Friday, December 22, 2023

Real retro riding? Forget about it

 I've written, in this blog, that riding an old Royal Enfield Bullet is fun in part because it tells me what it was like to ride a vintage motorcycle. 

But that's not true. 

This is because "what it was like to ride a vintage motorcycle" included having the skills of a vintage motorcyclist. And I don't have them. 

Oh, I can master the use of the kick start lever, the neutral finder lever, the carburetor enrichment lever, and so forth. All that is not enough. 

The fact is that motorcycle riders of old must have been better riders. They had to be. 

They rode more, in all weather, on a schedule that tolerated no delay getting to work. Roads were worse. Tires were not as good. 

Hills, even mountains, had to be climbed if they were in the way. Streams might lack bridges. A rider might have a map, but he could not have all maps in his pocket (on a phone) as do I.

These are all incidentals and, if I wanted to, I could correct most of them by traveling to a rustic destination and roughing it without my phone (not that I would ever do this).

But that still wouldn't be enough. Here's why:

I live in Florida. Yes, the weather is good (no chance of ice ever) but the big thing is, it's flat! I never encounter more than a gentle hill.

Even more significant is that I never have a mountain on one side of a curve. There literally is no such thing in my experience as a "blind corner."

My corners never get tighter than my sight tells me to expect; my corners never hide an oncoming vehicle crossing the center line -- or even an unseen puddle.

Riders who regularly enjoy canyon carving probably can't realize what a difference this makes. For me, not having a clear sight line out of a corner dished up before I even enter the corner is akin to being suddenly blinded.

A few minutes of riding in the California mountains taught me what a difference blind corners make. Pure, visceral disorientation and fear washed over me.

Another thing: Yes, Florida has trees. It's a swamp. But, since modern roads have to be built up to cross a swamp, the trees are rarely directly alongside the road, as they are in rural areas elsewhere.

To a Florida rider, miles of trees just a shoulder width away feel like an impending appointment with the gallows.

In the U.S., many of these tree-chocked forests are well supplied with deer. I have spoken with a former motorcyclist crippled for life in a collision with a deer.

Vintage-era motorcyclists, even in Florida, experienced these challenging conditions and learned to live with their fears.

Their big secret was that they had to.

I don't. Because even if I didn't live in Florida, I have a comfy, air conditioned automobile with an automatic transmission, navigation screen and cruise control (what mountain?) to use if I want.

I'm not complaining. I am just realizing that riding my obsolete Royal Enfield Bullet is not teaching me what riding was like for a rider in the 1940s. It's obsolete, but nothing else involved in the experience is.

So what am I going to do about this?

Realistically, probably nothing.

Recently our refrigerator broke and my wife and I lived without one until a new fridge (with a blessed automatic ice maker) could be delivered. It wasn't a fun few days, or even educational.

"Our grandparents lived without a refrigerator; why can't we?" I asked my wife.

She wasn't interested in finding the answer to that question. She just wanted to know when the new machine would arrive.

I just wanted a cold beer.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12/28/2023

    You are so correct. The riders of old had far more to deal with, as did all of that generation but to them, it was still "normal". Like an automatic ice maker!


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