Goodbye, Triumph

I sold my motorcycle a few days ago.

That’s a bit misleading. I sold what was left of my motorcycle… her heart had been disassembled, her broken engine removed. She was a Triumph Bonneville, a new-old design reminiscent of the Cafe Racers of the 60’s.

There are a lot of ways my year-plus adventure with motorcycling could have ended, this was far from the worst. She was broken from the moment she was sold to me, permanent damage to the engine done from a parking-lot drop by the previous owner. She never would have made it more than a few thousand miles before failing.

I’m still a bit conflicted as to how it was sold to me. The test ride went beautifully, the inspection I had done came back flawless. Even so, maybe there were signs, signs only visible in retrospect. When the previous owner almost bailed on me because he couldn’t find the delivery address, I’d like to think he simply got lost instead of having second thoughts about selling a lemon. When he gave me $200 of the purchase price back and told me to “buy a good helmet,” I’d like to think it was a way of welcoming a new member to the tribe, rather than subtly warning me that the engine might well seize on the highway.

Owning her was never easy. My inaugural ride on “real” roads was a butt-puckering 150 miles of rural highway from Clearwater, Florida up to an Amtrack station around Orlando. She didn’t like cold weather or going under 30mph. The print on her petcock valve was worn off and I ran out of gas near the Appalachian Skyline Road and had to get helped by a preacher (albeit a preacher with a rock band.) Cleaning and maintenance was a constant challenge. She was missing the key to her fork lock, meaning I woke up paranoid she was getting stolen every time I heard a noise outside late at night.

Other parts were easy. I didn’t have to smile, my small, fun, vintage-y motorcycle would smile for me whenever I pulled up. It made it easy to start conversations when I brought my helmet in to author events or writing groups. It made me more interesting, I could say more while saying less.

It was a bitch to get her into the moving van when we made our way across the country from DC to Portland, Oregon. If it wasn’t for the near-supernatural strength of a good friend, I don’t even think we could have gotten her up the ramp. When she arrived, she’d been leaking oil for three thousand miles of transport and our sheets smelled like it for weeks. ExpeditionWife hated it – but I found some comfort, the smell of beautiful memories and a shiny, two-wheeled friend.

Has anyone ever told you how fun motorcycles are? They’re not like driving, they fulfill the childhood sensation of flying. When I rode through Georgetown, I could smell every restaurant and bakery I passed… croissants, curries, cupcakes, everything. I smelled trees in the forest. Smelled the rivers when I passed bridges, bricks of the old buildings, dust of the dirt roads. I could see everything, the sky above me, the road below, nature and people and the city passing 360-degrees around. I never needed to ride fast – decisively, yes, but never truly fast. I liked the slow, curvy back roads, taking in incredible sights of rural Virginia and Maryland or the bustling cultural metropolis of DC. Riding felt so intuitive, I only had to feel what I wanted to do, I rarely had to actually think about it.

At gas stations or when I parked, older men would wander over, transfixed to passing cars, ask me what year it was, tell me about the one they owned forty, fifty years previous. Riding it gave me some strange insight on what it might be like to be a beautiful woman – young men would crane their necks when I passed, only to be smacked on the shoulder by their disapproving wives and girlfriends.

Not sure if I’ll ever get a chance to ride again. Life changes, priorities change. Motorcycles are objectively unnecessarily dangerous, and I know very well that the risk/reward section of my brain has always been wired a bit funny. We’ll see what the future brings.

In the meantime, goodbye to my Triumph Bonneville. I’m going to miss you terribly.


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