One Year Solid - Motorcycle Diary
I wanted to take a moment to reflect upon my last year as an all-in, day in and day out, motorcycle rider. There came a time in July of 2012 when my old Jetta was on its deathbed. The transmission was losing its gears, it began with 5th gear calling it quits on a trip down to visit my lady in San Diego. Then some months later, 4th gear began to feel a bit slippery. Fate stepped in in an awkward way by sending a idiot driver into the front of my car, effectively totaling it and rewarding me with a lump sum of cash. Before the money was in hand, the Jetta managed to slink along. It had no airbags and was making “interesting sounds”. The Jetta had become a certified bucket.
I asked my father if I could borrow his motorcycle for a weekend here and there until I got my transportation dilemma squared away, even though I was fairly uncertain what to do. I had a couple grand coming my way and a packed schedule so buying a good used car was out of the question and I didn't want to lease a new or used ride. I figured I would just take my time and let life run its course. My dad’s bike, for those that do not know, is an old 1992 Yahama Virago 750. He has had this bike since I was 10 years old and has only managed to put around 25,000 miles on it. Many of those miles were from two trips down to somewhere in Baja and the other to Cabo San Lucas, the other handful of miles were spent with me on the back taking various weekend trips up to Newcombs Ranch in Temescal Canyon. Like all children, the desire to drive whatever your parents drive is as commonplace as it gets, maybe that’s just my own delusion. My dad has always been the type to say “no” when it comes to me asking to use his car or motorcycle but like anything one desires, perseverance is key. I figured he would bend at some point and he did, i was amazed.
So sometime last July I had the pleasure of commandeering the Virago. My Pops must have been in a better mood or trusted my abilities to operate his bike safely because I had it almost each weekend for a month and even began using it during the week to commute to and from work.
Something in me began to shift. What happened in that one month I can only be described as this small flame located deep within my soul that had been burning like a pilot light. I had owned a bike before and rode some dirt bikes here and there in my youth, but that fire had grown dim and weak over the years, I remember the feeling once being this grand conflagration, however, motorcycles were no longer in my adult life, I had became complacent with having a car and navigating daily traffic. Things were about to seriously change.
The first couple times driving the Virago around town, it really hit me. That flame grew larger with every lean into a corner, every twist of the wrist on the throttle, and the sweet sound of the engine revving through the gears. It didn't matter that my 6'5" frame fit uncomfortably on the Virago, the joy and excitement was palpable.
It was on a whim one day riding around on the Virago that I stopped at a local bike shop in Santa Monica and found the bike I would come to own and swoon over, my 2004 Triumph Speedmaster. At the time I knew little about the current line of motorcycles and certainly didn't know that Triumph made cruiser style bikes. Living in Los Angeles, especially in Venice, you see vintage bonnevilles, hinkleys, modded cafe's or Harely Davidsons in droves.
It was a bucket list item to own my own bike again. It was another bucket list item to own a Triumph. I found myself being able to cross off two bucket list items at the same time .
One year later I have to say, life is damn good. I laid my bike down once due to a small oil slick in the road but walked away unscathed (I was wearing proper leathers and good thick jeans), Belle was not harmed too bad either. Proper attire will save your ass on a bike or a scooter, don't ever forget that. Beyond that one fall, I ride night or day, hot or cold, dry or wet and don't regret any of it for a second, it is always a pleasure.
A source of serious pride in owing a bike has been learning how to maintain my machine. Motorcycles are amazingly easy to maintain if you pick up a book, buy a few tools and don't fear getting a little dirty. To date, lubing my chain, changing the oil and other maintenance is routine. I recently swapped out the fuel tank for a slimmer one and have begun rewiring the bike to accept new lights and instruments. My bike has even received a name: Belle.
Many people will say, "Motorcycles are dangerous, they aren't very practical, they are noisy....blah blah blah blah blah." These people have clearly never ridden a motorcycle, and I mean these people have never really ridden a motorcycle.
Riding a motorcycle makes all the danger, impracticality and noise worth it, it puts you closer to the road, to the elements, the world around you, and it is more intimate an experience than driving a car. It's borderline spiritual. There is a deeper sense of freedom and the desire to explore the city, not to mention the fact that parking and traffic become a non-issue. The stress of going from one place to another no longer becomes a bother. In fact, I have found myself taking the long winding road just to get a little added excitement.
Not a day goes by where being on a bike doesn't bring a huge smile to my face. I am always meeting passionate riders on the side of the road and having real down to earth conversations. There is a sense of community and inclusion when you have a bike. It's a fantastic feeling.
Whether you are on a Harley, a Triumph, a Ducati or a Vespa, two wheels has this particular dose of magic that everyone should experience once in their lives. Living and riding in LA brings about a particular level of danger but having the right skills to operate a bike and being alert will keep you safe. Also, please don't forget to wear your armor. T-Shirt's and shorts are not proper riding attire. Beyond that, the last year on a bike has been a delight and I look forward to many more year of riding.
To all of you that ride, ride on brothers and sisters. Ride on.
Keywords: motorcycle, motorcycle diary, photography, sam bendall, travel, travel, triumph, triumph speedmaster" "motorcycle in a city" "owning a motorcycle"
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