Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Cruiser Quest - an unexpected twist

I went to the GP (that's the doctor GP, not the motoGP) this morning, to get my xray results. The good news is that my bone has mended. The bad news is that it's going to be pretty fragile for a while yet, so I need to be careful. I was given the heads-up about that by my lovely GP a while ago anyway, along with the exhortation to 'get thee a cruiser' - so, no surprises there.

Next stop was Eurotune, the Triumph dealership in Queanbeyan. Helen & Anders were really helpful. I sat on an America - HUGELY imposing and very heavy. It was parked on a very slight slope, but I couldn't haul it upright off the side-stand, so that was that. Bye Bye America. Next -  the lovely Bonneville. The T100 was, alas, too tall. The SE was a much better fit, although I still couldn't get my feet flat, possibly because of the position of the pegs. Who on earth put them right where I would put my feet in order to get them flat on the ground? I wonder whether the pegs can actually be moved? Straddle-walking the bike would be pretty much an impossibility, coz my little legs won't touch the ground if I stretch out past the end of those bloody pegs. Sheesh, I hate being this short! I booked a test ride anyway, for next Monday.

That sweet Harley Sportster 883 Superlow has really taken my fancy, so I headed to Robbo's Motorcycles back in Canberra to have another sit on it and to book a test ride. Lo and behold, Blake, the sales guy, said I could have a ride on it this arv. I fanged home to get my gear and fanged back to Fyshwick in record time.

And then I couldn't do it. (This is the bad bit. Look away if you don't want to see a grown woman cry.) I sat on that nice, low, easy-to-ride, beaut little bike and the last 6 years of riding just evaporated. I was back at Stay Upright with my heart thumping out of my chest and tears in my eyes, so terrified that I couldn't move. WTF?

Blake was brilliant. I would've been fine once I actually got out on the road, and I think he knew that. Another few minutes and all would've been ok, I think (maybe). The boss, though, told him to pull the pin on the test ride. How farking embarrassing. Blake was an absolute champion:

"Don't beat yourself up over it - the last time you were on a bike you fell off and broke your pelvis. And this is an unfamiliar bike, unfamiliar riding style. Why wouldn't you be nervous? Be kind to yourself."

I still felt like the world's biggest loser. I'm giving myself tonight to be a big sook, then tomorrow I'm going to give myself a very stern talking-to. I wonder whether it would be useful to get out on the road on something more familiar, just for my first ride, post-accident? A little GPX or something small like that? Despite the sporty ride position, it'd get me out there in the traffic on two wheels, juggling levers etc.

The other thing that I guess has bothered me is this - I've never taken a bike for a test ride in my life. I've never ridden anybody else's bike. I've never test-driven a car. I'm so nervous about the possibility of damaging someone else's ride that I just can't do it. Maybe THAT's the problem (in which case the previous paragraph about test-riding a little GPX is rendered null and void!)

I think if I were to just buy the bloody bike I'd be able to ride it out of the showroom, no probs - but then, what if I hated it after 50kms? That has never happened with any of my other bikes - I've fallen in love with each one (especially my last SV) almost instantly - but what if??? What if this horrible fear means I've lost my nerve altogether?  Wouldn't I know it already? Wouldn't that have manifested as a "Hmmm, don't think I'll bother getting another bike" mindset? Surely my desperate need to get back on a bike means that I haven't lost my nerve, right? That this is a temporary setback, yes?

Okay, so tonight - perhaps some self-indulgent snivelling, maybe even a pizza - and definitely a Wild Turkey while I feel sorry for myself... Tomorrow, a big bowl of HTFU for breakfast, and it'll be a new day. Thank goodness.

Betty's Cruiser Quest

Bikers are a clannish lot. If you ride a sportsbike, it’s the only sort of bike worth riding. Cruisers are for fat old men or outlaw bikie gangs, and don’t get me started on girly scooters! And then there’s the marque loyalty and stereotyping. BMWs are for old people and accountants, Harleys are for outlaws or weekend warrior accountants, Ducatis are for poseurs and speed freaks with too much money (but probably not accountants).

I’ve always ridden Jap bikes, mostly Suzukis of the sporty type. I’ve never wanted to ride anything else. And I'm just as prejudiced and clannish as the next sportsbike rider.

There was something a bit karmic, then, in my doctor’s suggestion that I get a cruiser. I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. You need to be sitting on your arse (that’s a medical term), and not your pubic bone, he said. The bottom line, then: cruiser or nothing, for the foreseeable future. It’s surprising how attractive the concept of a cruiser suddenly became.

And then I sat on some.

Japanese cruisers have taken the essence of the cruiser motorcycle and vamped it up to make it more muscular than its American inspiration, and that, I think, was a mistake. Even on Suzuki’s entry-level M50 (with chrome-painted plastic!) I felt like a pimple on a pumpkin.  If motorcycles were horses, sportsbikes would be thoroughbreds and cruisers would be Clydesdales. (I suppose that would make scooters those little Shetland ponies you ride at school fetes. Ooh-er, slap my wrist, tee hee!)

My latest quest, then, is to find the perfect Betty-sized cruiser. After sitting on (but not test-riding – yet!) millions of the things, I have refined my wish-list.

It can’t be a 250cc jobbie. Tiny tank, no guts – and they feel like a postie bike (which is fine if you’re a postie). I want a bit more road-presence than that. And a decent-sized fuel tank.

It can’t have footboards – I find them uncomfortable. Let’s face it, I find that whole feet-forward thing weird anyway – and what I’ve noticed is that the bikes with footboards tend to be the biggest, most muscular cruisers, made for people with feet the size of New Zealand. Footpegs for me, thanks.

And while we’re on the subject of footpegs, I’d like them not too far forward. The long wheelbase of a cruiser and the shortness of me means that in order to sit with legs stretched forward to reach the pegs, and arms stretched out to reach the bars, I’m not going to cruise comfortably – I’m going to be bent like a paperclip.

No chrome! Okay okay, we're talking cruisers, and that's going too far. How about 'as little chrome as I can get away with'?

Is anybody else hearing the strains of The Impossible Dream right now?

My quest has taken me to just about every bike dealership in Canberra, whenever I could steal out of Marking Hell for an hour. What an adventure. Even being a pimple on a pumpkin is preferable to huddling over piles of exams. Sitting on a motorcycle, even one that doesn’t fit, puts a grin on my face like nothing else can. 

Watch this space.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Mental Hellth Pt II

Betty claws her way out of the Pit of Despair and peers around, blinking like an owl in the sunlight – and twitching, definitely twitching.  A nervous tic above her right eye, yes. She looks around furtively and checks over her shoulder, then lays a finger to quivering lips.

Sssssshhhhhhh, don’t tell anyone I’m here, she says.

The blog sits impassively. Betty throws caution to the wind and flings herself at it, squealing with delight.

Oh, little blog! How I have missed you! It feels like forever – I’m so so sorry! It’s been just dreadful.

The blog stares blankly. Betty looks hurt.

Oh, come on, don’t be like that – I don’t have long. I have to be back in Reporting Hell soon. I just snuck out for a quick visit – I’ve been so desperate. Couldn’t get out any earlier coz I was stuck in Marking Hell, and that’s one level deeper than Reporting Hell.

She looks at the clock on the wall and grimaces, then starts babbling.
I’ve been doing the numbers. Listen to these –
The number of 12-hour days I’ve worked in the last few weekends - 3
The number of days last weekend that I was too sick to do any exam marking at all - 3
The number of exams I marked between 4.30am Tuesday and 1pm Wednesday of this week - 3
The number of days I got to school at 7.30am and didn’t leave before 6pm - 13
The number of days I got to school before 7.30am and didn’t leave till after 6.30pm - 2
The number of Year 10 reports I wrote - 50+
The number of Year 11/12 reports I wrote - 50+
The number of other people’s reports I proofread/edited - 100+
The number of tutor group reports I have yet to write - 20+
The number of times I thought about walking out and never going back - 20+
The blog’s upper lip starts quivering. It’s only human, after all. Betty flings her arms around it again.

Yes, it’s been horrible – horrible! But guess what? There have been some bright spots in there – like diamonds twinkling in a bucket of shit. I haven’t got time to tell you about them, but as soon as I get out of Reporting Hell I will. Here’s a hint: motorbikes!

On hearing the word motorbikes, the blog relaxes.  Betty is still carrying her walking stick everywhere, but only using it for minimal support these days, and is booked in for another xray.
That stubborn bone will surely be mended by now, thinks the blog. Perhaps then, Madwoman Betty will calm down, cheer up, chill out.

Betty seems to read its mind, and laughs maniacally. An unseen force begins pulling her backwards. She scrabbles for balance, but is drawn, almost magnetically, kicking and screaming, towards the bleak, swirling vortex that will drag her back down to Reporting Hell for another week.

The blog pricks up its ears. It’s sure it hears Betty’s voice piping through the swirling miasma:

I’ll be baaaaaaaaaack!