Bad Motor Scooters | Behind Bars

By Jack Lewis, Photography by Shasta Willson

Those of you age 62 and up have probably forgotten which bikes suck. (Hell, you probably can’t remember what you had for lunch). But if you’re 22, I’ll bet you know precisely what sucks. Having ridden none of them but possessing a steel-trap memory for geekin’ on bike stats, you can cite chapter and verse on whichever sporty 600 was slowest through the quarter-mile this year—by an eighth of a second.

Yeah, that’s crucial data.

If you’re still riding at 32, you’re past all that. All grown up and sophisticated now, you declaim on the yeastiness of micro-brews, own a European sportbike (but not a Ducati—those are overrated poseur bikes), and scorn lame American moto mags. We’re seasonally predictable, juvenilely colorful, hung up on that eighth of a second and, worst of all, we seem so allergic to saying an unkind word about the bikes that we’re obviously licking crumbs off the gleaming dom boots of factory royalty. You might be chuffed if domestic magazines imitated those cheeky, 5-pound rags from the UK, but reading Motorcyclist is about as sophisticated as chasing your Early Times with Yuengling.

If you’re 42, put the magazine down now and log back in to AdvRider.com. Unless you’re in the bathroom. We at Motorcyclist are nothing if not safety advocates.

A little perspective is called for. If you’re young enough to think someone riding a Triumph Thruxton will be intimidated when you dis her as a “punter,” here’s some not-so-breaking news: Not only are staffers at the major moto mags faster than you, they’ve also crashed—and owned—more bikes than you and your buddies put together have ridden in your green-budded lives. They were shredding the bias-plies off two-smoke streetbikes, hillclimbing on gasping Honda XRs and wrestling 600-lb., skinny-tired “superbikes” around racetracks while your pimpled pop was still trying to inveigle mom out for a drive to Sweetheart Point.

Let’s be clear: Those bikes sucked. Trust me, you don’t know from suck until you’ve been on an adventure ride where your “dual-sport” (a term that hadn’t been invented yet) “adventure bike” (ibid) fouled its single spark plug, partially seized, flooded and drowned its ignition, all on the same trip. All that happened on the way home from high-school football practice, just before I got a ticket when the headlight burned out. We were in better physical shape than today’s punks, too. We walked a lot more—it’s always uphill both ways if you’re pushing a motorcycle.

Sure, we all knew someday there’d be smooth, 100-horsepower motorcycles. We even had one: the awe-inspiring Honda CBX with its six mighty chrome chesticles and more finning than a Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior. We just didn’t imagine they’d be svelte middleweights, or that the likes of you would feel superior to technology of which more experienced riders barely feel worthy. A 600cc bike that’ll do a buck-and-a-half within seven blocks of mom’s driveway isn’t an “entry-level” streetbike. Believe me, it’s not limiting the full potential of your mad skillz.

There was a term, not long ago, for 400-lb., 100-bhp bikes with dual-compound radial tires, heated handgrips and xenon projector beams lighting the way for Kevlar-helmeted riders: “science fiction.”

You really want to know why all current bikes seem to make motorcycle journos grin? Because they’re awesome—in the original, literal sense of that word. English sputters out the last reserves from its adjective tank in trying to describe the marvels you can buy in a current showroom—probably on a healthy discount. Hint: Buy last year’s model. Any sportbike bolted up in the past five years has more potential than humans can exploit on the street.

Even you, stuntah boy

In fact, most bikes are so good nowadays that we old salts of the road often feel the need to handicap them, just to increase the challenge. Now excuse me while I order up a few more kilograms of aluminum farkles for my 800-lb. “adventure bike.” Once I git ‘er completely kitted up, I’m gonna strap a tight band over my hernia scars and try to heave the beast off its centerstand.

That’ll be an adventure.

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