Order was restored later in the evening under clouds of tear gas fired by SWAT teams from six communities.
According to a statement delivered to a local newspaper by a carload of ski-masked individuals, the riot was the desperate action of thousands of cruiser and scooter riders who believe my blog content is too BMW-centric. While I emphatically deny snorting wiener schnitzel speed balls first thing in the morning, I do admit that the Beemer marque gets more than its fair share of the ink here. There are two simple reasons for this: I own a BMW and I ride with a very active BMW club. Their leadership believes that every day I spend on the road, learning German phrases like, “Vas is losse“ (How’s it hanging?), is one less day I will not waste pursuing fast women, slow hangovers, and the kind of low entertainment that passes for historical fact in this blog.
The truth is that I became a BMW rider the same way that Davy Jones became the lead singer of the Monkees: I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. My hot squeeze was coming back from a spiritual retreat on the west coast, when she got stranded in Sturgis, South Dakota during the rally. “Sizzling Cheesecake” (not her real name) called me to say that she had never seen anything as cool and provocative as these women on cruisers and that we were getting motorcycles as soon as she got home. She also asked me to go online and check on some of the events that these women might be staging during the Sturgis rally. I readily found the “Chicken Choking Contest” and “Pickle Sucking Event.” It must have been hot in Sturgis as many women sought to cool off by having cold water poured on their tee shirts.
“Steaming Cheesecake” arrived home with a new Honda Aero Shadow, fully tricked out in the cruiser style. The implications of her actions were clear to me... I’d either get a bike and learn to ride, or get the hell out. Let the record show that I know a threat when I see one. Writers are required by law to support the alcohol, tobacco, and naked performance artist industries to an extent where very little cash remains for necessities like new motorcycles. While my squeeze could walk into a showroom and buy any new motorcycle she wanted on an American Express Card (which is what she did), I had to resort to a combination of Ponzi schemes, shell games, and petty theft to raise the required capital for a bike.
My girl's 2005 Honda Aero Shadow with seasonal luggage rack option
(Photo courtesy Leslie Marsh -- Click to enlarge)
In typical Riepe fashion, I conducted a bike-to-bike purchasing search with absolutely no research. My first choice was a cruiser. Yet the machines in the $3000 category had a decidedly used look about them. I broadened my search to include hundreds of bikes on lawns throughout the area, finding nothing that piqued my soul. These too had a noticeable forlorn, abandoned air about them.
The 1986 BMW K75 And the 2005 Honda Aero Shadow: opposite ends of the spectrum.
(Photo courtesy of Leslie Marsh -- Click to enlarge)
It was at this time that a couple of business associates of mine revealed themselves as “boys in the BMW bund.” I was shocked. They recommended a more Teutonic approach. I was told I’d be a dope if I let a particular machine -- called a K75 -- with an unusual fairing slip away. The motorcycle was 18-years-old and more than twice as much as I wanted to spend for a three-year-old bike. There is one word to sum up deals like this.
“Bullshit,” was my cleverly worded response.
I went through the motions of looking at the K75, prior to dismissing my friends. It was the most peculiar bike I had ever seen. With the classic lines of a bowling shoe, it had all the appeal of a barium enema. Sitting on it was like have having an iron wedge shoved up my ass, leaving me perched about 40 feet above the pavement.
“What a hunk of shit,” I said to myself.
The bike’s owner pulled a Luger on me. I was stunned. With the gun cocked, he made me drink a cup of red Kool Aid. My limbs became lifeless. I watched helplessly as he placed a huge pod, like a big seed, next to me. It was the last thing I saw before passing out.
Consciousness arrived to the strains of Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyrie.” Somehow, I woke to find myself the owner of an ugly bike, that made a whining, fartish noise when the starter button was pushed. I don’t know why I bought it. I could barely sit on it. I was afraid to ride it out of the driveway.
My girl let me ride her Shadow often enough to enable me to make a comparison. In fact, I did my first two group rides on the Honda. The tires on her machine were much fatter that the Metzlers on mine, hence they didn’t dance over every imperfection in the road. Her custom Mustang seat kissed my ass like a politician running for office. Her bike started like one expects a Honda to start and it would get up to and hold 80 miles per hour -- eventually.
One of my favorite pictues, astride my girl's Honda Aero Shadow, a very nice bike.
(Photo courtesy of Dick Bregstein -- Click to enlarge)
The BMW K75 was top-heavy in the driveway. It was a pain in the ass to move around in the garage. The seat was designed by the North Korean secret police and would make you sign anything in two hours. It felt like I was attempting to get comfortable on a strange toilet. Furthermore, I had just read a book called “Motorcycling For Morons,” where it clearly stated that the BMW K75 was a poor choice for re-entry riders.
Steve Assan enroute to meeting me in North Carolina -- From Oregon
(Photo courtesy of Steve Assan -- Click to enlarge)
My girlfriend is one of life’s true saints. “Maybe you made a mistake,” she said. “No one else would be that stupid to pay what you did for it. Maybe you can sell it for less and still get something?”
It was then that Lee Kozanas, an old friend and BMW rider from the Adirondacks, arrived in my driveway on a BMW “R” bike. This was the machine built by the Germans but designed by the Incas. He’d ridden 400 miles straight in less than 90 minutes and appeared in a mist of Valhalic mysticism. Kozanas was wearing black armored textiles, matching gloves, and a flip-up helmet. He looked seamless, except for the blue and white roundel on his left shoulder.
“Do you ride the BMW like the Honda,” asked Lee.
I nodded in the affirmative.
“Are you in 5th gear by 40 miles per hour?”
I nodded again with my eyes closed.
Are you changing gears at 1500 RPM?
All I could do was look at the floor in silence. This was a trick question. The Honda had no tach. In fact, you couldn’t get an aftermarket one for it either that year.
“Are you a pussy boy,” he asked, whispering in German. "Do you scream like a little girl when you ride the K75?"
I said nothing. He shamed me into getting on the Beemer and told me that I would do this bike justice once, or that he would watch while the bike mauled me like a tiger.
“Do not change the gears on this K75 until the tach needle is a tenth of an inch away from the red line,” said Lee.
I swung out onto a thorofare with Kozanas close behind me, and settled into a straight stretch. In second gear, I ran the bike up to 7 grand and snicked it into 3rd. An enraged snarl escaped from the soul of all Germania and the bike fired itself from a Krupp cannon. I snicked into fourth and fifth without the needle losing any distance against the tach. The engine noise became Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. I could feel a pulse in the grips, but no vibration. The K75 turned like it had power steering. It stopped like it had power brakes. And it lied to me like it loved me.
That was when I noticed one of life’s most amazing truths: the K75 is absolutely beautiful, from the soul out.
The Honda was one of the politest bikes I ever rode, but the Beemer handled like the kind of paragraphs I like to write. And that was that. Some man like brunettes, others like redheads. Some women like roofers. Others like middle-aged, pudding-faced writers. It is the same when it comes to bikes. If this K75 had an ass, I’d have my hand on it every time I went out to the garage.
That was two years before I joined the Mac-Pac (southeast Pennsylvania's premier chartered BMW club). That was two years before I even knew anyone who rode a BMW in this neighborhood. It was Steve Assan who challenged me to meet him on my first really long ride. He rode a cruiser. It was Wayne Whitlock who accompanied me on the first part of that ride. He and his wife Lucy rode a cruiser. Tony Luna was the first to turn up at my second group ride. He rode a cruiser. The first person who ever invited me on a group ride with his friends, Grandpa43 (Dave), also rode a cruiser. The ride captain who saved my reputation in the funniest (and oddest) story story I ever published for a BMW magazine, Chris Jaccarino, rode a Honda Goldwing, which is like the Hindenberg of cruisers.
Jack Riepe, Wayne Whitlock, and Tony Luna on the Second Annual Horse Pile Swerve Ride
(Photo courtest of Pete Buchheit -- Click to enlarge)
I don't care what anybody rides... But I don't want you folks thinking I'm blind to the chrome.
So I am resolved to get myself invited to ride with a cruiser group on a monthly basis if one will have me. (This is a hint for Grandpa43 to step up to the plate.) I'm open to suggestion. And I am determined to ride out to meet Steve Assan some place in the middle of the country this summer. This should give me a few good cruiser stories in 2009.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA The Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- Perditions Socks (With A Shrug)
“I’ll speak to this Humongous. He’s a reasonable fellow.” -- The Road Warrior