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Every Bike Tells a Story

19 Jun

Yesterday I stopped by Whole Foods to get groceries and ended up spending half my time in the parking lot looking at motorcycles. Yes, at Whole Foods.

First, I found a great parking spot that was already occupied by a Suzuki DRZ400SM – that’s the super moto version of the DRZ400, the baby brother to my DR650es which I was riding. Of course I checked it over, starting with tire wear (check the chicken strips to determine rider skill, daring or both), then moving on to accessories, maintenance (dirty chain? worn sprockets? rust?) and damage. This was a nice, clean bike with about 3/4″ chicken strips. The only accessory was the exhaust – Yoshimura. It was nearly new, so it was no surprise that the bike was in nice shape. And the relatively small chicken strips told me that the owner was an experienced motorcyclist, which also makes sense because few noobs would understand what a super moto bike was.

As I was looking over the DRZ a bit of red caught my eye. About five parking spaces away was a white truck with a red Ducati in the back, circa 2007-2013, pre-Panigale. From that distance I already knew it was either a just-purchased bike, a repair, or heading to or from a track. Grocery shopping would have to wait.

As I walked over I could see it was a 1098, so that meant it was the early model. Everything was stock, including the exhaust, and the entire right fairing was scraped substantially – it had been down. The brake pedal, bar ends, clutch cover and other parts were unmarked, so they had all been replaced. It had no sliders. So it was a stock 1098 with severe road rash from a long slide. It wasn’t a tip-over, a high side or anything causing the bike to tumble. Fast enough to slide some distance, but not so fast as to completely destroy the fairings or cause the bike to flip.

But was it in the truck for repairs, and recent purchase, or a track day? The brand new Pirelli tires answered that question: track day. On his way to (not from) a fun day at the track. And was this an experienced rider or a noob? Young or old? Hard to tell. Perhaps and experienced rider picking up a salvage repair bike to ride at the track? An experienced or inexperienced rider picking up his repaired bike that just happened to need tires, too? (Wrecking the track-day scenario.) Difficult to tell without actually seeing the rider or peering into the truck’s cab to see what sort of equipment was there. Did he have his leathers, helmet, boots and other gear? Nothing else was in the back of the truck, not even a toolbox. The track-day scenario was looking less likely.

When I decided it was time to do my shopping I noticed the DRZ owner gearing up, so I went over to say hello and compliment him on his choice of bikes. Youngish guy, probably about 28. Knew his bikes. We talked wheel size and geometries. Always good talking bikes with bikers. Better when they know their stuff.

I did my shopping, returned to the parking lot, and the 1098 was still there. Where is that guy? Probably eating. Well, now I’ll never know for sure, unless I see the guy at the Rock Store, the dealer or at a gas station. I decided to stick with the track-day story as I liked that one best.

And maybe that’s the point. Every time we see a motorcycle sans motorcyclist we imagine the story of both. Examining the bike is the best part as that tells most of the story. The rider can tell the rest, but he can’t get around the chicken strips. Why we write those stories in our heads cannot be explained, but it’s part of the experience.

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