Behind Bars - Chord Digressions

Up To Speed

By Jack Lewis, Photography by Shasta Willson

Eventually, slowly, it started to come together. My fingers recalibrated from the familiar old six-string, just as my throttle hand automatically recalibrates after jumping off my placid '60s twin to seize hold of the 100-horse light-switch of my latter-day boxer.

As with that bike-chotomy, the old guitar offers everything I need for a pleasant afternoon and bears irreplaceable memories to boot-but 15 watts of boost let me do things I never imagined doing on the Silvertone.

Plunking along a country road on my old bike is profoundly satisfying. I look down at the cylinders warming my feet and appreciate that they're beautifully made in a classic style, durable and effective within their limits. At 60 mph, the beggar's riding position feels natural all day long.

But without gooey modern tires, I won't ride to the edge of the tread. Öhlins shocks, wide wheels, 50 pounds less weight and serious power mean that even I can do things on my '07 R1100S that motorcyclists literally didn't imagine when the R69S was designed.

The gifts of technology don't make me a better guitar player or a smoother rider, but they expand the envelope. My friendly old bike, with its sand-cast cases and gentleman's kick-starter, is satisfying and reliable as Grandpa's axe. The new one, its alloys unapologetically shrouded in deep black plastic, is closer akin to my neighbor's hydraulic log-splitter.

Re-entry into a skilled avocation is always a daunting prospect, especially if you're not as good as you think you were back when-and nobody's as good as I remember, at least on bikes. (I always sucked on guitar.)

But as neither a professional motorcycle racer nor a gigging musician, I have the luxury of time for improvement. Maybe I'll work in some guitar lessons next summer, between track days and an MSF Advanced RiderCourse. You can learn from anyone if you pay attention. You may find that lessons on what brings joy are as important as any other, and a lot more overdue.

Besides, hearing "That's too loud!" from my teenage stepson is very nearly as gratifying as provoking him to cluck that I ride too fast.

Maybe next summer I'll take Sonboy along on a moto-camping weekend. We can even bring my old Silvertone and play some homemade music around the campfire.

Everyone ought to wick it up sometimes, but it's good to unplug once in a while.

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