It’s May, and we motorcyclists should be in the saddle and flyin’.
Should be being the operative phrase here.
Instead, my garage doors are down, and six – and maybe eight, depending on how one does the math – perfectly good tires are developing flat spots from sitting unused and unloved on a concrete slab.
If there was ever a time when I needed the meditative calm that riding gives me, this would be that time.
I am a motorcyclist. I ride motorcycles. I write for a publication that is supposed to be about motorcycles and riding them.
Is there such a thing as a Not Motorcycle Magazine?
It’s not like I haven’t had some motorcycle things – other than riding – to occupy myself with.
There was the small matter of a tire change for my favorite motorcycle, my R90S, which ended up requiring penetrating oils, blowtorches, sledgehammers, reciprocating saws and a minute quantity of explosives after one of Bavaria’s Best wheel bearing packs decided to fail catastrophically. Courtesy of a global pandemic, getting motorcycle parts – which I may have been the first American to ever successfully break, apparently – imported from Germany proved to be, well, challenging, and even working with my local dealer required masks, social distancing, payment via hollow tree bag drop and leaving my newly mounted new tire in a secure, undisclosed location.
That little project required the better part of two months, during which, instead of being productively occupied, I was mostly grinding what’s left of my teeth down to little pegs and putting small fingernail grooves in my palms from the clenching of my fists as I gazed over the pile of parts that were formerly a motorcycle that had plunged my normally somewhat organized shop into the depths of utter chaos.
Calm? Meditative? Hardly.
I had acquired a new favorite bit of motorcycling gear. When Finn and I had gone down to the DC International Motorcycle Show, we had received a journalist’s swag bag that contained, amongst a slew of forgettable T-Shirts, a little gizmo called a Buff, which is a nearly infinitely reconfigurable piece of headgear made out of a stretchy tube of material that can serve as a scarf, a balaclava, a dewrag, a facemask, or any combination of those things or all of those things at once.
“I’ll never use that”, I remember thinking when I first saw it.
Finn, predictably, took right to it – almost immediately making it a favorite bit of biker kit – but I wasn’t seeing it.
Which is of course why I am now wearing the thing nearly every day, trying not to fall back into a bad impression of the movie ‘Toy Story’’s Woody, brandishing a pair of finger pistols at everyone I meet, and yelling “Reach for the sky….”
The end of May is normally when I’d be strapping on my seat bag, picking out rallies and race meetings, and disappearing over the horizon.
Under the current circumstances, I’ve been lucky if I’ve been able to disappear across the threshold of my own front doorway.
This week, the weathermen had been spreading doom and gloom, predicting five straight days of rain leading into the upcoming holiday weekend.
Which is why, of course, when I wrapped up work today, I was looking outside into bright sunshine and about 63 crisp degrees.
Sweet Doris from Baltimore no doubt saw me at the window looking, and asked if I could go up to the Weis Market over in Brunswick for her to grab some ice cream for our desert.
“You probably wanted a ride, anyway.”
At times like this I am glad for two things. I’m glad that my BMWs all have grocery friendly hard saddlecases, and that 35 years ago I fell in love with a woman that not only accepts my feeble excuses for going for a ride, but can even be counted upon to provide them, when necessary.
It was, by the way, extremely necessary, right about now.
I got my helmet, my jacket and my keys.
My K1200LT – with both commuting and travel temporarily off the table – has been spending more than its fair share of time sitting. The K-bike’s fuel pumps and injection system actually hate idleness – in the era of alcohol jacked fuels — even worse than those of my carbureted antiques. That engine needed to be run, and I was in the right frame of mind where the ride I wanted was smooth, serene, powerful and controlled.
The first press of the starter produced only a characteristic belch from the K-engine’s in-tank fuel filter and pump assembly. The second press produced the Brick’s signature turbine-like whine.
Brunswick Maryland is about five and a half miles from Jefferson. I think it only took me about twenty miles to get there.
Instead of putting the Potomac on my left shoulder I cut south into Virginia first, and headed west to Brunswick holding the river on my right.
With the Flying Brick’s motor warmed, and the sun shining brightly at a low angle through the trees in front of me, I got the revs up in the engine’s big sweet spot, and entered my corners late, getting over on the sides of the tires, gassing and cutting hard.
After three apexes, that sunlight lit up my soul, and sent the past weeks’ blackness packing.
If one is looking for anything positive about a global pandemic, it does sure cut down on traffic.
I saw one car heading down Lovettsville Road – an older Prius that I stalked from a respectful distance for a corner or three and then made disappear with a flick of the wrist and that K-Bike shriek from the intakes.
The rest of the way up Lovettsville Road and the sweepers back down the Berlin Pike to the river were just smile after smile – it never ceases to amaze me how precise and sporting a motorcycle something as downright enormous as this K1200 manages to be.
And if that weren’t enough, the top case will hold 64 pints of Ben and Jerry’s.
I’ll admit I bought less than that, though. I’m going to need another one of these ice cream runs way sooner than the time it take to eat 64 pints of The Tonight Dough and Chunky Monkey, and it’s important that my riding jacket still fit when I do.