Thursday, 16 June 2011
"Never fall in love with a vehicle" or words to that effect was some sage advice given to me by my dear departed dad. "not likely" was probably my headstrong teenage response as I messed about with a string of Japanese bike wrecks. Those wrecks taught me a lot. I spannered them to get them going, to keep them going and make them go as fast as was possible- not performance tuning, more like getting them to go as fast as they should go. I fell off them and got knocked off them but got back on again, slowly learning mechanics and sense as I went. There was no chance of me falling in love with a machine, I mean, what a ridiculous notion.
Eventually I horse traded my bikes to an impasse and agonised over my next purchase. Was it going to be a long-mile superbike or a london-sensible trailie? I pondered long and hard and then surprised myself by opting to go for a classic bike. I had by then helped my sister learn to ride and she rapidly hung up jap bikes for her beloved BSA so I thought if she could do it then why couldn't I? The choice of bike was a bit of a no-brainer as I'd seen a few late 70s T140s about, notably Conrads street tracker- at the time the bike had an ally sporty-style tank and brown grips and it turned me on something rotten. Sensibly it had disc brakes and a single carb so I saw it as a practical classic if such a thing even exists. Shortly after my dad died I dug one up on Loot (a newspaper version of ebay) I took my helmet on the train and returned with the bike. Let's face it I was always going to buy it. Engine sounded nice, bike looked shit. The original US spec tank and western bars went on, rear-sets off and presto- it was close enough to what I wanted. Steadily I changed a few bits and bobs til it is the bike you see now. Every single part that bike has been through my fingers. I puffed my pipe, rivet-counter style, into the deepest recesses of the engine until finally she returned to life from a mid life malady. I mixed my blood with her oil and together, through frustration and heartache, we bonded. The sort of love you can only understand if it has been tested over thousands upon thousands of miles. The grips fit my hands so perfectly that they feel like they should always be there, the song of the engine vibrates at at long-remembered frequency that sets chemical reactions cascading within my body.
I can exist without her for long periods but going out for a blast on her reminds me how we are inextricably linked. I would hope that my dad would understand my love for this vehicle as this bike reminds me so much of my dad; a man who lives on in me as the man he helped build.