It’s funny how people’s identity can be wrapped up in objects. For example, no matter how enlightened a person feels, when one buys a new Macbook, they feel instantly re-defined and are part of a new collective of mac owners. A new mac owner may experience being suddenly drawn to black turtle neck tops and have an overwhelming urge to do their work at Starbucks… but I digress.
I have recently immersed myself into the motorcycling world. I got my license in January thinking this would be a fun pass time but it has slowly taken over my thoughts and actions. I love riding and look for any excuse to do so, even riding to the local shops located less than 400 meters from my house. The thrill of acceleration, the sound, the feel of the road and the sense of freedom this engenders is profound.
So this brings me to the question all new bikers face, what will my next bike be? This is not simply about buying a bigger or faster bike, but an issue of identity. Sportbike, cruisers, touring, retro-cafe-racer, naked bikes; all these categories define a style of riding which in turn influences the way you look at motorcycling and yourself. I was thinking of the Honda CB400 which is an excellent bike but it is like buying a Toyota Corolla, you know it is a brilliant machine but where is the inspiration?
The Suzuki SV650S is a nice blend between a naked bike and a sport bike. It doesn’t have the plastic fantastic feel of a full sport bike but has the speed and agility to be fun to throw around. This style of bike can offer an exhilarating ride without making me feel like I have to dress like a Power Ranger. The half fairing is a nice touch for some protection against the elements and the sweeping lines and predator like perch of the bike make me feel like a “serious” rider. This would be an excellent choice as an upgrade from my Honda VTR250.
The Harley Iron 883 came to me left of field. One night I walked past a Harley Nightster, a 1200cc version of this Harley. I was mesmerised by the classic retro styling, low seat and the matte black finish. I was actually amazed to find out that it was a Harley because there was so little chrome on it and there were no purple flames to be seen. Thinking I could never afford a Harley, I looked it up online and found out that they were releasing the Iron 883 (Identical to the Nightster, except for a lower powered motor and blacked out engine) which was priced similarly to most mid sized Jap bikes. Dare I toy with the idea of owning a Harley? Hardly a logical thought considering the agricultural performance some say it has. But I don’t care, it is beautiful to me and beckons me to another world of riding. It is relaxed, confident and brutish. It’s more about presence than performance.
Unfortunately, owing a Harley comes with the baggage of being a Harley owner; think “Wild Hogs” the movie. Of all the bikes to come with a prepackaged identity it is the Harley, with the leather vests, tattoos, wanna be bad boys and genuinely bad men. However, I’m also attracted to this contradiction because people would expect me to own a pocket rocket, trying to beat every vehicle on the road (If I owned a fast sport bike this would probably be true), rather than the minimalist Harley that has more grunt than go (though I believe it does go pretty well), with the pedigree of being a modern classic. It might be fun to defy expectations and choose a path of new possibilities.
I have nearly a year before I come off my restricted license so there is time to think about it. For the more higher minded people out there, you may not have any idea what the fuss is about. It is only a bike but like many things that we own or do, it is more than that. So on the journey to letting go of the inconsequential; if I fail to do so for the moment, I need to acknowledge the effects things have on me and embrace my feeble ego and the way it is so easily influenced or bruised.
If you have a couple of minutes, check out this vid of the Harley Iron 883. The meaning of the advertisement is that you don’t need to belong to any group to own a Harley but I think the images say otherwise. Well, it works on me.