I have three motorcycles. One is very fast with a 170 mph top speed and the other, more sedate, a touring machine. The tourer is thirty-five years old and speedy is twenty-three. The third, I’ll write about another time. They are in excellent condition and ride as good as new. All maintenance is done by myself with the aid of my ‘Spanner Monkey’ Liz. Liz is in charge of workshop manuals, and selects the right spanners and sockets for the job in hand. She looks after torque settings, oil measurements and filters etc during servicing or repairs.
I do not ride the bikes as fast as in the past. Not because of fear or age, the reticence not to twist the throttle too hard is down to traffic cameras and moron drivers. It is rare not to meet with a half blind car driver on a ride out. Not only this, there are seriously dangerous drivers who deliberately drive in a way to hamper motorcyclists.
We bikers are also deemed as ‘public enemy’ by ‘The Establishment’ who are hell bent on preventing new riders acquiring motorcycles. Many governments are adding every possible restriction on the riders desire to tune or adapt their machines. In Germany, there are now special police dedicated to stopping motorcyclists who have adapted their machines. Notices are give to return the bike’s to standard. This is growing trend, and one which make’s me keep my machines in factory condition.
Not that my BMW or Kawasaki are slow as slugs. I can keep pace with all traffic conditions and speed limits without a second thought. Motorcycles are amazing for travelling long distances in the shortest possible time. Even today’s congested roads and traffic jams present little problem to a progressive rider.
When riding a ZZR1100 you will be asked ‘how fast does it go?’ There are two answers. 1) The road testers of the day attained around 175mph. 2) I have seen 170mph on the speedometer. The 170mph by the way was on an Autobahn with unlimited speed limits. Anyone who rides one of these machines knows the constant need to be aware of the left hand dial. If you are in any doubt about the speed of this machine watch the video below! Although in KPH not MPH, but you’ll get the idea.
So, we can accept the old machine is still fairly fast. I would mention, anyone who chooses to use the full capability of these old machines on a regular basis would do well to buy some funeral insurance. That is not to say, they are poor handling or not up to the amazing performance, far from it, the problem is road conditions, traffic and the aforementioned myopic drivers.
I love riding the Kawasaki, but the BMW is ridden most often. It is an iron horse, and has the ability to travel all day at 90mph on a motorway and 70mph on an open road. There are few bends which it cannot negotiate at a brisk pace and overtaking is swift and conclusive. Click down a gear (there are five) and twist the throttle and magic happens. Although a tourer, and an old one, the old BMW boxer is still a very competent machine. They were used by police forces the world over for decades, fast, reliable and great to ride in any weather.
There is a misconception about riding in the wet, most think motorcyclists have to slow down in the rain. One has to be careful at the first downpour after an extended dry spell, as road oil and dispersed tyre rubber can be a hazard until washed away, but once this slippery combination has dispersed one can ride as fast wet as dry. A keen riding friend of mine says ‘rain sorts the men from the boys.’
The title of the post is Maverick, and I call motorcycles ‘Iron Horses’. My feeling is the motorcycle is the last bastion of freedom. To a degree one shows the middle finger to ‘the establishment’ and those who are intent on putting every human into cotton wool safety blankets. When one climbs on the ‘iron horse’ there is a knowledge that one has to be more aware, has to be in control of temper and surroundings.
The Maverick does not totally conform, he or she is often an eccentric or loner. A decision to ride out for an hour, easily becomes a five hour two hundred miles journey. We seek fast winding roads, the lonelier and more desolate the better.
One of the most interesting aspects of riding a ‘iron horse’ is the camaraderie and friendship of other bikers. No matter the style age, group (rocker to angel) there is an acceptance of the bond of the machine.
The BMW is an old machine from a long line of boxer engined design. The basic boxer engine heritage can be seen in every BMW made for over 90 years. I’ll finish this piece with a film made by BMW to celebrate the ninety years of progress. Not only is the film testament to the longevity of the design, I do not think there is a better short film to show the excitement, freedom and enjoyment the ‘iron horse’ gives its rider.
See You Soon
I remember riding the ZZR1100 after they came out and commenting to the sales guy that my licence couldn’t afford a bike like this. Now with a ZX14R in the shed the only reason I have a licence still is a bit more maturity.
I have to say I’ll be sorry if I have to pull off my after-market pipes and go back to the standard pipes.