~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Reason And Insanity

Take away my belt and shoe laces. Keep me away from sharp objects for a while. In a moment of reason and clarity I sold my Aprilia Caponord. I'm not proud of being so wise. Reason and clarity should have little to do with motorcycle ownership or divestiture. Most of my years of motorcycle ownership are a testament to a lack of reason and a commitment to a passion for bikes that has no connection to clarity beyond a clear understanding of my need to own bikes and ride them.

Lately I have been making more use of the Honda ST1300 while the Caponord with it's lovely Remus non-mufflers sat idle in the garage. I took the Capo for a long ride a few weeks back up to the foothill mining town of Globe and then southward through Winkleman, AZ and other forgettable spots. The road was nice though and the bike reminded me of why I loved the Aprilia and how intensely Italian bikes can get into the blood. But other matters press in and the Honda will meet my moto needs for a time and the Aprilia was too expensive to sit little used in the garage. I keep telling myself that.

So back on the 18th of November I stood in the driveway and watch Gerry from Tucson ride happily away on my beloved Caponord. Rarely have I felt such pangs when a bike departed. The 1974 BMW R90S did it to me as did the 1999 Kawasaki Drifter 1500.

I envied Gerry. He's nice guy and a true bike enthusiast but his wad of hundred dollar bills in my pocket felt insufficient to console me. I had the sense that it would be some time before motorcycle passion the equal of an Aprilia would occupy the garage again. I'm a guy and guys don't cry but we do sit in a Lazy Boy recliner and stare morosely while we think about rides past on a bike now gone.

Yes, I have the ST1300 and it is a really wonderful motorcycle but "Honda" and "passion" are something of a contradiction. One of the few knocks on the Honda ST1300 is that it's too automotive, too seamless, too refined. It all true although not to the extent that it is with a Gold Wing. "Aprilia" and "passion" are a natural fit, however.

OK yeah, I've already begun thinking about what bike comes next but it will be some time in 2006 before that happens. In the mean time I miss the Caponord and most of all I miss the sound of the engine makes as you roll fast into a moderate turn and the exhaust rumbles down to the gear change.

My wife (who, by the way, had not urged or even suggested that I sell the Capo), did inquire as to why I actually needed more than one bike. Sweet, innocent child! She is only now beginning to understand how deeply bikes are embedded in my brain and heart. I assured her that I did not need a second bike as one needs air to breath but I would in time buy a second one just because I love bikes. I've own 39 bikes in 39 years of riding and I'm guessing there is a ratio there that will be continued in the future. As I often said "I don't smoke, I don't drink, I don't do drugs, I don't consort with women of easy virtue, I just ride motorcycles."

So I took the reason-tainted money from the sale of the Capo and paid a few bills and made plans for other things and continue to enjoy the Honda if not enjoy it passionately.  I'm having a fine time on the ST but one something's missing.

In time, after the financial dust has cleared, something has to give. Financial considerations will have to be put aside as something must arrive in the garage that makes my pulse quicken at the thought of fast turns and exhaust notes. The Honda won't do it but a Tuono or Caponord Rally Raid would. Or maybe that new Triumph Scrambler. After all, 2006 will mark the 40th year since I first soloed on a motorcycle and it wouldn't be proper to let such a momentous occasion pass without buying the 40th bike. Now there's a moment of reason and clarity!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Goose By Any Other Name

(photos via the Moto Guzzi web site)

There's an old joke about a Spaniard, a Frenchman, and a German instructing an American about who's language is the most beautiful. The Spaniard says "Consider the word 'butterfly', in Spanish it is 'mariposa'" and he rolls the word beautifully off his tongue. The Frenchman sniffs and says "Yez, bot in een French eet iz e-ven more beauteeful, eet iz 'papillon' and he pronounces the word even more elegantly than the Spaniard. The German harrumphs and glares at the other three and says "And vat iz wrong mit da vord 'Schmetterling'?"

Regardless of what you call them, butterflies are one of God's more entertaining inventions and lots of nice motorcycles are great bikes but sadly get tagged with odd names or at least odd model names. Some are named for their company founders like Honda, some are merely initials like BMW or KTM. I have never read a definitive answer on how Aprilia got it's name but it's a lovely word unlike Ducati which sounds like a bit like an Italian food made from waterfowl.

My all time favorite bike name is the Scott "Flying Squirrel" from early in the last century. It appeals to my sense of the absurd. I would love to have heard the discussion at the Scott factory over selecting that name. No doubt they were serious about the bike, it was advanced for it's time, the first water cooled 2-stroke production bike, but really, the "Flying Squirrel"?

A few current odd model names from various manufacturers: "Rune" (sounds to much like "ruin") for the Honda ego-cruiser, "Burgman" for the Suzuki maxi-scooter (name your scooter after an eccentric Euro movie producer?) and of course the "Caponord" from Aprilia. Aprilia could be forgiven for the Caponord as it means "Cape North" which is a remote location in Norway and the sort of place to which one might ride and adventure touring bike like the Caponord. The Caponord name does get a lot of questions when people ask "What is it?" Just being an Aprilia throws them off enough; explaining to an English speaking person that Caponord is Italian for a place in Norway seems like too much trouble.

BMW has done some odd names also, like the BMW R100 R Mystik. BMW did a bike a few years ago with the word "BOXER" emblazoned across the tank. It meant something to a few folks who love opposed twin engines but I'm sure it just looked odd if not surly to most people. "Are you a boxer" "No." Do you like boxer dogs?" "No" "Do you work in a warehouse or shipping department?" "No." I would get tired of the explanations quickly. Caponord has been enough with which to deal.

Royal Enfield long ago appealed to a man's true inner spirit with the Enfield Bullet Machismo 350. Nothing like the thundering machismo power of a 350cc bike to boost the libido. I like it, it makes as much a statement of studliness as Honda's 250cc Rebel.

Recently Moto Guzzi, the venerable Italian company owned by Aprilia and now Piaggio, has announced their new sport touring model, the Norge 1200. The bike is very nice looking, comes with GPS built in, and in fact would look really wonderful in my garage if the ST1300 wasn't already occupying a place there. Owning a couple of Aprilia has given me a taste for Italian machines that will not soon abate.

Lovely bike! If you want something styled right give the project to the Italians.

My only hang up with the Norge 1200 is the name. I know, sometimes I'm shallow. But you see "Norge" is also a brand of refrigerator here in the US and was quite popular when I was growing up in the 1950s and '60s. The name is fixed in my memory as a kitchen appliance and was even enough of a fixture in the American mind to be used as part of a sketch in a Saturday Night Live TV episode long ago.

Another view of a machine infinitely more desirable than a refrigerator:

I love the look of the Moto Guzzi Norge 1200, it's modern, it's Italian, it's a V-twin, it's Italian, but I'm not sure I could ever keep a straight face telling someone what it is when they ask. I'd forever be thinking of Dan Akroyd as the "Norge repairman" bending over to pick up a refrigerator and showing us more than we needed to see of his Cape del sud. Let us hope that Moto Guzzi can find a better name if or when the Norge 1200 comes to the USA.

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