People often ask me what my idea of the perfect motorcycle is. And when I do tell them, their faces drop, as if disappointed. I guess they were expecting a hyper fully faired machine, capable of slamming past the sound barrier. Every day. And then some more on a Sunday. I am a writer for an auto magazine, after all. I am supposed to love sterile rocket ships between my legs.
They couldn't have been more wrong. The perks of my job include riding some darned mental motorcycles. They're brilliant, some of them capable of whacking past the tonne in the first gear alone. There might be 5 more to go, and the top most cog would probably never see much action, but that doesn't matter. Electronic gadgetry abounds - computers doing the braking for you; intangible electric impulses rushing from the throttle grip to the fuel injectors and throttle bodies, ordering them to dump in their contents into the combustion chamber like the flood gates of the apocalypse.
To me, these bikes are great to ride. And ride hard too. But I don't really see them as bikes I could own. I don't see them as motorcycles I can fall in love with.
My ideal motorcycle would have a pushrod motor - a big vibey single. Or even a smoother running twin. But it absolutely has to be carburetted and fed through valves opened up by two solid rods of alloy. It should require skill, ingenuity and bruised knuckles to fix, instead of a labcoat and a docking cable.
And the only bodywork that would adorn the bike that keeps me up at night would be minimal - a seat to hold me on and a pair of mudguards to keep the grime off me. The torque should kick in early, and have a nice thick spread across a large rev range.
The pegs would be a tad rear set, the bars low and straight with just a hint of an inward sweep at the Amal grip-wrapped ends. The headlight would be tiny, yet bright enough to cast sunlight beyond my front wheel even in the darkest of nights.
I want my motorcycle to be loud. I don't want it to whine like some electric mixer-grinder pulverising cashewnuts in the kitchen. Instead, the bike should purr at idle and wake up the dead when it comes on to the pipes. I want the neighbours to wince when they hear me, before they see me.
It should be boisterous, brash and obscene. It will spit back and throw fiery tantrums. I want it to be the sort of motorcycle that parents would lock their kids away to keep them from it. It would be dripping character. Even a negative one is fine by me. But it definitely won't be sterile.
So there, this is my idea of the perfect bike. It will take a stand, and not sit on the fence. Yes or no, none of the in-between. A crass, infernal assortment of metal propelling a rider strongly ahead on two wheels. Strongly I say, not just swiftly. It won't be friendly and amicable. It will intimidate and fascinate at the same time. This, to me, would be a true motorcycle. A motorcycle, mind you, not a mere machine.