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MY HANDLEBAR HELL – PART ONE

Please join me on this descent into Hell...

This happened a long time ago.

 

But the scars remain – both physical and mental. These scars are a fitting reminder of my personal failings – my dumbness, my hubris, my stubbornness, and my vanity, all of which conspired to destroy me and my dreams – but I prevailed…sorta.

 

How many of you remember Laverdas? Wondrous things. They gave Ducatis a run for their money in terms of performance, handling, beauty, and feral dago hatred of their owners.

 

I lusted over Jotas like them creepy old dogs on Facebook lust over pictures of young girls in bikinis. Those old pant-pissers who comment on images of scantily clad models with GIFs of goats waving their tongues around, and add words like “HELLO BYOOTFUL!!!!!”  as if the girl is reading the comments…well, that was me when it came to Laverda Jotas.

 

I had a GSX1100EX, and I loved it. It made my girlfriend, Tatijana, scream when I rode it in anger, and once, after a spirited display of my riding prowess, I tried taking pictures of her when she was heaving her lettuce leaves onto the side of the Old Pacific Highway. So a big-arse, in-line, Jap 1100 certainly worked for both of us. She stayed slim, and I laughed lots.

 

But I lusted after a Laverda Jota. It was my dream bike. However, I was neither wealthy enough or stupid enough to buy one. I would have, anyway, but my girlfriend had already maxed out her credit cards when she helped me out with some Marzocchi shocks we had to have.

 

I also needed the rock-solid reliability the Suzuki offered me. My work commute was Marrickville to Campbelltown every day. And I quite enjoyed how the 1100 howled, even though I realised, even at that early age, how compromised it was in terms of handling.

 

I just rode around that shit. Whatever issues the Suzuki had, I accepted them, and modified my riding to suit. I also poured appalling fuck-tonnes of my hard-earned into that bike. And my girlfriend’s hard-earned, too. I paid her back every time, and she had a thing about heels and lingerie – which is what she normally spent all her money on, so it all kinda worked out.

 

But I had over-capitalised this two-wheeled liability to the point where I could probably have bought a new Laverda Jota and a ute to bring it home when it broke down, but like most 20-year-olds, I didn’t care.

 

If there was an aftermarket “thing’ that could be made to fit the Suzuki, then it would be acquired and fitted. I had reached a point where I had pretty much run out of stuff to fit to it, both internally and externally, and was now considering painting options before the slim lingerie-freak I was dating spent it all on wispy undies.

 

And then some prick, whose name I have either forgotten, or blotted from my mind, came to my house with a set of Laverda handlebars.

 

“Check these out,” he said, handing them to me.

 

“What the fuck are they?” I asked.

 

It was a fair question. I had never seen a pair of Laverda handlebars which were not attached to a Laverda.

 

And they did not look at all like any handlebars I had ever see.

 

They were simultaneously Engineering Marvel and Crime Against Humanity.

 

Let me explain Laverda ’bars. If I can…

 

So the idea behind them was to offer the rider an adjustable set of handlebars, which would provide everything from a clip-on-like riding position, to a more traditional ergonomic.

 

To make that work (and I use the word “work” loosely), the giggling Italian blundercunt who designed them, did some really interesting shit.

 

He took a straight tubular bit that bolts to the top triple-clamp and welded a notched round bit (think small-toothed serrated gears) to each end. Then he got another two straight tubular bits of handlebar, maybe five centimetres long, and welded four other round, notched bits, to each end of these short tubular bits of straight handlebar.

 

Then he rested. He needed to rest because he was not yet done fucking with the handlebar universe. He was replenishing his reserves of blundercuntery. Sufficiently replenished, he moved on…

 

He then took two other bits of straight tubular handlebar – the bits where the handgrips and switchblocks would go – and welded a round notched bit to one end of each piece.

 

He then threaded the holes in these round, notched bits, so that an Allen bolt, a big fat one, could be inserted and tightened. When tightened, the notched teeth in each of these round bits would mesh together and hold tightly. And when loosened, you could move the various straight bits into a position you liked, then re-tighten the Allen bolts, and off you’d go – all sexy and shit.

 

So adjustable handlebars, right? Brilliant. An innovation for the ages back in 1981 – a time when vaginas were still lost in forests of hair and terribly in need of some innovation themselves.

 

And it was also a path straight to the depths of Hell for anyone stupid and arrogant enough to attempt to fit these handlebars to a GSX1100EX. Like me.

 

“These are Laverda ’bars,” said the cunt who had set my feet upon that path.

 

I turned them this way and that. They moved and swivelled in my hands. The passable Italian chrome reflected the lights in my kitchen, and my mind raced with the sheer and limitless possibilities these adjustable handlebars offered to me.

 

I had wanted to mount clip-ons to my GSX for some time now. This was when people who raced the brutes at Oran and Amaroo were fitting them with very wide ’bars and making them easier to steer. Leverage, pilgrims.

 

I had no desire for leverage. I had a desire for being sexy as fuck. And big, wide handlebars looked like shit, and clip-ons did not look like shit, and sexy-as-fuck relies heavily upon things not looking like shit.

 

The trouble here was that I could not fit clip-ons to the GSX without removing the plastic box which held my square headlight. The plastic box also propped up the instrument cluster, and had several handfuls of wiring living inside it. It could not be moved without major surgery by a major surgeon. And while I was willing to attempt the surgery, I was a) not sure where to begin, b) unable to source clip-ons, c) scared of electrical wiring, and d) not able to take the bike off the road for the length of time it might take me to attempt his operation.

 

I had a job. And I had run out of sickies and holidays. My bosses expected me at work every day until further notice or further holidays and sickies accrued.

 

I had no options in that regard. But I was holding a set of Laverda ’bars in my hands, and suddenly options were everywhere. Sexy ones.

 

I saw myself slinging these bad boys low and sassy, and could not envision an issue. Bolt the straight middle bit to the handlebar clamp atop the top triple tree, adjust the joints to suit my level of sexy, bolt the switchblocks, levers, and mirrors back on, push on the grips, and be the envy of all my friends.

 

“How much are they and where do I get them?”

 

The prick mentioned a price which I recall being momentarily appalled at, and told me I could get them at Jim Eade’s in Ashfield. The shop had brought in three sets, one for a customer, the pair this cunt was holding, and the pair I was going to buy as soon as the shop opened the next day.

 

I scraped up the money that evening and the next morning I was at Eade’s.

 

“What are they going on?” the sales bloke asked as I counted out a stupid amount of money onto the counter.

 

“My GSX,” I said.

 

“Good luck,” he grinned, and passed me the ’bars, wrapped in greasy brown paper.

 

Fuck off, idiot, I thought as I went back to my bike. Why would I need luck to fit a set of handlebars? Stupid Triumph riding prick. What the fuck would he know?

 

That evening I made plans. Plans were needed because I did not have any tools. Well, I had a few, but none would be up to the task ahead. A shifter, a hammer, a 10mm spanner, a plug spanner and a C-spanner (which came with the shocks), was about the limit of my resources back then.

 

“My brother, Dean, has lots of tools,” Tatijana said to me as I bitched to her about my failings in this area.

 

“Your brother is a massive cunt,” I said to her.

 

“Yes, he is,” she agreed. “But he has lots of tools.”

 

This was true. Dean did. I also knew he’d lend them to me because I made him nervous, and he was the kind of mewling, obsequious, passive-aggressive wanker, who would eagerly offer assistance, then bitch and moan and complain when someone took him up on it.

 

His vast tool collection had been acquired to work on his vintage kit-car. He was inordinately proud of that kit-car. I thought it was a pile of two-thirds-scale garbage only a massive cunt like him would buy so he could big-note himself.

 

My relationship with Dean had gone south the first night Tatijana had brought me home to introduce me to her family. Her old man was a beaut Polish bloke with a bewitchingly rich baritone singing voice. He liked to sit at his dining room table, sip scotch, and sing old Cossack songs late into the night. I liked him very much and would often sit with him. In fact, for three months after I’d stopped lusting after his daughter, I would still come and visit him and sing songs into the night.

 

Her mother was cool too. Great cook from memory, and she didn’t mind me because I was unfailingly polite and I didn’t smell bad. She let me go out with her daughter because she figured Tatijana would eventually wean me off stupid motorcycles by nagging me and throwing up a lot when we went riding.

 

And when I met her brother that night, everything was fine until he insisted we go out to the garage so I could behold the “vintage car” he’d told me he had built.

 

“What do you think?” he said, swooshing off the vehicle’s dust-cover and beaming like the sun.

 

“What is it?” I asked.

 

“It’s a copy of a Model T Ford.”

 

“Why is it so small?” I asked.

 

“Well, it’s a kit car and it’s been scaled down.”

 

“You gonna put a V8 in it? Some fat tyres?”

 

Dean look horrified. “Why would I do that?”

 

“To go drag racing.”

 

“Oh no,” he said. “That’s stupid. I just like to cruise around. I’ve got this scarf and this hat,” whereupon he produced a scarf and one of those flat caps wankers and Peaky Blinders criminals wear. “I even have a pipe.”

 

I looked at him blankly. “A pipe?”

 

“I smoke a pipe,” Dean grinned, a touch condescendingly I felt. “I have a few actually. I collect them.”

 

He was a year or so older than me, in case you’re wondering.

 

“Do you smoke?” he asked.

 

“Only drugs,” I said. “You want me to roll a joint?”

 

Dean’s grin disappeared and was replaced by a mixture of horror and contempt. I wanted very much to punch him in the face until the blood hid that expression from my eyes.

 

“Oh, no, no,” he muttered and turned off the garage light. Our bonding session was clearly over.

 

He stayed away from me after that. But there was this one time he walked into his sister’s room when I was eating her out, which almost broke my neck when she screeched and scissored herself off the bed. And I kinda owed him for that, but he’d made himself even more scarce after that.

 

But the fucker had tools. And I needed tools.

 

“OK,” I said to Tatijana. “Call him and ask him if I can come over with a mate this Friday night and put these ’bars on with his tools. Shouldn’t take more than a few hours. Tell him I’ll buy him a bottle of whatever the fuck the cunt drinks these days.”

 

“He’s into crème de menthe at the moment,” she sighed.

 

“Of course he fucken is,” I muttered.

 

To my surprise, Dean agreed I could come over on Friday with my mate, Terry. Terry had a GSX like mine, and he was as mechanically retarded as I was, but he was Greek. And Tatijana had a Greek girlfriend of marriageable age. We were all hopeful something might come of it.

 

But not until the Laverda ’bars had been fitted to my bike. I’d made this clear. There was to be no hooting, no hollering, no canoodling with the bitches, and certainly no fucken crème de menthe drinking until I had sexied up the GSX.

 

At 6pm, Terry, me, and the handlebars arrived, and Dean had hauled out and made available all the tools he had. Most of which, as I discovered, where British Standard Whitworth.

 

“Don’t you have any metric stuff?” I asked, as the cunt cuntingly packed himself a pipe.

 

“Metric?” he muttered with the pipe in his mouth. “I might have some metric tools, but not many. Want me to look for them?”

 

Not as much as I want to shove that pipe into your eye, I thought, but said “Please” instead.

 

A few spanners and some sockets appeared.

 

Terry and I set to work. The first thing we did was remove the switchblocks and mirrors. Easy as. Done all that before.

 

“The grips have to come off,” Terry said.

 

But grips don’t just “come off”. The right-hand one seemed to be glued to a white plastic sleeve which was attached to the throttle cable at the actuating mechanism. I got the throttle cable off with a pair of pliers, but could not budge the rubber grip off the plastic sleeve once I had taken it off the handlebars.

 

“WD40,” Terry intoned.

 

WD40 was our go-to panacea for everything mechanical. It stood to reason Terry would suggest spraying it onto and into the handgrip with its plastic inner sleeve. I was glad I brought him.

 

I sprayed. This made the grip very slippery. But it smelled very professional, so clearly progress was being made.

 

“Hold the plastic thing with pliers, while I pull the rubber off with multi-grips,” I instructed Terry.

 

“Stopstopstop!” he yelled as I applied myself.

 

“What?”

 

“I think you’ve cracked the plastic,” he said, peering at the sleeve/grip combo.

 

“You were fucken holding it!”

 

“You told me to hold it!”

 

“You could have held it more gently!”

 

We glared at each other.

 

“Can I help?” Dean asked from the back verandah of the house in-between puffs of his pipe and sips of the crème de menthe I’d brought him. The girls were inside doing whatever the fuck girls do when men are doing mechanical work.

 

“No,” I said, without adding “Unless you’ll stand still while I claw-hammer bits of your skull”.

 

I stared at the grip and its cracked sleeve, and made an executive call.

 

“Let’s take the other grip off first.”

PART TWO CAN BE FOUND HERE

 

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Boris Mihailovic

Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.

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