Friday, September 4, 2009

Wheelie mentality

March 16, 2009 - Monday

This past weekend was how weekends should be. 660 kilometers, new roads and views and more practice on bad footing and new tricks.
Saturday promised to be nice and warm, though not sunny. I hit the road before 0930 hours, heading for Basel to meet Octi, Roger, Fabian and Remo for a tour of the Vosges Mountains in France.
I ended up being at our meeting point on the Basel/German border about 20 minutes early, so I had plenty of time to top off the tank. Octi showed up, then Roger and Fabian without Remo. We had to go find Remo at the Badisch train station, then crossed the border into France and followed Octi on the tour he'd planned.
Now Octi has a reputation as a "Graduusfahrer" (versus curves driver) because of a tour he led last August. And we all tease him about his navigation device, claiming it makes him miss all the curves.
Well, this tour ended up being through the flatlands, and most of the curves were on the cobbled streets of the towns, where you can't drive very fast.
Roger got impatient after several kilometers too many on the autobahn - which I didn't find very fun either, having just travelled 70 autobahn kilometers to get to Basel. But the rolling farmlands on either side were pretty - passed up all of us and with unmistakable hand language demanded that Octi take us somewhere with curves.
So, we went somewhere with curves - which ended up being dead ends.
Remo laughed himself silly, Roger grinned and bore it, Fabian nearly blew a blood vessel and had to smoke two cigarettes to calm down. Which is o say, we all took it in good humor.
I didn't really mind staying in the flatlands, as long as we stayed off the autobahn, because I was sure there'd still be snow up in the mountains. Octi mentioned that too, but the others insisted they wanted more curves. So, we hit Markstein in the heart of the Vosges.
(Btw, short excourse here. We were driving through the Elsass, which until 1918 was German. You can still tell, because though everybody speaks French, all the towns and areas have German names. Also, German influence can be seen in the pretty architecture of the towns.)
Markstein was a mess. I bet it's great fun in the summer. Remo, who often drives through France as it's as close to him if not closer than the Black Forest, said he'd organize a tour there in the warmer season. But mid-March is not so good for wanting to burn rubber and be scraping knees in the curves.
Octi led the way along lovely roads that were covered with running water from the four-foot heaps of snow melting on the edges of the asphalt. The French scatter gravel instad of salting their roads, so we had streams and striations of little rocks everywhere, but especially in the curves. An occasional scattering of melting snow chunks would greet me as I rounded a curve... Yeah, it was no road for radical cornering.
We reached the summit where masses of people in ski boots and winter gear were meandering around. A lot of funny looks followed us as we stopped, quickly decided to get to a lower altitude and out of the snow, and headed down the other side of the mountain, this time with Remo in the lead.
Remo knew these mountains and was driving his Triumph Sprint (a touring bike) and I'd soon lost him from view. That left me leading the rest of the pack, which isn't so much fun because they all drive better than I do, but keeping my priorities straight and braking to navigate through the worst gravel pockets, we all made it down the mountain to a parking lot where Fabian cussed and swore and smoked another two cigarettes and we decided to find the next restaurant for a drink.
Octi took over the lead again and passed by eight restaurants until Fabian got fed up, passed everybody and disappeared into the distance. (Someday, I hope I can take curves as lightly as he does. That guys knows how to drive.) We found his Speedy sitting at the next populated place, another parking lot at the base of a slope packed with skiers and snowboarders.
We took a breather there, Remo breaking fast and the rest of us grabbing a drink while Fabian, who was quite angry by this time, stayed outside to cool off and smoke.
We drove many more kilometers of gravel-bedecked curves until we reached the flatlands and the autobahn and raced - 140 to 160 km/h on the Beastie is uncomfortable. I really don't like autobahns at all - back to the border. We briefly crossed into Germany afterwards to check out a motorcycle supply store. Roger's still looking for a new jacket to take to Sardinia.
The store, called Louis, has a long parking lot out front where biker's can set the machines to be admired. It was packed when we came. Chrome-edged Harleys, Japanese yogurt cups (a Swiss term for racing bikes, because they're so bright and colorful), BMWs of every size... Our bikes stood out in the crowd, splashed with mud from front to back, as dirty as could be. And of course the Beastie whistled merrily away for several minutes after being set down next to a yellow chopper.
We said our goodbyes there in front of the store, crossed back into Switzerland together and then split up. I left the autobahn at Möhlin and took country roads home, which added almost an hour to my driving time but kept me off the deathly boring straight stretches.
It wasn't an ideal tour, but I quite enjoyed myself anyway. And seeing I'd done 500 kilometers that day was quite satisfying.
I gave the Beastie a bath when I got back to Adliswil, and had a comfortable babysitting job at 1930 hours.
On Sunday we had church with the Martins and Geissendorfers in St. Gallen, and after Mom and Dad had a meeting about homeschooling matters in Winterthur. Florian and I were going to drive back to Schwägalp to look at the house I hope Dad buys. Breanna wanted to come along, so she borrowed Joshua's helmet and my jacket - I was wearing my leathers - and hopped on the Tweety Bird behind Florian.
I led the way as we took country roads instead of the autobahn all the way there.
It was snowing on the Schwägalp, so we didn't stay long. It was quite chilly on the bikes, and got more so as evening drew on. We took the autobahn back, just to save time, and Florian and I raced each other from Pfäffikon SZ to Rüschlikon. He says the Tweety Bird maxes out at 150 km/h; with Selim's Hyosung blurb he'd have left me sitting. Maybe he should borrow the blurb next time...
I thought that as soon as we got home I'd make me a hot tea and let in a nice scented bath, but instead, I found it wasn't that cold and Florian was willing to workon wheelies with me.
I'd found out on the way to Schwägalp that the Beastie is too heavy to rear up in a gas wheelie alone - either that, or I was doing something wrong. At home, I gave the key to Florian to find the technique on the Buell, and he promptly hauled it up in a perfect wheelie from the gardens barn to the goat farmer's hay bales, about 300 meters. He rolled in with a big grin on his face, saying, "This thing is fun to do wheelies with!" and took it up the hill for another couple.
Then he told me I should practice on the Tweety Bird first, as the the Beastie was "fairly special."
I did. I worked on gas wheelies until I got the front wheel high enough of the ground that it wasn't tickling the concrete anymore. Then Florian showed me the technique of a proper wheelie, with the clutch, and I worked on that until I got the front wheel about six inches off the ground and it was time to eat. I might mention I scared myself silly for a moment when the wheel came up. Florian about laughed his head off at my flailing legs.
Any guy reading this is probably going to shake his head resignedly. Florian didn't take lessons from anybody to learn wheelies. He didn't need practice runs on the Beastie to bring its nose up. A guy sees an engine, a gas handle and two wheels and goes ahead to see what works.
I, who for some reason was made female, see wheelies, would like to know how to do them, but need the procedure explained and displayed and have to start by inches on an indestructible bike. I can't seem to get the "just try it!" attitude.
(Remember the last time I "just tried it" I ended up having to replace the back end of the bike for three and a half grand.)
It shouldn't be that hard. To drive a mountain road properly you need to know where your bike will be in one, five and ten seconds and which position you and it will be in at that time. Looking ahead, you know. (This "seeing it done before you do it" is the only practical thing my organ teacher taught me through those years and year of hated music lessons. I still can't apply it to music, but it sure works for driving.)
It's the same with a wheelie. You want the nose up from this end of the street to that. You're in first gear at 3000 rpm. Pull in the clutch, give gas and let the clutch go. The bike comes up and keep giving gas until you want it to come down. Easy.
But nooo, my mind kicks in, remembering what could happen if I give too much gas, or what if I go too high and fall off the back... What if this, what if that. Instead of concentrating on a ten-second episode, I get sidetracked worrying about stuff that'll only happen if I think about it in the first place.
So there. Like a true female I've gone and theorized and disassembled the whole subject to my heart's content, with the result that I won't be able to pull a wheelie down the Badenerstrasse after work today because I'm a doggone fraidycat.
No wonder you never see female stunt riders.

Post scriptum - I'm gonna learn to do this. And I'm gonna learn to do this before I go to Corsica.

Eh. I still can't do it right.

No comments:

Post a Comment