Friday, September 22, 2023

A Wild Irish Girl on a motorcycle

Poster of woman riding a motorcycle.
I purchased this poster at the National Motorcycle Museum.

 Tucked away in the small town of Anamosa, Iowa, the National Motorcycle Museum was, until this month, an astonishingly vast and important collection of rare and splendid motorcycles, bicycles, memorabilia and art. 

The brainchild of collector and businessman John Parham, the museum was a jewel hidden in the cornfields. Its location was simultaneously intriguing and daunting. Away from the population centers it could never attract the kind of visitation a non-profit museum requires. 

Blogger Jorge Pullin visited, commenting that it was a three-plane nightmare that cost as much as a trip to Europe. 

The museum closed Sept. 4, 2023 and its remaining 300 motorcycles and 6,000 related but incredibly varied items were auctioned off Sept. 6-9. 

I only visited the museum once, wondering simultaneously what it and I were doing in a place as isolated as Anamosa, Iowa.

I was there with my wife, her brother and their mother on a mission to track down their family history. A stop at the motorcycle museum was a treat for me.

It was just too much to take in (watch the video to see what I mean).

But I did take away memories, a museum T-shirt, and a copy of a poster I spotted on the wall entitled "A Wild Irish Girl."

The brave girl depicted in the poster reminded me of the brave woman I married.

It's also a stirring image of a motorcycle at speed, evocative of early 20th Century models.

It's shown with an acetylene headlight, common on the very earliest motorcycles, but the gas tank is more rounded than on the early "flat tank" motorcycles.

Online references occasionally suggest that it illustrated the book "A Wild Irish Girl" by Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith, who wrote under the name L.T. Meade. (Note that the source refers to the book as "The Wild Irish Girl," but images of the book show that the title was "A Wild Irish Girl," as in my poster.)

However, that is a 1910 book, and photos of the book itself show a cover with a much more restrained portrait of a girl.

There is more than one version of the book cover online; could the girl on the motorcycle be from a later edition unknown to Google Image Search?

 I don't think so. Meade's book can be read online, and, while it is an amusing story of an attractive, independent, and stubborn 15-year-old girl, it does not contain the word "motorcycle." Or even "cycle." Or "moto."

Traffic is often referred to as including "motors," but this is obviously meant to mean automobiles. Patricia, the girl in question, and one of strong opinions, professes to "hate motors."

So, that's not it.

My copy of the poster shows no indication of an author's name (again suggesting it is not a book or magazine cover), or any artist's signature. 

L.T. Meade's book was written for young people. A more adult book, "The Wild Irish Girl," by Sydney Owenson, appeared in 1806. Politically controversial for promoting both Irish and female independence, it contained (of course, in 1806) no motorcycles.

So where did the image of the girl on the motorcycle originate? The only clue is the words "A Wild Irish Girl."

The phrase "wild Irish girl" has been around probably as long as Irish girls.

Mid-16th Century England denied citizenship to the people of the "wild Irish nation."

"The term would be appropriated by the Irish themselves in latter years, depriving it of its sting," one source notes.

There's no doubt the daring Irish girl on the motorcycle is depicted as an example of bravery. She appears to me to be fleeing, either in desperation or determination. Her goal is more important to her than the impending crash.

She's riding that motorcycle "like she stole it."

The museum's framed copy of the poster I have was to be auctioned off in company other posters of women motorcyclists, as Lot 366.

Mine is not for sale.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Don't kick Royal Enfield Scram 411

Royal Enfield Scram 411 rear view.
Who wants a Scram 411? 

 Royal Enfield introduced its Scram 411 motorcycle with a video showing young men hooning around, raising dust clouds and generally being obnoxiously enthusiastic. 

(Note that there are no women in the video.) 

"Is the Scram 411 what Royal Enfield customers want?" I asked at the time

The answer to that just came in an email from Scram 411 owner Nicola Farr, of the UK. 

Here is what an experienced woman motorcyclist says about the Royal Enfield Scram 411: 

"I would love to see a review of the 2023 Scram 411, as I see a lot of negatives being pointed out in reviews like Ryan does in his FortNine video.

Man kicking a Royal Enfield Scram 411.
YouTube vlogger Ryan kicks a Scram 411.

"I’ve recently bought a new Scram 411. Now I have years and years experience of riding motorcycles (I started in 1975 riding and always had a motorcycle on the road).

"Why did I buy a 400cc motorcycle? I have a Fireblade in the garage, a Versys, and several Bultacos, a GasGas, and I’ve just sold two WR400F bikes.

"Well, as I see it the roads are busier than ever these days, the UK government has a passion for all sorts of speed cameras, so you can’t open your big bikes up like you could; this is where the Scram's pure experience comes into play.

It’s cheap to buy, cheap to run, has a 6,000 mile service interval; the latest are injected rather than a carb; I’ve got 97 mpg on a full tank to a full tank while running in.

"Yes, it’s built to a price point that makes it affordable for the Indian market. But it also makes it affordable in other countries.

"I’ve finished running mine in just today: 1,310 miles.

Woman rider seated on Scram 411.
Nicola Farr of the UK knows motorcycles.

"I’ve ridden fast highways and single-track country lanes on it during the running in period. I must say what a fantastic bike it is. I really can’t fault its performance and reliability up to this point; the smiles per miles are way beyond what my imagination expected or I could have hoped for. 

"So much so I haven’t ridden my other bikes all summer!

"Yes I get passed by bikers and cars  but I get to see the world as I pass, instead of a blur at 100 miles per hour. The journey has suddenly become more important than the destination, which is what I remember riding to be all those years ago.

"The navigation on the Scram, and the other models to that point, takes time to understand and any lag is down to the phone and the phone’s ability to get a signal, etc. The UK bikes phone app is behind the release in the home market so it could improve if it’s released world wide.

"So would I repeat my purchase if I could rewind time? YES, every single time. It rides well, feels right, it has been reliable, economical and it has good looks, and loads of accessories are available

Scram 411 near the beach.
Royal Enfield Scram 411 appreciates the scenery.

"The seat is comfortable on the Scram for all day riding. I’ve fitted a few extras like hand guards,  engine bars in case I drop it and a rack to carry my day's essentials on a ride.

"As I was rolling down past the beautiful Welsh countryside, I thought this Royal Enfield I own is probably going over roads that had been ridden on by much earlier Enfield model bikes, over 100 years before me!  

"I bet they were equally impressed with their Royal Enfield bikes as I am with my Scram! The valleys rang with the dependable thudding of the engine exhaust sound as I took the twists and turns of the narrow road. Climbing the twisting lane it was music to my ears for sure.

"The pure riding experience of the Himalayan Scram stays with you, long after you have returned home and had a coffee in your favorite armchair awaiting your next excuse to go for a ride."

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