Wow, my turn to write a column, just like a real motorcycle magazine editor. (Hi, Mom.) What shall I write about then? I had planned to tackle the thorny issue of motorcycle mirrors, but Marc Cook beat me to that last month. Gordon Jennings has me whipped when it comes to the scientific stuff, and Peter Egan seems to have interesting friends and adventures to write about. Weekends usually find me sweating over a new wax ring for the toilet or something equally stimulating.
The longer I think about it (sigh) the more I nearly can't help but conclude I must be unequal to the task. It turns out after 10 years of riding these things and cranking out road tests, I really don't know diddly about motorcycles. People write in all the time to point that out to me, and most of them seem so knowledgeable about bikes they've never ridden that I'm loath to doubt them. Heck, just last month I was unable to determine that the Honda RC51 is "a rack" even after putting 2000 miles on one.
Several readers wrote in to express their displeasure with the Kawasaki ZX-12R road test I wrote a couple of months ago (with plenty of input from the rest of the staff, of course). It's refreshing that in this kinder, gentler age in which we find ourselves, most motorcycle people now refrain from profane ad hominem attacks, but the general inescapable gist was that I must be an idiot for not being overly impressed with the new Kawasaki that was supposed to be the World's Fastest Bike but Wasn't.
All this got me wondering if the people who write in to tell you you're an idiot when you don't like a bike are the same ones who write in to tell you what a genius you are when you do agree with them? I suspect they are. I suspect the people who rush in to quash dissent are the same ones who band together to bolster the majority. (I suspect the other 90 percent of readers must think to themselves, well, those guys do ride all the motorcycles for a living and have been doing so for a while, so maybe their opinion is at least worth considering-even though I suspect this Burns person is an idiot.)
What's with that? How can you swing from savant to idiot in a month? Reminds me of Mark Twain's dad: When he was 18, Twain couldn't believe what a fool his father was, and by the time he was 30 he couldn't believe how much the old man had learned in 12 years.
I can't help envying those people who are able to glean so much hard knowledge from so little information. What bliss it must be to number among that elite company, unplagued by doubt, secure in your own infallibility. That sort of confidence goes beyond motorcycles; it must permeate a person's entire life, I imagine. How wondrous and secure a thing it must be to have already solved at an early age all of life's little conundrums; politics, economics, all the big stuff history's best minds have grappled with down through the ages, you figured out in high school-probably during metal shop. Think of the time saved when you don't waste any listening to ridiculous opinions that differ from your own. You get to get on with thinking about the important things. Navigator or Suburban? Hawaii this year or Bermuda?
Among my myriad personal failings, I suffer from doubt-"the internal traitor." If I don't know a thing for sure, I'll sometimes pick up the phone and ask an expert in whatever the field might be, and I usually don't even have the guts to tell the expert he's an idiot if his opinion counters my preconception. I have gone so far in the past as to look in books for information, but the Internet is such a fantastic tool it's now possible to not find what you want without getting out of your chair. (It also lets you tell me I'm an idiot that much faster: firstname.lastname@example.org.) Conveniencewise, though, nothing can beat having one of those minds that came fully stocked.
While I'm rolling here, how ridiculous is it anyway to have so much self-worth tied up in what some magazine piss-ants think of your motorcycle? If you were the late John Britten and built the thing from scratch in your barn it's a little more personal, but all you did was buy the damn thing from some huge corporation. (Your dad no doubt had an "Eat Your Import" bumper sticker on his pickup, but you wouldn't listen.)
If I had just laid out that kind of money for a bike that'll only do 180-some miles-an-hour and high nine-second quarter-miles, I'd be more displeased with the manufacturer who led me to believe otherwise than with the messenger who pointed out the discrepancy. Heck, if not for us you'd have to take it from your ZX-12R's speedo, which reads 210 when you're only doing 180. How embarrassing. Take it out on Kawasaki; its address is in the back of the magazine. Me you should thank for providing crucial consumer information. I think I'm done, I feel much, much better. Good night.