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Graham Field: Valentine Bike

It’s that time of year when our attention is drawn to love. Among calendar dictated events, this is perhaps one of the saddest of the year. Even if you are happily single, on Valentine’s Day a hint of sadness or loneliness can be brought to the surface by the omnipresent emphasis of the expectations of the day. A day when the perfectly happy and confident couple feel almost guilted into having to say something that would have so much more sincerity on any other day of the year. The truly obedient buy into the chocolate and flower racket, leaving the most gullible and insecure to join the procession to the trough of the VD dinner. To be charged more than usual for less than average, surrounded by crowds of doe-eyed diners, separated by flickering flame reflections, glistening in the condensation of obligatory all inclusive fizz. But then I am just a cynic, although to be fair, a cynic in love, with one girl, several countries, hundreds of albums and quite a few bikes. It’s the latter I want to talk about.

I once heard that you couldn’t love something if it didn’t have a soul. Well my bikes have souls, in the form of an engine. It breathes through the air filter, it has an oil pump heart that sends the life blood through the lubricating capillaries. It lives, and with its production of power has its own individuality. I give it fuel and it gives me energy. I love it in fitness and nurse it in health, when it’s well it gives when it’s poorly I give back.

To me those are the characteristics of a soul, and encased in the body of a motorcycle it has a beauty to fall in love with. The ancient individualism of the exposed pushrod or total loss oil system has a mystique of appreciation much like the Mona Lisa but I would no more want to own such an engine than date said mistress of The Louvre.

Then there was the ugly ‘L’ twin of my 950 KTM adventure, perhaps that’s why it was covered in bright orange plastic.

However from the pre Evo V-twin Harley to pretty much any parallel twin or a novelty straight 6 they all catch my eye and get my affection.

And that’s just the engine, there are so many more aspects to fall in love with. The rail track handling of a Ducati 900ss,

the take-the-wall-with-you-when-you-hit-it torque of old 300lb Harley with drum brakes. That bottom end grunt of a new Triumph Thruxton R, now there is a soul that was reincarnated from a near identical but 40 year older model.

This manifestation now with Ohlin’s and Brembos. So what has all this got to do with Valentine’s Day? Nothing really, it’s just true love, a feeling to be experienced every day, not because the calendar dictates. And our beautiful bikes need to be appreciated whether it’s with a bit of new bling, a hard ride round our favourite road or just by sitting in the shed and staring in admiration. As motorcyclists we’re so lucky to have a love like that, the thrill of desire and contentment of togetherness. That’s our own personal love affair, but then mix it with the more popular interest of travel and you get quite literally the best of both worlds. The one to explore and a way to explore it.

Last year I found myself twice in very touristy cities without my own transport. I was part of the topless tour bus heard. OK, I didn’t have to worry about safe parking, overland border crossings, finding fuel or any of the other day to day hardships of the independent road traveller but that wasn’t much of a consolation. In fact I think a lot of us deliberately try and avoid the very touristy arears as we take to the road on our bikes. When I’m in the vicinity of a site I’d be mad to miss, at least I can ride in at dawn before the tour buses or dusk after they have left, the light is better then for photography anyway. And there is nothing as sexy as your iron horse travel companion in the foreground enhancing the view of the Eiffel Tower or the Pyramids. One for the mantel piece and good for mental peace.

But then I am just a cynic, although to be fair, a cynic in love, with one girl, several countries, hundreds of albums and quite a few bikes. It’s the latter I want to talk about.

So there, two loves that last a life time, bikes and travel. If I bought into such fabricated events, I’d buy two cards - one for my steed I love to travel on, and the other - for a world I love to travel through. And it’s having such passions that turn an existence into a life.

Well I’ve got to cut this short, there’s an auction ending on eBay I’ve got to catch, ya never know I might even be the highest bidder and save another soul.


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