So I’m 46 years old. I’ve been on hiatus from my “mechanical hobby”; restoring cars, for nearly three years. I’ve been doing this since I was 18, and sold off my last Citroen DS21, on January 18, 2005. On a self-enforced hiatus for two years, it’s been another year because the Ideal Ride that lurked in my head just never materialized.
Enter “Test Pilot Bill” in Phoenix. I’ve known him for years through my wife, Sheila. He is possibly one of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet.
Last year by happenstance he showed me his newly acquired 2004 Triumph Bonneville that is absolutely perfect, low miles, and an H.G.-Welles-Time-Machine moment (I orginially attributed it to Orwell – forgive me!) with all the wonderful things about British bikes and none of their vices.
As I threw my leg over the Bonnie, something funny hit me. Kind of a “yeah… nice”. It fit not only my butt – it fit into my thoughts. Something deep inside me began eating away two of the four wheels that my Ideal Ride had always possessed. From that moment, I began to think of a motorcycle as The Thing to replace the Car Habit I had nurtured for more than 30 years.
I didn’t know if my search would result in a Triumph like Bill’s, but I knew that I would start on a journey of self-discovery and, as I write this, I couldn’t be more excited about anything I have ever undertaken.
I began ruminating over just what kind of Motorcycle would give a physical representation to this journey. Digging deep into my psyche, I initially went down the “Rocker” route, fueled by the initial impressions of the Bonneville and earlier memories of Nortons, Vincents and Ariels that I had either ridden or had been owned by friends. I read everything I could about the Café Racers in England during the 60’s. Admiring these amazingly engineered hybrids with various cobbled-together components, they represent the best of an era that I only missed by a couple of years and a very intolerant father. Although insanely interesting, it didn’t give me that solid path forward, in fact there were now more questions and less answers.
The Scooter Phase
Long ago I discovered that visiting family over Christmas is both expensive and “stressful”. A Hotel near dysfunctional relatives in Scottsdale over the holidays would cost real money, and I decided to divert said money, wife and daughter to Italy instead. It turned out to be a spectacular idea, and the time I spent walking around Rome’s cobblestone streets and rustic alleys gave me a renewed appreciation for two-wheeled transportation, focused mainly on scooters.
At some undefined point in the trip, I completely erased the idea of another automobile project. The “way forward” in my journey to Mechanical Nirvana was going to be astride a cycle. This part of the journey had to occur on this path – a two-wheeled mind-trip. The only decisions left were the “how” ones. Scooters swarmed Rome, and I had a new appreciation for them.
I had a peripheral association with Scooters since the early nineties. At that time I had a business finding Picture Vehicles for film, television and video productions. Working on a TV movie in the early ‘90s, I had to find cars for a honeymoon scene at a Sicilian Airport in the late 50’s. I had a DC-3 decked out in Alitalia colors, Scooters everywhere, two Carabinieri on Moto Guzzis (later Eldorados because I couldn’t get Falcones) and other cars, etc. I gained an admiration for the people and attitudes associated with the vintage Vespas and Lambrettas on this project.
Rome renewed these memories inside of my eyelids, except I now enhanced them with the new “maxi-scooters” that the serious “cognoscenti” rode. These two-wheeled Roman Executive Jets are everywhere.
Businessmen ride Aprilia Atlantics wearing amazingly slick gear, ready for the office or a Milan Runway. Seemingly ageless women navigate through traffic on their Suzuki Burgmans with a confidence that has me wanting to sell my soul to be a young Italian man chasing her down on one of my own. Is a Scooter like these king-of-the-hill Burgmans or Atlantics the answer?
I re-examined what I would be doing on two wheels. I spend quite a bit of time on Los Angeles’ Freeways. I also have a serious Road Trip habit that involves about 12,000 miles of traveling per year. I decided that Scooters were really not well suited for freeway travel and really not the best road tripper. While the larger, 500cc-plus scoots would definitely “work” for hitting the road, they really aren’t ideal; there are better choices out there. I’m thinkin’ bigger tires, a little more motor and the same amount of “cool”.
Scooters have quite a bit of “cool” factor. The big ones crank out ponies; have serious practicality, are fun to ride and do almost everything that I want – yet there is a final, not-quite-fulfilling hole wrapped into geography and intent. Maxi-Scooters left an indelible impression and provided an epiphany – I need a Real Live Motorcycle, not a scooter, and it is absolutely, positively going to be Italian.