Behind Bars - The Last Real Sportbike

Up to Speed

By Jack Lewis, Photography by Riles & Nelson

Mustangs aren't the fastest cars out there, and the XR1200X isn't a real fast bike, but they both slide sweetly. They tell you stories. They feed your dreams. Like a good book, I wanted that road to wind on much farther than it did. It was a lovely fantasy of snarling speed, punctuated by occasional moments of grace ... and barely any fear.

Imperfect though it may be, the lanky XR talked to me like a Stearman's stick. It made me use technique over horsepower, engage body mechanics instead of depending on highly optimized chassis dynamics. The bike and I, we made each other sweat. The girl and I, we riffed harder on the laws of physics than we bent the rules of the road.

By the time we burst out of those sun-dappled curves feeding one-lane bridges between disordered ranks of salmonberries and coastal pine, my riding boots were evenly beveled and that fine girl wore a high flush in her cheeks that had shag-all to do with sunburn. You can't have much more sport than that and still be welcomed home.

That's the kind of dance I can appreciate. That's the sport I love.

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