Last Page - Fuel, Air, Compression, Spark: The Four Horsemen Of Motorcycling

Photography by Tod Rafferty

There was a time when being a motorcyclist was only partly about riding. Sure, it was fun to blaze around the countryside, but it seemed whenever two or more motorcycles were operated within close proximity for more than an hour, one (or more) would inexplicably fail, blatting exhaust suddenly stifled, followed by a slow, quiet coast to the side of the road. Total silence.

This was actually the beginning of the fun. Motorcycling was about improvising, MacGyver-like, to persuade an unwilling lump to carry you to the next gas station, bar or seedy motel. And to see what you and your buddies could pull out of your collective asses to makes it happen.

Iron-age roadside troubleshooting was one of the best parts of motorcycling. Who knew what the problem was? Maybe the friend who convinced you to hold the spark plug on the cylinder head while he kicked it through? Always good for a shock. Or the buddy that believed everything from the original-recipe Depression to the Cuban Missile Crisis was due to a plugged gas cap vent hole? Better suck on that bad boy and check it out, just to be sure.

So, you'd crouch at the roadside, troubleshooting simian-style as the bow-wakes of passing trucks rolled over you with waves of stinging gravel. Checking perfectly functional systems, hot oil would soak through thin leather gloves, triggering a quiet petro-erotic thrill. Fuel. Air. Compression. Spark. This bitch just has to start.

And so it would bark to life, in an unlikely confluence of good luck, country wisdom and hard-won roadside smarts. Pity you latter-day riders missed the fun of the fix.

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