Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ah, memories!

My XJ750 before the fairing was color matched to the nice bright red paintwork.

Ah, memories! (Better retell them before the Alzheimer's sets in)

Over the years I’ve ridden many motorbikes but one ride sticks in my memory particularly well. The first time I rode a Harley Davidson…

Being raised on Japanese bikes I’d got used to bikes that start, stop and go very well, every time you want them to.
At the time I had a new and particularly fast Yamaha XJ750 and I met a bloke with a hardtail sporster chopper, he wanted very much to ride my bike and offered his as a trade for a rip around the block. I accepted the deal because…well, at just 19 I didn’t know any better.
I started the motor and got used to the shake and vibration of the big V twin… Hmm, none of my Jap bikes ever shook like that! (couldn’t even see the mirrors)
I snicked it into gear and found it still wasn’t… I found I had to stomp on the gear lever and it eventually crashed into gear with a shudder, I wasn’t so sure I was getting the best of this deal any more.
I let out the heavy clutch and the thing moved off with all the effort of a locomotive.
As I accelerated down the street I became aware of the incredible weight and power of this thing, not light, punchy and screaming like my Yamaha but throbbing and full of torque.
I settled into the seat and took the attitude of a Harley rider.. “yeah, F*** you!”

I heaved up on the gear shift and it went through the gears with the usual crunch, then accelerated away strongly…I was liking this big beast.
All to soon the end of the street came up and I eased back on the throttle and applied the brakes…Nothing!
I squeezed harder and the thing just kept going, it weighed twice what the Yammy weighed. (like the afore mentioned locomotive)
In the end I was standing on the foot brake and squeezing as hard as I could at the hand brake as it eventually started to slow, all the while the corner was coming up fast.
I had no choice but to turn as it hurtled into the T junction so I leaned into the corner…Nothing! It kept going straight ahead, those long forks prevented it going where it was pointed.
At this point and with the hackles standing up on my neck I gave the brakes everything I had and as it overshot the corner I aimed for the footpath on the opposite side of the road. If there had been any cars coming....
Slowing to nearly walking pace I managed to turn the beast along the street and with shaking hands rode the rest of the way around the block like granny going to church.
I couldn’t wait to get off it, my love affair with Harleys over.
My new friend was soon back with the Yamaha enthusing about it’s lightness, power, it’s incredible brakes and it’s ability to corner like it was on rails.

To be fair I’ve ridden other Harleys sine then and they were somewhat better but when you go Jap… you never go back!



Magsx2 said...

Hi Tempo,
That ride would of been enough to scare you for life, I'm amazed you had another ride on a Harley after that experience. I'm surprised the guy didn't give you some sort of warning, although he was most probably used to it and didn't think twice. You were very lucky.

Windsmoke. said...

A most hair raising and heart stopping ride indeed. Any idea what was wrong with the brakes? :-).

Tempo said...

Hi Mags, It sure scared me out of any thoughts of ever buying one. I've stuck with the very much better Japanese bikes ever since.
Hi Windsmoke, that's what really scared me, there was nothing wrong with the brakes, just a very heavy bike and old style mechanical disc brakes. My Yammy had the latest and best brakes on the market for the time and the comparison was extreme. (the Yamaha was just 2 weeks old)

The Jules said...

Have to agree. Still love my middle of the range Suzuki.

Bikes like Harleys always strike me as an occasional treat, like a lardy cake. All right now and then, but too much will probably end in an unpleasant death, possibly involving a gastrointestinal obstruction.

Tempo said...

I'm right there with you Jules, the Japanese make great bikes. I always admired the relaxed style of Harley riders and it came to me that day that they had no choice. They dont go great, turn well or stop..ever! ..and the hard tail with the long good at all.

Pearl said...

As a woman who once rode with a club, I can't say I've been on anything BUT Harleys -- and now? Not even that. Got tired of pulling bugs out of my hair, I guess.



Sarah said...

That's exactly why I'm a passenger and not a driver!

Tempo said...

Hi Pearl, I fully realize the Harley is very popular in America (as it should be) It's pretty popular here too but with a certain kind of rider. Ah, helmet hair and bug breath.... live the dream Pearl, live the dream!
Hi Sarah, Nearly as much fun on the back as the front. But our roads are covered with nutters so these days I try to stick to off road riding mostly these days.