Above: Dick Bregstein, my riding partner. Photo by Leslie Marsh
I had just waved goodbye to Bregstein, concluding an early summer day’s ride through Amish country. The season was just getting started so that the killer heat and millions of tourist buses — enabling “das Englanders” to view the Amish in their natural habitat — had yet to make an appearance. Dick Bregstein and I have ridden thousands of miles together, and have grown quite comfortable with each other’s riding style and peculiarities. If I want to stop a lot, so does Dick. If I want to see something stupid, Bregstein acts like it’s his mission in life. And if I want to ride as fast as I can, Bregstein will be six inches off my back tire, guaranteeing we’ll share the same jail cell when they pull us over.
Dick was maneuvering for his farewell turn, when he looked over his shoulder, shot me a smile, and flipped me the bird.
“Aaaah, Dickie,” I thought. “You are a clever son of a bitch.”
Bregstein rides a traditional BMW R1150R, with a boxer engine that hangs a beer keg-sized cylinder out each side. These are so big that Dick once had a California condor nesting on one.
Above: Dick Bregstein's classic BMW R1150, which he named "Suzy Wong." Photo by Clyde Jacobs.
There was less than six very familiar miles to go on this run before I’d hit the garage door button — when the “others” passed me. I was sitting in traffic on a divided highway, in the middle lane, at a light. They came up on my left as red turned to green. Traffic in the left lane was already moving and these guys barely had to slow down at the intersection. They went by in a half-assed formation that managed to snag my attention in the two seconds it took for this scenario to unfold. Now under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t think of tagging onto an obvious group of friends (even if they sported the Roundel), especially if they were wearing colors or a group tee shirt. The “others” fit the spirit of guys who should have been wearing the same tee shirt, but who’d gone beyond that, maybe without intending to. And there was something else that piqued my interest too.
So I held onto second gear for a tad longer than necessary and did the same thing in third. My quarter horse of a K-75 wound up for the pitch, swung into the left lane, and caught up just in time to get in behind these boys at the next light.
The “others” were three guys riding identical Harley Davidsons. Now I do not profess to know much about Harleys, and I had to scan the HD product line to find a machine that matched the one that stuck in my memory. The 2010 “Street Bob” fit the bill exactly. These bikes were painted a lustrous jet black; the kind of black that you would get if you pulled all the stars out of heaven and were just left with the void. The shine on the chrome was such that the exhausts on these rigs could have been used as currency in ancient Rome. The thing that really caught my eye, however, was the handlebars. Not quite the traditional “ape hangers,” these handlebars still placed the riders’ hands at eye level. The rest of their bikes was basically naked and seemed to imply the rider was the portrait of minimalistic existentialism.
Above: Classic lines of 2010 Harly Davidson Street Bob. Sheer power and raw muscle,
in an authentic bobber ride Photo from Harly Davidson on the internet.
Now there are a million reasons why anyone gets a motorcycle, and there is a model or a design to meet each of those reasons. To my way of thinking, however, those handlebars looked like the prelude to crucifixion. But then again the seating position of any late model Ducati makes the rider look like a monkey humping a watermelon — in my opinion. And my aging, bloated carcass won’t do well on either the Harley Street Bob or any Ducati ever made. This story is not a judgement of marques nor of their unique characteristics.
There is nothing unusual in riders wearing the same gear either. Lots of different brand-name ballistic gear has a similar cut and look to it. The same goes for the leather stuff too. What seemed so utterly unusual is that these guys were dressed identically, without going the route of leather nor ballistic stuff. Each was wearing black boots, black jeans, a weathered flannel shirt, and a “do” rag. The shirts were a variation on a theme. The leader was sleeveless. The guy to his left had his sleeves rolled up and the guy to his right had his sleeves rolled down. All of these guys were in their early-twenties, and gave the impression that they were roofers or in construction. (Rugged looking and in good shape; the kind of boys you’d want behind you in a bar fight.) They could have been three guys riding home from work, where they were building a house or something. Three guys dressed identically... On three identical motorcycles... Hanging in the left lane... Barely reaching the speed limit.
I could just see three friends from high-school, getting in trouble together, getting jobs together, hanging out in the same bar together, and walking into a Harley dealership together, saying, “Give us three of those.” There is a certain element of enduring coolness in that. And yet, there might have been trouble in the making. I was certain of it. The leader was out in front, by about three car lengths. I never saw him take his eyes off the road. The two wingman were riding side-by-side — and having a running conversation.
This wasn’t easy to do.
For one thing, there was plenty of traffic. And for another, none of these bikes had the factory exhaust. The wingmen were shouting. I was 20 feet behind them, and I could hear every word over the enraged hummingbird growl of my K75’s engine. It was this shouting that caught my attention as they passed by. And while the Harley’s were identical as they had left the showroom, one of them had a gorgeous brunette on the pillion. I like looking at hot girl asses on motorcycles and this one was a contender for the hall of pillion candy fame.
She was about 19, had her long dark hair in a ponytail, and had a face that will undoubtedly inspire poetry and murder in her lifetime. She wore jeans that could have been applied by a plastic surgeon. Her ensemble was completed by an open denim jacket, that revealed a yellow blouse underneath. It was my conclusion that the guy whose pillion she was straddling was in far over his little pillion head. And the look on his buddy’s face said to me that he had reached the same conclusion... Because while he was shouting his remarks to his pal, he kept glancing back at the girl.
You all know how difficult it is to say anything to a rider on a bike next to you — especially under way. For this reason hand signals have been developed to convey critical information that precludes unnecessary conversation. Tapping the gas tank means “I need gas.” Tapping the top of your helmet means, “Some asshole cop with nothing better to do is monitoring our speed.” And flipping the bird to the guy on the red K75 means, “I had a nice time riding with you today, Jack.” Apparently, there is no hand signal to represent, “Yeah... I’m gonna ride out to the west coast... Malibu... Maybe start a band... Maybe do a video... Too bad I’m goin’ alone...” (I heard all this clearly, riding 20 feet behind them.)
This ongoing conversation between the two trailing Harley riders lasted through 4 traffic lights. The guy without the girl was doing most of the talking. His facial expression said it all though, and I was reminded of the lyrics from the 1981 hit “Jessie’s Girl,” by Rick Springfield. The boys turned onto a side road that was going in my general direction, and I decided to follow along. The conversation fell off as this was one lane in each direction, and the leader had picked up the pace. However, the next intersection had a couple of turn lanes and was wider than most. The light was red. The three musketeers were headed left and my garage beckoned straight ahead.
I pulled alongside of the rider with the pillion candy.
These three guys looked at me like I was a pile of dog shit, wearing a party dress and cha-cha heels, on a pink Vespa. Yet I would remind the gentle Twisted Roads reader of a favorite statement of Julius Caesar, Hitler, or Benjamin Franklin. (I forget who said it.) But it goes like this, “Divide and conquer.”
I lifted the face shield on my Nolan helmet and shouted, “You guys have great looking bikes... But I like yours best.” The brunette shot me a 1500-watt smile, and her boyfriend started laughing. The light changed in that instant, and I pulled away.
There may not be a hand signal to adequately express that you are planning a ride to California, where you might start a band or make a video; (whatever will get you laid first). But there is a hand signal to adequately express the appropriate response. It entails closing your hand like it is grasping a broomstick, and moving it vertically up and down.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011