|1948 Indian Chief|
As the summer nears it's end, we motorcyclists often begin to contemplate the fact that we may not have ridden as much as we'd prefer. Many of us had plans to pursue particular rides - perhaps not far from our own backyards. In the late Spring, I envision another pass down the Blue Ridge Parkway. I close my eyes and imagine myself standing along the shoulder of that iconic stretch of road waiting for the early morning fog to rise out of the valleys of the Virginia high country. On some lengths of the Blue Ridge there is solitude and quiet that rivals a monastery. While I can get a bit of the sacred lonesomeness of those mountains in the rural back roads of Kentucky - particularly the farther east one rides - I had hoped for some exposure to the cool mountain air and the scent of laurel.
Alas, gremlin hunting through an aging R1150RT electrical system proves to be the principle menu item as Spring transitioned into summer. Working on the BMW awakens in me a passion for maturing iron - especially of the German variety. I've noticed a return of "things vintage" to the motorcycle world over the past few years, a yearning for the simpler machines of yesteryear lacking the complex electronic overlay of contemporary motorcycles. Perhaps, too, we hunger for the experience those early machines brought us - the exhilaration of the ride punctuated by the heartbreak of unreliable electrical systems, rough manufacturing, questionable stopping power. Despite the problems I recall as inherent in those early machines of which I was custodian, my mind turns frequently to the concept of owning and caring for vintage hardware.
|1973 Honda CL350|
Nostalgia births those last gatherings in weather that promises to deliver a rider home in the same comfort under which one rolled away from the hacienda. From this point forward - doubly so for those riding in northern latitudes - we're forced to ask ourselves if we must carry the liner for the jacket and spare, clear shield for the helmet. We move into the season which often initiates the slumber of old iron through the winter - the slow shift of leaves from lush green to nature's fire. The weather becomes fickle and the sun cannot be relied upon to predict the warmth of a weekend afternoon. In my mind, the Autumn season encourages reflection, and I can think of no better opportunity than to gaze longingly at vintage machinery before the march toward winter truly begins.
|1964 BMW R27|
On Sunday, August 27, 2017 my wife and I make the journey to Madison, IN for the first annual Thornton's Cycle End of Summer Bike Show. The clear, sunny afternoon affords us the chance to witness some rare specimens of the motorbike world - some prime examples of restoration. The event also showcases those machines with patina barely sufficient to hold the machine together. Regardless of condition, each bike carries the marks of it's travels, etched into the brushed aluminum and smokey chrome. By the time we left, having consumed a basket of chicken fingers and Coke from a can, the urge to possess and maintain one these rolling pieces of history simmers in the back of my mind.
|1975 BMW R75 and Company|
That is, until I return home to the RT waiting in the garage for a transplant of starter and kill switches. A part I order - rather than pay the ungodly price for new electrics fresh from the folks at Bosch - from a salvage yard somewhere beyond the wall of the Rocky Mountains. I realize that all machines are in the slow process of becoming vintage. All bikes gather the stories of their miles into their surfaces. All a rider must do is survive and ride long enough.