Motorcycle Art (Who knew bikes made beautiful music and are so often the topic of fine literature)
But on this first day of the dark month it is beautiful and I took advantage of it. With temps in the mid-50s and blue skies, I took what will be one of my last rides for the season. I hope to get one or two more in before winter settles in for good, but today was one of those gifts that must be taken advantage of. Though the trees were mostly bare there was still much beauty to be seen; a flock of wild turkeys enjoying a feast of spilled soybeans in a harvested field, deer in the back corner of a picked corn field, even a turkey vulture circling in the blue skies, extending his stay just one more day before moving south. (The thermal updrafts that these birds love to soar on are mighty rare this time of year). The deer cooperated in my adventure by staying away from the road and not causing me undue concerns.
As I cruised the back roads I was once again reminded how much I love the sound of motorcycles. It's a very basic thing for me - I think that the four-stroke internal combustion engine, properly muffled, (not too much, not too little) makes some of the prettiest music you'll hear anywhere. The sound of those power pulses string out behind as we ride, rising and falling with slight twists of the wrist. It's a beautiful sound that I enjoy listening to for hours. Motorcycle music is one of the many varied reasons I love to ride. Depending on the location the sound takes on different harmonics - next to a woods or rock wall it reverberates with a harmony unlike any other. On an open road the pitch changes to a muted trail of stacatto beats and I often wish I was somehow following behind me so I could hear the sound from my pipes more fully. Want to increase the cadence and volume - twist the right wrist just a bit to increase rpms and get more of those bass notes flowing. Want a little less forte and more pianissimo in your music? Roll off the throttle and listen as the harmony and dynamics change to a gentler more subtle music.
Of course a group of bikes is needed to really make beautiful music. A half-dozen bikes on the open road can produce a harmony of sound unlike any other.
Not all bikes make beautiful music. I had several two-strokes in my earlier riding years and I never did grow to like the harsh metallic ring-a-ding-ding of two stroke engines. And I don't care for the harsh ear splitting sound of un-muffled bikes at all. Those explosive sound waves emanating from within the engine need to be molded and tempered just the right way to get that wonderful and powerful visceral sound that can be both heard and felt. Proper tuning is necessary, just like good music made by any other musical instrument.
In my mind, the V-Twin engine makes the best music of all. To each his or her own - I like the firing interval of the twin and its unique low rpm power pulses and sound, other love the high speed turbine-like whine of a four cylinder engine at high rpms.
And motorcycle art goes beyond music. Look in any motorcycle accessories catalog and you'll notice dozens of books about the topic of motorcycling. They range from technical and mechanical treatises to adventure stories based on bikes, and pretty much everything in between. It's a genre in and of itself.
I've read quite a number of books over the years that were in some way about motorcycling. The very first was way back in 1974, and of course it was the venerable Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I've read it a couple of times since and I think I'm beginning to understand it just a little. (If you really want to be intellectually puzzled, try reading some of the other books that Pirsig wrote!)
This past year I have made it a point to read several books about the sport of motorcycling. They included: The Old Man and the Harley; The Vincent in the Barn; Live to Ride; the Long Way Down and Long Way Round books; The Perfect Vehicle (What is it about Motorcycles); Motorcycle Girls 1900 - 1950; and an unusual one that I highly recommend for anyone interested in the overlap of major historic world events and motorcycling - Captain W.H.L. Watson's Adventures of a Motorcycle Despatch Rider. It's the true story of a young Englishman who joined the English Army's Signal Corps as a motorcycle dispatch rider in 1914 / 1915, when massive armies were moving across France and Belgium. His descriptions of the conditions and circumstances of the first year of The Great War, and of riding a motorcycle through the maelstrom of war, mud, snow and confusion, is fascinating. Just reading firsthand accounts of the descriptions of horse-drawn artillery and mounted cavalry battles, and the unimaginable (in this age of satellites and instant communications) often total lack of communications between units and the lack of knowledge of what was taking place just 2 or 3 miles away, is hard to comprehend today. And that was just one century ago!
Watson wrote his book shortly after his experiences and it's thus long since out of print - but it can be downloaded for free from Amazon on a Kindle or Kindle-equipped smart phone.
I've recently ordered Motorcycling Grandma, the story of Hazel Kolb and her marvelous journeys around America, from a book reseller, through Amazon. I'm looking forward to this next read.
Don't be too hasty about winterizing your bike and ending another season of fun. But when it is time to call it quits for the season, remember that there are dozens of enjoyable and interesting books out there that can make the dark cold winter more bearable. There are also many books and videos that will make a rider a better and safer rider - I can't think of a better way to spend an evening than watching one of these videos rather than the usual junk that's on TV.
I added Sta-Bil before today's ride and topped off the tank with high-octane after the ride. I expect to have to do these and other winterizing steps again, as I fully intend to ride a few more times this year. Usually by mid-November I'm forced to call it quits. I don't ride in the winter except on the unusual warm day when the ice on the road has completely disappeared. I have nothing to prove and won't take unnecessary chances on ice and snow-covered roads. Too many people die trying to prove how macho they are. I'm past that point, fortunately. (And I survived that period in my life! Yahoo!)
So I'll soon hook up the electric life line to the bike's battery, clean it completely and wax all painted and chrome surfaces, and cover it for another long night's sleep.