My June QuickThrottle column is a bit of a different take for me (according to my Editor). I'm not sure I agree with that, but perhaps it is more of a philosophical light look at something, and not the grouchy/grumpy curmudgeon observation than I usually write.
Every bike is unique. Yeah, stock rides, fresh off the assembly line are identical. They are like the blank pages in a kids coloring book. Ever go to a day care or kindergarten and see how all the kids color the exact same picture differently? We all do the same thing with our rides. No two are the same.
Some people have coffee table books of great art, or romantic scenery. I have the current Harley-Davidson, J&P, and DRAG Specialties catalogues on my coffee table. To me, that is great art! Those are my inspiration – my palette. They are like the old Sears catalogue “Wish Book” that some of us grew up with. They are my entertainment when I’m bored, or when it’s winter and I can’t ride.
And we all do it. We pour over these books, folding down corners, marking pages, making wish lists, and spending money on a this or a that, all to make our individual rides unique and personal – a statement of what it is that makes it “ours”. We aren’t alone – car nuts do it with their rides, homeowners do it with their houses too. And we all do it with the wardrobes in our closets.
But while you can customize a car, you can pretty much say that one Prius looks pretty much like every other Prius – even when you switch out a part or two. Wardrobes can be pretty interchangeable too – and God forbid your significant other wears the same outfit to a party that someone else is wearing!
Just the other day I was gassing up Bandit – my ‘07 Nightster 1200N after riding around Thurston County one afternoon during a break the Legislative session, when up rides a guy on another 07 1200N – in the exact same Black Denim/Pewter Silver stock paint as mine. But aside from the color on the tank and fenders, every single thing was different on these two bikes. The rider and I spent a good 10 minutes chatting after we filled up our peanut tanks about what a fun ride these little guys are, and noting the differences between our two scoots – talking about why I put this on, and he put that. He was rightfully as proud of his ride as I am of mine. We were like two artists comparing their works hanging in a museum.
They say that somewhere in the world everyone has a twin -- a scary thought in and of itself. I don’t think the same can be said though for bikes. I’ve come close though. Once in Key West, Florida – about as far away from Seattle as you can get while riding a motorcycle – I was sitting at an outdoor bar on Duvall Street when a lady came riding up in an ‘06 Dyna Street Bob – the same bike I had. She backed in next to me and looked over at my bike and did a double take. This time it was close. Same Black Denim paint. Same windshield. Same leather bags. Same foot pegs. Same hand grips. I was beginning to think someone went through the Harley catalogue and chose everything I chose. But then she and I both noticed it. Her gas cap was different! She came into the bar and we had a good laugh about it. I kind of wonder if our keys would have worked on them and neither of us would have noticed until we opened the saddle-bags. I can just picture it – riding back North on US 1 and a Florida rain squall comes up, and I pull over to put on my rain suit only to try to struggle into a skinny tall ladies suit rather than my short squat mens suit.
It takes years to create masterpieces in art. Michelangelo took 8 years to paint the Sistine Chapel, and it took 14 years to carve Mt. Rushmore. Which raises the question; “Is a motorcycle ever finished”. Probably not. I know that I still occasionally find something to put on any of my three. Something cool that I see at a rally or in a catalogue. All this is what keeps parts and accessories manufacturers in business, and will, no doubt, for years to come.
It’s a never-ending sculpture in iron and steel, chrome and leather and movement. Its why when we aren’t riding our works of art, we are admiring them, comparing them and drooling over them – not just our own, but our friends and fellow riders, in a parking lot of a dealer, a gas station along the highway, or in front of a bar in Key West. I doubt that the day will ever come when you find two identical bikes on the road. Lets hope we never do.
Gary can be reached at email@example.com and you can read his blog at http://grgardner.livejournal.com or http://www.grgardner.com