David bought a Triumph 750.
It was beat-up, but strong. My brother had a BSA 650, but it was broken down. I think it spent more time in pieces than it did together. My best friend, Dan, had a Honda 350. I had ridden it many times before, and I thought I knew how to handle a motorcycle. David offered to let me ride his brand new used Triumph.
”I’ve got to warn you, the suspension is really stiff. I like it that way, so I can do wheelies” David said.
“Sure, I can handle it,” I said with typical youthful enthusiasm.
“Just be really careful as you ease out on the clutch,” my brother said.
“This bike is a bit more powerful than you’re used to.”
As I sat on the bike, I knew something was different. It was about half the size of my friends Honda 350, but a lot heavier. It nearly tipped over right after I straddled it. I was to pull out of the driveway, and make a 90 degree turn onto the road in front of the house. I figured I would take it around the block. It was a country block, about a mile on each side and our house sat in the center, a half-mile from the first intersection.
I eased out on the clutch, and in the blink of an eye I was on the dirt on the other side of the road.
”Just lean the direction you want to go” my brother shouted.
I immediately pulled back on the clutch and barely twitched my shoulder toward the road, and I was off. I was really scared as I shifted into second. I looked down at the speedometer, and just my little twitch of power in first had me going almost 30 miles per hour. I hit second, and gave it a little gas. Forty-five. I had just shifted into third, saw that I was already going 60 as the stop sign approached. I stopped at the intersection, and held my breath as I tried to turn again.
This time was smoother. I took it up to around 80 and enjoyed the feeling for only a few moments before I was at the next stop sign. As I approached the third turn, I wasn’t taking any chances. There was no stop sign, so I was just going to make a gentle turn at around 20 mph.
No sooner than I started to lean, ever so slightly, the bike went that direction. It felt really good as I banked into it. But then, abruptly, the bike flew out from under me. That flash of fright came back. The bike was fine, I was fine, it was just so damn embarrassing. I wasn’t hardly moving at all, what the hell happened? I kicked the bike over and it started right up. I just dusted myself off and took it home without further incident. I told everyone about it, being the honest idiot I was. They all laughed. I was glad they weren’t there to see it.
This was the summer between high school and college, and I lusted after one of those machines for the longest time. It was just pure speed, in a tiny little package. I could really see how people could become addicted to riding. But photography was just too expensive an obsession, and I never managed to own both a motorcycle and a camera. It’s probably a good thing, after cataloguing the injuries that my brother inflicted on himself because of his bike.
I later found out that in order to stiffen the suspension, David had removed the springs from one side of the front-end and substituted a broom handle. Just one side, mind you, so that’s what made this bike so squirrelly in the turns. Right turns were no problem, but lefts…
David didn’t care. He really just enjoyed popping wheelies.