Friday, September 4, 2009

Seeing progress

June 15, 2009 - Monday

On Saturday morning Mom left for a two-week tour of Romania and Bulgaria with Dr. Bruggink. At 0915 hours I was to meet Ken, a Fireblade driver I knew from the SwissBikers forum, at the Tierpark parking lot.
I drove up to find three Fireblades waiting for me; two red ones and a sparkling new white model with a six-digit license plate number. (Here, on a motorcycle, six-digit number automatically classifies the driver as a n00b, because they've only recently been put into circulation by the DOT.)
Well, the guys were all in their 30s, I'd say; the driver of the white Fireblade was a family man. They decided we'd head south and drive the Grimsel; I took the second slot and waited to see what would happen.
To make a long story short, the day was an awful waste of tire but it did help me see just how much progress I'd made in my own driving since joining United. Last year, I judged Ken, the Fireblade pilot who invited me along, a good driver.
All three guys regularly visit the racetrack, and they drive fairly good, clean lines. But I guess all their energy goes into the circuit driving, because our tour nearly put me to sleep.
We drove the Susten, Grimsel, Furka - I hate that pass - Surselva, Lukmanier, Oberalp and Gotthard, and I was reminded why I drive in the Black Forest now instead of wasting rubber on the hour-long autobahn tour to the southern Alps. There was more traffic on the Grimsel than I'd ever seen before. Furka's hairpin turns are not conductive to smooth driving, and the Gotthard is just a big ol' Autobahn. The Susten was nice; the Lukmanier was so comfortable and warm I had to fight to stay awake as the Beastie purred along at 80 km/h.
For real. These guys never went over 100 km/h. "They do speed checks, here you know." Oh for Pete's sake. It's okay to fly down the Autobahn around Schwyz (a bad canton for flashboxes) at 160 km/h, but put a little adrenaline into the pass tour? Nah. Pass a car? Oh no, why bother. Bitumen? Oi, slippery. Watch a couple German racing bikes holler by at 120 km/h? "Look, those are the Rasers (speeders)."
The comment that really made my day was given by the driver of the white Fireblade. "There's so much traffic out today. Unbelievable. It's really nicest to go out when it's a bit cloudy and not so warm. Then nobody's out, because most drivers really are fair-weather bikers."
I had to bite my lip to keep from bursting out with a laugh. This comes from a guy whose spotless white Honda looks like it could come straight from dealer's garage, and whose matching white and black Dainese leathers have probably never seen a drop of rain. Don't we know all about fair-weather bikers, eh, my mud- and dust-bespattered Beast?
The tour took all day; I left them on the Autobahn and reached home in time to get to my babysitting job for the Littles, giving me a nice, quiet end to a somewhat disappointing day.
What irked me most about the long, slow tour was the waste of rubber. My back tire's got maybe 1000 km left to it; this weekend's tour down to Parma and back will require rather more than that. And at the moment, I have neither the time nor money to get the thing changed. I was going to do all that at the end of the month, when we've passed the 16'000-km mark, the Blaster is here and mounted and I need to bring the Beastie in for a system reset and service anyway.
The Firebladers didn't drive badly. I'm sure they all cut a great figure on the racetrack. But their bikes for them are just a hobby, something they pull out on a pretty day. There was no ambition, no passion in their driving. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that, though I could never imagine investing less into my bike. The Firebladers were just average motorcyclists, the "grown-up" sort that fear the law too much to develop real-road skills. And considering that, I'll thank Roger for inviting me to United and stick with the 40- and 50-year-old experienced bikers who are old enough to know better and still too young to care.

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