I’m thinking there are a two salient reasons why I’m not yet dead.
Primarily, it’s not yet my time.
But fundamentally, it’s because I have acquired some small skill-set.
This motorcycle-riding business is now, and always has been, magnificently dangerous.
I think, and the facts and stats will back me up on this (which is always nice), it was a good deal more magnificently dangerous a few decades ago.
Back when I was saltier than the whole damn ocean.
Rose-coloured hindsight tends to cast our past as a utopian smile-fest. The girls were all pretty, the cops were all cool, the roads were all empty, and the bikes were all fast.
Think on it at any length and you’ll agree that was not at all the case.
The girls all had horribly furry nethers, bad haircuts, and no sense of style.
The cops were largely violent psychopaths unrestrained by the advent of iPhones with inbuilt cameras.
The roads were certainly emptier, but in terrible disrepair and haunted by semi-trailers driven by red-eyed drug-fiends.
And the bikes may have been fast. But they were certainly not Today Fast.
My youth was evenly split between riding stupid Yoshi-equipped Gixxers, Moriwaki-filled Kwakas (that crazy shaft-driven ST really tried to kill me a lot), and stroked Shovelheads on super-hard Avon tyres that lasted a million kilometres and took me to breakdown in places I had never even dreamed of. I recall there was a Triumph Tiger in there as well, but since that rarely tried to end me, I don’t often think about it.
It’s the murder-cycles I most reminisce over.
It’s like no-one ever remembers a run that went off without a hitch.
The runs where people were maimed, jailed, lost to the scrub, bashed, stabbed, or left to die, are the ones we recall the most often.
Thus do I mainly remember the bikes that did their level best to bring my bright young life to a premature end.
They failed, manifestly. I still have all my fingers and toes. I walk without a limp and while there is some metal holding me together, it’s modern titanium, not ancient pig-iron.
The GSX made every effort to punch my clock at crazy speeds. But because I actually spent insane amounts of money on it trying to make it stop doing THAT – and THAT was basically weaving like a drunken whore at high speeds in terrible corners – it never succeeded.
The Kwaka ST tried much harder and got much closer to sending me to Jesus. I didn’t spend a lot of money on it. I had a seriously hot girlfriend at the time and it was more important to spend cash on her so she wouldn’t kill me than it was to spend cash on the bike so it wouldn’t kill me. I probably shouldn’t have put apehangers, two red car-mufflers (hot dogs, I believe they were called) and dubious Moriwaki go-fast stuff on it before taking drugs and racing my mates in the back-streets, but I was immortal back then.
Which is why I bought that Shovelhead. And which is why that Shovelhead spent almost three solid years avidly seeking my demise. I helped it all I could.
I think I only bought it new tyres once in 100,000km – and that was because the cops defected it because the sidewalls were perishing. The new tyres made no difference to its handling at all.
I did spend money on making it go faster (bored and stroked to 120-cubic-inches) and handle even worse (24-inch apehangers on six-inch risers, aftermarket PM brakes made out of jokes and shrugs, and stock shocks with new chrome covers), so it’s not like I wasn’t complicit.
I was so complicit.
The girlfriend had just got hotter, so I made the Shovelhead even more uncomfortable for her by turning it into a rigid and fitting a pillion seat the size of a packet of Winfield Reds. She wore shorter skirts of offset her suffering.
And then I would engage in vaguely criminal behaviour by riding way above the posted speed limit everywhere, drinking heavily and taking drugs, and punching people who got up in my shit.
Occasionally, the police would get involved. This would force me to ride this insane carnival of thunder, sparks, shedding parts, and angry girlfriend still faster, and yet somehow still not die.
Obviously I was acquiring skills.
It could not all be down to luck. There had to be some kung-fu involved.
If you can fire a rigid, stroked Shovelhead down the Comenarra Parkway at 3am, with its mirrors full of Highway Patrol Valiant Charger, have a girlfriend with no panties on the back, a jacket full of Mullumbimby Madness, a belly full of Tooheys, and not die in a fireball, then you’re doing OK in terms of skill.
You might even survive into your late 50s, while still doing stupid shit from time to time.
Death is death. Stupid shit is life.
Make sure you’re living it while you still have it to live.
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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.