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#282 A Week in the Life

Smith pokes into his weekly stack of mail.

A press release arrives from Harley-Davidson, announcing the launch of a series of videos celebrating 100 years of H-D apparel. The footnote tells me Harley-Davidson is “the only major U.S.-based motorcycle manufacturer…”
I guess whether you accept this statement as true depends how you define “major:” though it does sound a lot like a poke aimed squarely at Polaris and its Victory motorcycle range. Polaris doesn’t publish sales numbers, but estimates suggest the Minnesota maker produces around 10,000 bikes a year compared with H-D’s 200,000-odd. That certainly makes Victory a volume producer of the same order as many European brands; and while there’s no question H-D owns the heavyweight motorcycle market, five per cent isn’t a bad dent.

An email from a pal in the UK. He’s just completed a day in the classroom being re-educated in highway safety. It’s an option that jurisdictions worldwide, including many US states, are offering so drivers (and riders) convicted of some classes of road offences can avoid penalties and licence points.
In the UK, motorcyclists caught riding dangerously can be required to take the Rider Intervention Developing Experience (RIDE) program, while offending drivers may have to take an approved re-training program under the National Driver Improvement Scheme.
What a great idea! It’s self-evident that driving standards in Canada continue to decline through a number of factors, including distraction; further detachment from physical interaction with the vehicle; and a general disinterest in road rules. It doesn’t help that enforcement branches ignore almost all traffic offences except speeding and red lights.
And what is it makes us think that passing a driving test at age 16 should be all the driver education a person ever needs? And why would getting certified in a Smart Car mean you’re instantly capable of operating a three-ton, 400-hp SUV? Pilots and professional drivers require ongoing training and certification to upgrade to new equipment, and graduated licencing (by horsepower) is a reality for motorcyclists in many countries. So why not for car drivers?
In British Columbia, the provincial insurer has a declared policy of hitting those it deems “bad” drivers (not necessarily those involved in crashes) with heavy fines, insurance premium hikes and “administrative sanctions.”
Why reprisal and not redemption? If these really are “bad” drivers, wouldn’t it be more constructive to require re-education instead of fines and premium hikes? Or am I just being naïve?

I stop by my local Triumph dealer to kick some tires, and pick up a copy of a promo flyer that says, “When you ride a Triumph, you don’t just own one of our bikes … you own a part of our history.” Shown on the cover is a shot from an earlier time, presumably the 1960s, with a couple frolicking in front of a motorcycle. The goal of the flyer, one assumes, is to imbue new and potential Triumph owners with a sense of the brand’s proud heritage.
But then I start to look closer. The bike in the picture wears what looks like a Triumph gas tank, but also has a full width rear brake with the operating lever on the right; a heart-shaped oil tank; and the tachometer drive connected to the intake camshaft. A search of my bookshelf confirms that no rear brake hub of this kind was ever used on a stock Triumph Twin. Neither was a Triumph tachometer ever driven from the intake camshaft.
A brief survey of my Brit-bike buddies, whose knowledge far exceeds my own, yields no further clues. So I borrow some stronger eyeglasses. If I squint at the picture hard enough, I can just make out the “piled arms” logo on the timing cover. That confirms my suspicions. There was indeed a British bike with a QD rear wheel with a full-width hub and right side lever, and an intake cam-driven tach. But it wasn’t a Triumph.
The bike on the front cover of the Triumph flyer is a 650 Road Rocket or Super Rocket from the late 1950s. The Triumph is a BSA!

A snap arrives in my inbox from Bike EXIF, a free service that sends me images of customized motorcycles. Okay, I know I’m a cynic (I learned from my dad—he was world-class), but why is it that custom bikes have started to look like a pile of wreckers’ yard leftovers?
I’m sure I can trace the DNA of the custom Yamaha on my screen. It’s all XS650 except for the fat car tire at the rear (de rigeur these days, like exhaust header tape) and a Gixxer front end. I can visualize the creator looking around his shop at an XS650 with rusty mufflers and fenders that had t-boned a car, then at the Gixxer that someone had thrown down the road after an aborted wheelie, and then at his welding kit …
And that’s what it looks like: a pile of parts. No fenders, odd wheels, and held together with baby-blue paint. We don’t need no stinkin’ aesthetics!

Poet’s Day (Push off early, tomorrow’s Saturday …)


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