Friday, May 6, 2011

How High Do Blueballs Bounce?

Written on Day Four Without Sleep...

Conditions have to be perfect to drop a bouncing motorcycle and not sustain any damage to the bike or rider. On this day, the temperature was a moderate 58ยบ and the sun was making a cameo appearance on what would have been the first really good riding weather of the 2006 season. I had stolen odd hours during the week to wipe the garage dust and the odd spiderweb guy line off my 1986 BMW K75, known as “Blueballs,” and it was almost ready to go. Last minute flailing at the body work with a rag soaked in polishing liquid, I buffed the paint into a surrealistic dimension of deep blue. It was hard to imagine the paint was 18-years-old.

The bike had received its winter service two months prior (in February) and started on the lightest touch of the button. This was prior to my days as a member of the Mac-Pac (southeastern Pennsylvania’s chartered BMW riding club) and I headed out strictly solo. I tried a few tentative swerves and stops, which the machine executed with as much precision as my stiff, rusted-over joints would allow, then struck out to explore a handful of Amish farm roads. Those accustomed to neck-snapping acceleration would be disappointed with the K75. It’s performance can best be described as “predictably reliable.” Keeping the speedometer between 55 and 60 mph, I shakily began to take in the sights. The first ride of the season is a highly tentative occasion for me.

The roads around Lancaster were initially designed for horses and buggies, which could leisurely pass each other at a brisk 15 mile-per-hour clip, with the wave of a hat and a smile. Coming around a tight rural turn, I was confronted with an Amish buggy, whose horse was rearing up and dancing. The guy at the reins looked like a 25-year-old wearing a false beard. I don’t know how to say, “This fucking horse,” in ancient high-German, but this kid was muttering something to that effect. I dropped down a gear and went around this guy on the right, as the horse kept dragging the hack into the opposing left lane — and oncoming traffic.

“So far, so good,” I thought.

The next curve lay between two fields under cultivation. A gate pierced each fence not far from the apex of the turn, through which a team of six Clydesdales (pulling a plow) had recently traversed the road, depositing a layer of muddy dirt and and horse-shit on the pavement. While the exact proportion of mud and horse-shit required to create the adhesion potential of wet glass has yet to be published, these Clydesdales were pretty much on the mark. I felt the rear wheel slide to the right and rode it out with my heart in my mouth. The rear tire found its bite a milli-second (20 feet) later and the curve was executed with nothing more than a pleasant drop in blood pressure.

A friend of mine, Chris Jaccarino, once said, “If you ain’t slidin’ then you ain’t ridin’.”

Approaching a traffic light, I made a classic beginner’s mistake and brought the bike to a halt on the crown of the road (in the center), between two furrows in the pavement, worn deep by thousands of daily milk tankers grinding to a stop at that intersection. My saddle was over 30-inches tall and I could just about flat-foot the machine on a level surface. But with a furrowed pavement under each foot, the bike would lean another two inches, just enough to precipitate a drop. I felt it starting to go over on the right in the same instant I realized I was about to stand in a hole. Yet the light changed at that moment, and letting out the clutch in first kept the bike upright.

Now I had about reached the point where numerous heart-pounding distractions were growing somewhat monotonous, and noticed there was something odd about the windshield. It appeared to have a line running across the top of it. I had never noticed this before, and this took a second or two to study as I was pushing along at 45 miles-per-hour. In total horror, I realized I was looking at the top edge of the plexiglas, as it was sliding downward in its frame. I commenced a very gradual braking, and had almost stopped when the windscreen popped out, and hit the ground.

There are times in a man’s life when yelling, “Oh Fuck,” is not only appropriate, but soothing. The bike was equipped with a unique “Sprint” fairing, and the windscreen, which had a slight tint, trimmed with black paint, resembled the bubble on a Bell Helicopter in the 1950’s. This fairly sizable concave piece of plexiglas landed on its backside, sliding along on its edges.

There was no place to decently stop on the side of the road. The pavement had a pitch like an aluminum siding salesman, that ended in loose gravel and raked-over horse shit. I held the bike on a right tip-toe, while I got the side-stand down, then went to collect my windscreen. There was not a crack nor a scratch on it. On one hand, I was elated. Yet on the other, what was I going to do now? My mechanical abilities are well-know in my current riding circles and openly discussed as a case study for men who should never be given tools. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but desperation is the illegitimate child.

The windscreen was held in place solely by the friction of a channelled *gasket — like that of a 1965 Volkswagen Beetle. Unbeknown to me, that gasket was wearing out, and the flexing of the fairing could pop that windscreen right out (which it just had). I acted the part of a BMW rider by flicking on the flashers (standard), popping up the seat, and whipping out the 65-piece tool kit (standard), by which a man of normal skills can rebuild the entire machine. Grasping the appropriate screwdriver (one of three), I opened the channel in the gasket and started jammed the windscreen back into it. I had less than three inches to go when I observed the “roving gap” phenomena. I chased that gap all around the entire windscreen. Twenty-five minutes later, I used about six inches of duct tape to compensate as a “roving gap arrestor” and reseated the windscreen. It would fall out again (and get run over by a car) but not today.

The run back was fun, even spiritual in that way that the first ride of the season can be. Each mile brought that rare combination of banked curves, the growl of the engine, and that electrifying sensation of power that surges through the handgrips. There are three traffic lights in the last two miles between the highway and the house, and I zipped through them all. The driveway is on a slope that curves to the left, then the right. I pulled in the clutch and chopped the power to bump over the lip. My response time may have been off by a hair... Or I may have cut the power a bit too dramatically... Or the polarity of the earth’s gravity may be stronger in the driveway here than any other place else...

The engine lugged like a Congressional subcommittee and I missed the split second to knock it into a lower gear. So I locked it up with both feet flat to sort things out. The sudden absence of all forward momentum caused “Blueballs” to dive on the forks, and to bounce back, with the front wheel coming off the ground. This sudden development caught me by surprise and the K75 rolled over on its left side, making a perfect impression on the flower bed. The garden yielded to the mirrors and the turn signals, but had muscle enough to knock the wind out of me. Fortunately the street was deserted. Leslie (Stiffie) came to the door, smiled, and said, “So that’s what the bottom of a K75 looks like.”

Then she helped me pick it up. She’s quite a woman.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2010

* I bought a new gasket and a replacement windscreen from Sprint the following summer. With new rubber, it would take bat to knock that windscreen free.... Or a mini van.


Chris said...

The first ride on two wheels each year is always an entertaining one. I've repeated nearly all of your close calls myself this year on the various bikes. I've never had the windshield pop off though. That would have been a sight.

Doc Rogers said...

Bluballs in the bluebells ... lucky for you there was not a yard jockey at this location in your driveway! Day 4 without sleep? You ok? My first ride this year was pleasantly uneventful ... no attack squirrels ... no loose patches of winter gravel/salt ... no deer emulating the chicken ... and very few ... key word being "few" ... cars desirous of using both their lane and mine. Take care, Doc Rogers

Ken said...

Blueballs and road apples....the stuff legends are made of.

redlegsrides said...

Jack you were certainly the object for the motorcycling gods' amusement that ride.....

"Then she helped me pick it up. She’s quite a woman.", I'll say!

Most women and men for that matter would have gone and gotten the camera for a picture first.....she must really love you.


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

The Armed Christian said...

Wait a minute!


Creative license is one thing but out and out fabrication is going too far. Ducatis and Harley's growl or roar, Japanese fours scream and two strokes make that shrill, waspy whine but I've never hear a K75 make anything more than oddly long winded flatulent noises!

Cool bikes but no more capable of a growl than goldfish.

Despite that it was another good read.

Hang in there


Nikos said...


The stages in this story reminds me of the short 50s or 60s film of a man wearing a toupe and the successive risky near misses of him almost losing it (thus revealing his bald head) until at the end (remember this was the age of chivalry), he lifts his "hat" for a passing lady.

Have you tried going to bed?

Best wishes from rain swept* Britain, N

*It's the weekend of the local Motorcycle spectatular at Northwich known as "The Thundersprint"

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Chris:

Nowadays, the entertaining part is in dealing with my arthritis. But this story was written in my second year as a re-entry rider. I had to often remind myself of wht is second nature now.

The windscreen feel out twice. The second time, a car ran over it. It still didn't break, but it was scratched up beyond acceptible.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Doc:

My allergies are going berserk with this damn tree pollen. I finally managed to get a little shut-eye last night. I think I might actually get out this afternoon. Thanks for reading my blog and for writing in.

Fondest regfards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ken:

Riding up around Lancaster, Pa provides some of the most unique scenery, and 19th century road hazards, that you will find anywhere. It is still my favorite ride.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Allen Madding said...

I must say I am quite impressed that you got a wheel stand out of the K75. I would have to suggest in the future you try letting the clutch in and out smoothly once you have it up on the back wheel to cat walk it down the driveway. Don't give up. Everyone has a few drops as they are learning to trick ride. You will be entertaining crowds very soon.


Anonymous said...

Funnily enough I did almost exactly the same thing on my K75 last week.
Went on a little 600 mile day trip to meet some friends on old RDs, from East Anglia to North Devon (in the UK).
Met some friends in a car park by Dunster Castle that had quite a slope on it, and when I put my right foot down the ground was about 6" lower than it was supposed to be!

The results were predictable as the bike went over sideways and I rolled down the hill.
Damage was minimal luckily, and duct tape saved the day.
Pictures further down the page here:


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Anonymous:

Are you Pete, the one with the mighty "Flying Brick?" I'm assuming the damage from the uneven pavement drop was confined to the right rear turn signal. That can't cost more than $1200.00 (USD) to replace at the standard BMW parts counter.

I love the deep colour blue of your K75. It reminds me of the bike I use to have, "Blueballs," noe replaced by the red "Fireballs."

I am now super-sensitive to the uneven pavement situation when coming to a stop. I had once close call on a crumbling shoulder, but that's about it for the past four years. On rural Amish farm roads here, milk tankers, grinding t a halt on scalding hot summer days create nice smooth furrows in the pavement, which can be a nice surprise for the uninitiated.

Thank you for reading Twisated Roads, and for leaving a comment. I have a number of readers in the UK and I am thrilled to add one more.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Allen Madding:

If you want to see trick riding, you should see how I get on and off this bike with my portable step. I attract a crowd just by a simple mount or dismount. For my next Twisted Roads video, I intend to wheelie this K75 the length of the street I live on.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads and for leaving a comment.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nikos:

I spent the first 40 years of my life successfully avoiding doctors. Once I crossed over into my 50's, I became a slow moving target for every airborne blight and plague. This is turning out to be a bad year for tree pollen in the US. I have never had an allergy to tree pollen before... But I've got one now. From time to time, my throat starts to constrict and breathing become a trifle odd.

At first, this scared the living shit out of me. And the choking sensation usually happens at night. Cheap allergy medication controls it, but it has been horrible this past week. The result is that I was attempting to sleep sitting upright in the comfy chair.

Your analagy between my ride and the bald man's toupe is spot on. I still can't believe I dropped the dan thing pulling into the driveway.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Buddha Baker:

All right, I'll concede the point about the K75's growling. The growl of this model has, in fact, been compared to the sounds made by an enraged cuttlefish. But to other cuttlefish, it is really imoressive.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Unknown said...

Just your luck, in the flowers. All mine fall on the asphalt and bend all sorts of important doodads. I can't give you too much shit, I know the eventual end of that machine. Granted, you lived through that and met a woman who wanted your hands between her legs. Not all bad, either.

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

Anonymous said...


Fairings are for pussies.

BB was trying to tell you it was time to get naked.

As for the rear tyre getting wild and loose:

I had an H1 with race porting and a gear ratio similar to a John Deere tractor. Devoid of anything which didn't make the little fucker go fast, it was the motorcycling equivalent of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. I'd cruise Woodward on summer nights looking for some unsuspecting squid in need of penis stepping and unleash the demons of two stroke hell on him. As long as I managed to stay below triple digits, there wasn't a sportbike made who could catch that wicked weedwhacker.

Only problem was dew.

Evening would deposit a thin film of humidity on the pavement, and that metallic brown monster would spin the rear skin at 60+ MPH as it came on the pipe. I'd have my nuts on the tank and my hands on the Tomasellis to keep the nose down, and the ass end would try to become ther front faster than you can say Stiffie.

A barely legal 11 second drag car was tame by comparison.

Ad folks think I crazy for riding barefoot at 25 MPH. If they only knew what I did back in the day.

Where's the party at?
It's time to get wild and loose!

From the clothing optional city,

Chuck on Fleming.

Conchscooter said...

A fine read and a reminder that living in year round riding country is best. I thoight younhandled fireballs with aplomb when I watched you ride it into the garage. The getting on and off was another thing though.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Brady:

That was my last drop. (Aside from the accident at the end of the line. ) Of course, the fact that I have just written this means I am calling the wrath of the motorcycle Gods down on myself.

Fireballs is equipped with "authority bike" (police-style) crash bsars which will guarantee no damage yo the lower end of things, but I certainly don't want to test things.

Thanks for reading my crap and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Chuck on Fleming:

Wasn't the H1 the 500cc Kawasaki, from around 1973? Kawasaki had a knack for making them fast, clean-looking, and fucking dangerous. Still, if you didn't know any better, and I didn't, they were a lot of fun to ride — in a straight line.

I am looking forward to riding with you and grand pa Beattie, whenever the hell I get to Kew West.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Pops Beattie:

The next time I meet you along the Pennsytlvania Turnpike, I am going to give you a 65-mile view of my tail-light. Hoave you begun to consider your plans for the next Triumph-butt ride?

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Good news, Ihor said...

Ray's coming to NJ tonight and will be here until May 18th.