Monday, March 20, 2000

The Camel and a Modded, Wadded Bandit

Girl Wonder and I flew into LAX for the weekend and stayed in lovely Inglewood. Somehow the wires got crossed with hotels and phone numbers, so our ride to pick up our rental bikes was a no show. Instead, the hotel called a bandit taxi cab to take us to Moturis in Compton. The taxi cab driver was a black Jabba the Hutt - a mass of solidified fat with a spine floating freely in the middle. She spoke like she was the winner of a broken glass and razor blade eating contest from the oil and sweat-soaked front seat that had taken the shape of her amoebic form. We left the hotel parking lot in a shower of sparks as the mid '80s Impala wagon bottomed out and set course for Route 105. Despite the fact that the meter was "broken," the ride cost only $13 and we were there in a short time.

Just as we were extracting ourselves from the taxi, Rick finally showed up. We saddled up an F650 for GW and a R1100GS for me. Rick noticed that the rear tire of my ride had a three-inch-wide flat spot and the sides of the tire had never been ridden on before. We were soon on our way to the Rock Store to meet up with Rick's friends Brian and Thumper. In the first turn where I poured on some power, I momentarily lost the ass end from the waxy tires. Along the way I kept wondering how anyone in their right mind would purchase such a top-heavy and clunky machine, especially considering the price tag. Just getting this stupid thing off the side-stand had required all the strength I could muster.

At the Rock Store, we ate chili for extra rocket power and chatted it up with Thumper, a very interesting and friendly character who was there on his beautiful Norton Commando. After gassing up, a bunch of us followed him down a paved cow-path in Malibu. It took everything I had to stay with him. Riding this BMW on very narrow twisties was like wrestling a camel. I was really starting to hate this monument of engineering girth. Girl Wonder was appreciating her ride only slightly more as a result of the buzzy, clunky, cheap feel of the F650 - especially its vague transmission. The light steering was working in her favor though, until she almost ate a ditch. We reminded her that holding your breath and closing your eyes in the turns is not the proper way to visualize the exit of a curve. Anyway, Thumper was quite competent on that old Norton, especially considering that he was riding two-up.

We stopped and rested at the end of the trail. Rick has mentioned to me a number of times that I should have purchased a T-Bird Sport instead of the standard version into which I'd dumped a bunch of dosh so that it more closely met my riding style. After watching him drop his Sprint in the parking lot, I started thinking that maybe he should have bought a Speed Triple since he seemed to be making quite an effort to remove the plastic.

On day two, we headed up into the San Gabriel Mountains with a bike club of which Rick is a member. There were quite a few riders and somehow we got stuck behind two really slow riders and the sweep. GW is not comfortable passing in curves, so a few of us were stuck until the first rest stop. To amuse myself, I lofted that heavy camel's front wheel into the air - proving, of course, that shafties can wheelie. By this time, I had started getting used to this pig. Raising the seat helped get me up over the bars and Rick had dialed off some of the preload on the rear suspension. Like a fat chick who dances well and gives good head, I started overlooking the butt-ugliness and shitbox transmission that seemed to fly into some nether region of loose parts and gnashing bits from time to time (very Sportster like) and actually warmed up to the beast. This bike was very comfortable on the highway and would probably be great on long trips. Would I ride it off road like a dirt bike? Not a chance in hell!

After a rest and water break in the high desert, we picked up the pace. One mile later, I came up on a member of our group who wadded "his" street fighter in a rocky, gravel-filled corner. I asked if he was OK and then helped him pick up the modded, wadded Bandit (it was actually his girlfriend's bike). The chain was off, the lights were busted up in a way that made the bike look like a nerd that got his ass whooped in a playground dispute over a Snoopy lunch box and the poor bike was pretty scraped up. Since the clutch lever was broken off, the Bandit had to be towed down to the nearest gas station.

The rest of the day was filled with high-speed fun and no pain other than the aching in my hands from wrestling the bars in some very aggressive counter-steering. I kept the speed at or below 100 mph, but some of these kamikazes were riding well over 120 mph. One older gent with his wife riding pillion was pushing a Black Bird around canyon walls like it had wings. Pretty fookin' amazing!

By the end of the day, GW and I were exhausted and my hands were so weak that I could no longer feed myself with silverware. We locked the bikes up for the night and hobbled through Inglewood in search of finger foods. It's experiences like this -riding in the mountains and canyons on the outskirts of urban chaos - that make LA a jewel. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, the sprawl and pace often mask these treasures.

© 2000 by Peckham, All rights reserved.