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Author Topic: An essay on "cafe racing"...  (Read 166 times)

Uncle Billy

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An essay on "cafe racing"...
« on: June 24, 2014, 12:17:19 PM »
On a forum dedicated to high performance cars, the topic of motorcycles came up, and the car guys were disparaging and dismissive of motorcycles as superficial, image-oriented and little more than jewelry with no greater purpose than to impress bystanders and girls at the bar, and wrote of motorcycles as useful, if silly and trivial, only in that vein. I thought about it for some time, then wrote this:

"I think it's natural for people who love to drive high performance cars to also get a high out of riding a high performance motorcycle. All the things I love about driving cars can be had on a motorcycle in 10 times the intensity for 1/10 the cost, half the speeds and 10 times the risk (which puts an edge and a satisfaction on it unavailable anywhere else).

The feeling of "one-ness" with the machine, of its seeming awareness of how you're thinking when it's singing its nearly red-line song and the road twists and bends and you're really tossing it back and forth under you in order to stay between the gutters is uncanny, especially on bikes that have high over-the-road performance (not cruisers, which are okay too, but not my thing). Like people who love horses experience, especially very fast and agile horses, there seems to be a personality present in the bike when it and you are riding at 9/10ths (very near the absolute limit, beyond which it gets very ugly very fast), and if you learn to know it well enough at or near the limit to become friends (intimate, shared-thoughts sort of friends), the two of you, as separate entities but with a shared purpose, can do amazing, thrilling and deeply satisfying things together at speeds, lean angles and velocities that would scare someone not developed enough in this relationship, in these skills, to do it that fast.

This doesn't happen overnight or in a few days; it has to be worked up to, developed, built and nurtured, and done so CAREFULLY- this pursuit of being very fast on a very fast bike is no place for teenybopper macho or any seeking of identity because any mistake, no matter what sort or how small, can put you in a wheel chair or under the grass permanently. How far will you pursue this part of yourself? How much of you is made up of the dynamics of high speed, and how much is made up of the image, the panache, the identity of it? How much will you risk to attain the great, unparalleled satisfaction of risking everything meaningful and getting away with it, out of sight or knowledge of anyone else?

If you're into performance bikes for the image, for the babes, for the look of yourself in plate glass windows along Main Street, for the image mileage it all would give you, this isn't about you - I'm talking to real speed junkies, who need to go fast, risk everything, in order to feel like they're alive. If your interest in this is for what it gains you in the eyes of others, you're in the wrong place. If it would be awkward and uncomfortable for you to describe your interest in (or addiction to) what I say here to those who don't understand out front, you're in the right place, and we're brothers.

If you ever had an occasion to pat the hood of your car and say, "Good job!" after a particularly serious rush down a winding road, you'll say that to your motorcycle almost every time you ride it with your blood warm because it gets well into "the meaning of life" sort of karma when you push you and the bike into the "outer limits".

Motorcycles are much more emotional than cars in the deep and intimate way they can connect with that part of your spirit that seeks the danger, the thrill, the test of competence that they alone, on a winding road at knee-dragging speeds can share with you and nurture your motorheadedness with.

All the macho, the image stuff, the bragging rights are well off the point. If you're TRULY a motorhead in the depths of your spirit whether anyone is watching or knows about it or not, motorcycles are the final, highest drug for that addiction."

I have matured well past that sort of naive bravado now, my arthritis and now-developed imagination finally putting a stop to such risky desires. I remember the passion though, and recognize it when it's evident in others. Coming across a "sport bike"in a parking lot somewhere, with the low handle bars, rear set foot controls, scrapes here and there from being dropped, and the scuff on the tire treads reaching all the way to the sidewalls reminds me of my good fortune at having survived.
'14 Royal Enfield Continental GT
'84 Honda VF750F Interceptor
'73 Yamaha RD250B, "cafe racer'd"
'73 Yamaha TY175 Trialer
2 '69 Yamaha AT1 Enduros
'73 Datsun 240Z, GM 350 V8, 200 4R trans.
'66 VW kit car, looks like a Bugatti, drives like an old VW

gizzo

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Re: An essay on "cafe racing"...
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2014, 12:44:56 PM »
To paraphrase Tracks magazine, only a rider knows the feeling.
simon from south Australia
Continental GT
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Pantah
Monster
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olhogrider

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Re: An essay on "cafe racing"...
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2014, 07:45:26 PM »
Wow! Really well said. I used to push to the limit and beyond. I found that I enjoy a slow bike at 8/10ths. That is my happy place. Fast enough to be fun but not likely to throw it all away. If I cared about the "image" stuff would I own the "old man magnet" that is a Royal Enfield, or my scooter for that matter? Really competent machines just increase the speed at which the fun begins. Who needs that?

barenekd

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Re: An essay on "cafe racing"...
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2014, 08:37:17 PM »
All those years of riding at the high performance end of things, dirt bikes and street bikes, and even a pretty hot car or two, makes me glad to have the stories. and surviving.  It's too bad one has to go through all that stuff to finally find out that it's a lot more fun to ride a slow bike fast, than a fast bike slow. However, growing up in the days when the fast bikes of the day are the slow bikes now, to me it's really nice to be able to enjoy the new slow bikes with the same passion I had for the old ones. And the best part is, with the modern reliability, I don't have to experience what the good olde days were really like!
Bare
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I refuse to tiptoe through life only to arrive safely at death
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Ragmas

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Re: An essay on "cafe racing"...
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2014, 10:08:03 PM »
One day when out riding with friends, them on sport bikes and fast things. We got stuck behind some "slow" cars, on a 55mph rd.  Those guys were getting paused that they had to go slow. Me, happy as a pig in filth riding along enjoying myself.  Slow bike fast, better than fast bike slow.

Samgar
2009 G-5 Military
Little Falls, NY

Uncle Billy

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Re: An essay on "cafe racing"...
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2014, 10:37:37 AM »
Right, it's a slow bike fast ("fast" relative to the capabilities of the bike) now instead of a fast bike fast - excellent description of where the Continental fits in the scheme of things, especially to old "cafe racers" like me.  It's rather like what road testers in enthusiast car magazines have to say about Mazda Miatas, especially the early ones - not much absolute performance but a real treat on winding roads at 80 kph.  As my GT wears in and my confidence builds, I'm pretty sure the "chicken strips" (unused tread adjacent to the sidewalls) on the tires won't be very wide.
'14 Royal Enfield Continental GT
'84 Honda VF750F Interceptor
'73 Yamaha RD250B, "cafe racer'd"
'73 Yamaha TY175 Trialer
2 '69 Yamaha AT1 Enduros
'73 Datsun 240Z, GM 350 V8, 200 4R trans.
'66 VW kit car, looks like a Bugatti, drives like an old VW

High On Octane

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Re: An essay on "cafe racing"...
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2014, 10:54:43 PM »
Great write up!  I enjoyed reading that.  :)
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heloego

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Re: An essay on "cafe racing"...
« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2014, 03:59:06 PM »
+1!
Rather than have a homeless person for the holidays, I decided to stick with ham.