as the speed builds. Hit the Ton – still magic, but now because it’s the easy cruise not the tantalizing max of half as much again. The Triple would keep this up long past my growing need for coffee or its two-hour saddle. By then, in any event, we’re back where we started; the opioids in my brain rose-tinting the lenses in my eyes.
That is so much better!
© Mansur Darlington 2008.
If you enjoyed that, you will love this!
Laverda Twins & Triples 1968-1986 Bible
By Ian Falloon
From humble beginnings in 1948, Laverda made the move into large capacity motorcycles in 1966. A successful racing program led to the release of the legendary 750SFC, followed by the 1000cc triple. This evolved into the spectacular Jota and a new-generation RGS during the 1980s. More info.