Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Return Of An Old Friend

After a two year haitus from the bigger bikes to a scooter, I finally got around to bringing an older Harley back to life.  My '93 Sportster.  You can say what you like about the ride these bikes provide, but they're still decent machines for the average enthusiast.  You just have to take them on their terms.  And be prepared to accept what some consider limitations.  Consider it part of the package of owning a bike designed to be reminescent of the technological past.

It took a while to get the bike running again.  From thumbing the starter and hearing nothing to thumbing it and getting a sputter.  From a sputter to an idle to whacking the throttle and hearing the bike choke and die.  Disassembling the carburator a few times and help from a friend showed me the problem.  I'd never opened up a variable ventury before.  He says I'm overly cautious.  Well, I have broken things before.

Aside from the thorough cleansing the main jet required, the machine was in pretty stable condition.  Even after languishing in a corner of the garage while I played with the other bikes.  And I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive about getting this thing back on the road again.  Most people opt for larger machines, mainly because they're larger people than I am.  A Sporty fits me like a glove.  But after riding the Vespa for nigh on two full years the Harly seemed like a hulk of low slung bar steel.  Just look at one.  Compared to a Vespa scooter it's a mass of large metal chunks jutting out at all angles.  All of them hot once the ride begins in earnest.

Still, there's something inherantly fulfilling in the sound of the stock exhaust in the fifty five to sixty five mph range.   And the Harley veritably carries itself along. Its own mass propelling it onward.   Comfortable.  In its own way of course.

On one hand the Harley fits today's standard definition of entry level. A size and displacement considered something of a suburban starter big bike.   They originally came with diminuitive peanut tanks and minimal dressing.  You could buy bolt on accoutrements to make yours anything you liked, but the idea was supposed to be that eventually you would move up to a "real" Harley. 

On the other hand the Vespa is a suburban jousting tool.  You can squirt through traffic without a second thought.  Half the time I wonder if people even notice a scooterist on the boil.  What with their cell phones sending and recieving signals while they obliviously jostle for lane dominance on the way to work or home.

Something just zoomed by and they probably never heard the thing.  Maybe they saw someone seated rather high fly by but only their eyes ever knew the scooterist was there.  Whereas a Sportster tends to announce itself.  Even with stock pipes.  And Sportsters don't squirt anywhere.  You twist the throttle, a cacaphony of machanical noise erupts just forward of your knees and you're off.  People turn to see whether the loud motorcycle is about to run them down.  Really.  The face of the pedestrian does not lie.

The only difference I consider worth noting is that a Sportster can take the superslab and still be an enjoyable ride.  Don't try it on a 150cc Vespa.  They top out too early speedwise.  Someone in a Pruis could easily engulf one from behind and swallow it whole before the driver finished the message they were texting.

Is one better than the other?  Comparing an HD Sportster to a 150cc Vespa scooter is not a legitimate comparison.  But they both fulfill a certain kind of ride requirement.  You have to take each one for what it is.  Even in each machine's own element there will be compromises.

And I can live with that.


1 comment:

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