Revelations can be unusual things, often manifesting themselves in that one instant spark of time that, when most needed, they are most appreciated. At other times these revelations are manifest in the long term, time warp type, area of the individual's psyche. For lack of a better term, I might use the analogy of the "Well, Duh!" factor. Basically, I'm writing of those times when it seems so obvious to all others around you, but not to yourself at that moment, then suddenly realized in the future, as that particular moment returns with "deja' vous" clarity. These revelations are of specific value to those of us on two wheels, for in but a brief moment, we may take the elation of existence at speed in the far places to one of inquisition and concern at a road side park some 400 miles from home or in turning the subtle colors at leisure in tune with our unhurried passing to one of contempt for someone' s impatience to arrive somewhere distant all too quickly.
Personal revelations, then, must have merit for others as if the reflection of our own experience is somehow directed by association from some past situation. As they occur they become useful to others, if for no other reason than to justify efforts of time and money spent when hoping for quick resolutions or redirection of choices made all too hastily. Acquiring these revelations must have benefits for us as individuals, but they also come with obligations. If we are to learn important lessons from others more experienced, then we also must pay for that knowledge. This account is reconciled through sharing our revelations, however limited, with those who would share with us the revelations of their experiences. As we continue to pursue our knowledge by distance and time, then we will have to share, and consequently, our account is credited. It is through our proximity to others that these revelations may be shared, and most often this knowledge needed may be assimilated more quickly where groups of like-minded individuals congregate.
My concern is that with all of the revelations I have acquired from others, my account may be stamped "Past Due". With some of us, time is limited. All too often plans conceived in earnest must be modified to facilitate obligations of our careers and other responsibilities. Though more of an excuse rendered to those less understanding, still it may seem that our priorities may be, at least on the surface, misdirected. Consequently, in this small amount of available time, we may cherish even more the brief moments of revelations with the congregation - or with a few.
For whatever benefit may be gained from my revelations, though some may be obvious or redundant, one thing is true. Each one is personal and rendered without fee, freely given, if for no other reason than to reconcile my account for that information obtained in like manner.
When purchasing a motorcycle, get what you want.
I am not into brand bashing or manufacturer maiming, nor is my intent to endorse one style over the other, but some of us are slow learners. After nearly forty years of owning and riding most every brand offered by the Japanese, Europeans, British and Americans, my realization of need has placed into perspective my misunderstanding of want. All of my dozen or so bikes had specific virtues that I cherished, some from a practical need for reliable and inexpensive transportation, and others from a self-deceived want of image, style and belonging. Yet, it seemed that no single one offered both. My care-style ride would get me through the city streets to work with ease, but its long distance comfort was not so easily endured. My weighty cruiser was a joy on the extended treks with friends, but was cumbersome and ill suited for the everyday traffic of the jungle. Others offered only moderate reliability, for it became apparent they had been produced to meet a need for those individuals with advanced mechanical abilities to adjust, on a regular basis, anything that required that particular brand of motorcycle to start, run and get from "point A" to "point B" with any degree of success. Many others offered the reliability with some style, but they had no soul, no distinction of the singularity that I craved.
When the Guzzi caught my eye late in 1995, it seemed all the past wants resurfaced in this single machine. My '96 Cal (with carbs, I might add) was the realization of all the cravings long unsatisfied. Tinker if you want, for at times, though little may be changed, it offers the chance to become familiar with the simplicity and durability of the machine. Climb on and experience the satisfaction of the historical reliability so well known. Get high on an open stretch a thousand miles from home with memories behind you and anticipation ahead, or flaunt your cool to the turning heads of the tightening mob downtown as they wonder why you are sitting free and they are confined. The Guzzi could do it all, and offered me what I wanted. When friends ask me which motorcycle they should choose, my reply is always the same, "Get what you want. I did."
If you want to ride with a group, pick wisely or ride alone.
In my youth, the pleasure of going anywhere was to get there quickly. Experience has enlightened me to adopt a somewhat different axiom:
"For those of us who seek these truths, the pleasure's manifest not wholly in the conquering, but mostly in the quest."
I mostly ride alone, not out of preference, but because of proximity. There are very few fellow riders who live close enough to gather, on a regular basis, and ride for pleasure to some favorite location. Most all have responsibilities, as I have, that interfere with any attempt to arrange regular meetings or joy rides. When I get a chance to break away from this asylum, I call a business and climb on the goose for a ride. It usually is not realistic to call someone to see if they can drop what they're doing instantly and join me. Oh, I often call, but their responses are usually the same as mine when they call me. "Man, I'm tied up. What about tomorrow afternoon?" However brief, any time spent on two wheels, at least to me, is precious. But for those times when long term plans can be realized, riding with a group can be more enjoyable as well as much safer. As long as it's the right group.
My group for long distance trips and impromptu short jaunts consists of two, me and my Cal III buddy, Guido. Our meeting was purely by chance, resulting in a long term friendship without demands. Apprehension always precedes the unknown in a new relationship, but after a few short runs and a couple of six-hour round trips to Arkansas and Louisiana rallies, we both seemed to feel at ease with the other's style of traveling on motorcycles. Neither of us enjoys the fast and furious pace of many of our compatriots and would rather take the roads less traveled, or as yet unexplored, at a leisurely pace to soak up those things normally missed in the silent places. The trip to the National in New Mexico was the litmus test as we proceeded to put what amounted to 1800 miles round trip on our friendship as traveling companions. It seemed that we complimented one another in our journey. He always stopped for coffee or drinks and snacks just when I wanted to, and he never complained if we rode two hours or just 20 minutes before a break. He seemed to take the lead when I tired and readily pulled drag when I felt like running point. We putted at 45 or flew at 90 but never seemed to push each other's patience. The whole trip turned out to be one of the most enjoyable experiences on two wheels I have ever had, and I think it was for him, too. (Now, on occasion, when the pressures of business and family begin to build to boiling, all we do is look at each other and respond in unison, "I think it's time for another trip to New Mexico.")
Finding a group with which to ride may be easy. Finding one with which you can ride and enjoy yourself may not be so simple. Those who have ridden together for a long time have made concessions of attitudes and personalities for each other, and any new member is expected to consent to adopt their riding style. If you don't feel comfortable with their particular riding habits, either give yourself some time to adjust, look for another group, or ride alone. Remember to extend as much patience to others as you would want shown to you.
Find a dealer that you can trust and depend on.
Make no mistake about it. Motorcycle dealers are in business to make money. Let them. Being in business involves an extreme mount of time, expense and the constant headache of juggling both. Look for a friend in a dealer, someone who will help, someone who knows what he is talking about, and then patronize that business. Dealers expect constant calls from customers to answer questions about tires, suspension, mufflers, rough running problems, "goodies" or performance enhancements, and they certainly shouldn't mind helping. But it should also be expected, that if the individual obtained needed information, he will also purchase those items discussed from the business where he solicited the help. Put yourself in their position. How much help would you be willing to extend to a customer who, after you had answered his constant inquiries on a regular basis, purchased his parts and materials from someone else because the discount dealer might be a few dollars cheaper?
How do you find a good dealer to trust and depend on? This may be another one of those "Well, Duh!" statements, but it is amazing how often it is overlooked. First, find a dealer that sells and rides the same brand of motorcycle that you do. I personally know several friends who constantly pursue questions and changes concerning their Guzzis from a BMW dealer who sells Guzzis but rides BMWs. They trust this dealer, which is fine for them, but I prefer to go elsewhere. Second, listen to what he tells you. More than likely he will have already tried several things that you want to try on his ride or others which he services, and he can tell you what has worked for him or others. A good dealer/friend is not going to lead you astray because he wants your business and values your friendship. Why? Because the number one salesman for any business is a satisfied customer/friend. I have done some business with several Guzzi dealers in the past few years, and most all of them have at least been cordial with my inquiries and satisfactory in their service. But as different as people are with their expectations, so, too, am I. Although I would not be so bold as to recommend one over the other, for whatever reason, I can say, at least for me, that Gene's Moto Guzzi in Eldorado, Arkansas has been remarkably helpful and extremely patient. Gene is definitely not the nearest dealer to me, and I really don't care if he's the cheapest. I have come to trust his recommendations and depend on his help to lead me in the right direction, and that is worth much more than the few extra minutes of travel to his shop, the few extra days to wait on ordered parts, or the few extra cents spent. Besides, he has given me far more in advice than the few dollars I've spent on parts and goodies, and he has given me better deals on extras than I might get elsewhere.
Find a good dealer; get to know him; let him get to know you; and spend your money at his business. Help him to keep helping you.
Be cautious when you buy accessories.
(Or basically, just 'cause someone else uses it don't mean it's right for you.)
New bikes require new equipment. We want to create just the right atmosphere for our new acquisition and that translates into accessories, whether it be for comfort, function or style. If for no other reason than to save embarrassment to others or make enemies out of longtime friends, I will tell on myself with the following list, all of which I purchased for, or because of, my '96 Guzzi. (Personally, I'm sure that the majority of new Guzzi owners probably have done likewise. At least I think I'm sure.) So here goes: three windshields, two handlebars, two sets of spotlights, three sets of mufflers, three different air cleaner/filter combinations, two different styles of seats cut down and rebuilt twice, four different styles of highway pegs, two different cruise controls, two different carburetor springs, three different sets of shocks, three combinations of tires (front and rear), two styles of rain suits, three helmets, three riding jackets, two tank bags and the list of small stuff goes on. Why? Because I assumed that if everyone else is buying that item for themselves, then it should work for me. Wrong! We are individuals with individual tastes, needs and wants. I should have stayed an individual, but because this was my first Guzzi I figured, like so many others, "They ride Guzzis, so what works for them should work for me." (Oh, by the way, we say figured and fixin' to a whole lot down in Texas.) It's not that I didn't have any idea as to what I wanted, it's just that the Guzzi is so much different from any other bike I've owned. Not withstanding the obvious brand that there are literally thousands of accessories for, Moto Guzzi is unique in its "singularity", its distinction of style, and there are so few extras available that were created specifically for this bike that do not need some modification to fit.
When considering "bolt on" replacements, i.e. mufflers, shocks, tires, etc., first find someone who uses what you're looking for and ask questions. For example: the Wixom hard bags from my Ambo fit the style I was looking for on my California, but the stock pipes seemed out of place. I like a little more "tone" and I needed less restriction to complement the K&N air filters flow increase, so I put on a set of baffled fishtails because that's what several friends said would look good on the Cal. The '"tails" looked a little too "retro" and slightly out of place with the bags set originally to continue the line of the original mufflers, and even though they worked well with the double intake filters, the exhaust noise seemed too harsh.
Back to square one. First I get out the old motorcycle mags and start tipping through the pages. Bingo! A quick trip to my local Harley shop and $25 gets me a set of new, "just off that guy's Fat Boy 'cause he wants straight pipes," genuine Harley shotgun mufflers. I pulled the baffles, made another set of custom baffles to give me just a tad bit more back pressure than open pipes, cut the fishtails from the chrome tubes, TIG welded the whole thing together, adjusted the hard bags, and arrived at what I was looking for. The exhaust tone is deep and hauntingly mellow, and if seat-of-the-pants performance is any indication at all, I must have picked up a couple of horses in the process. I should have first figured (there's that word again) what I was looking for and then proceeded towards that goal.
Another example of the folly of first asking first someone with experience is when purchasing tires. The Cal 1100 is well known for its feather and rev first gear starts and fourth gear cruising, unless you're doing warp speed. (By golly, I've got five gears and I want to use five gears.) It seemed to me the only remedy was to change from the 8/33 rear drive to the 7/33 as per some well meaning friends. "Man, that'll make it peppy in all five." (I am not the "peppy" type, guys.) First through fourth would have been great, but the rpm in fifth at normal cruising speeds would have been well above my "sweet spot" of 3800 to 4000 revs. I am not a highway scorcher or a terror in the turns. I'm perfectly content to cruise at 60 to 65. This is fourth gear for me. Thanks to Nick Caliva for setting me straight. After multiple calculations for Nick's change to a 15" tire/rear wheel for his sidehack (we were going to exchange rear drives - his 7/33 for my 8/33), we figured out (that word kinda creeps up on ya') that my 8/33 was definitely not the correct ratio for his smaller rear tire change. Ah Ha! Smaller tire! I hop on down to my local tire store and get a 140/70-17 Yokimatsumichlop rear rubber grabber that works, as far as the gearing goes, but is squirrelly when dragging the footrest. So I complain, uh? I mean I express my concern to my tire man who promptly tells me I should buy the Bridgaloonytoony front match for the rear. Great! So I have a beautiful bike that rides like Jed Clampet's Tennessee limo and corners like a bathtub on roller skates. Now I do what I should have done first and called Gene in E1 Dorado, who promptly tells me that he personally uses a lower profile Dunlop combination to achieve exactly what I was looking for. Like I said before, go to the people that ride the same brand as you and ask them what they have done and how that particular change has affected their bike. (Needless to say, I now know how to change tires on the goose.) The combination he suggested helped the first gear takeoffs, worked wonders for the gearing/rpm cruise range I was looking for, and seemed more stable in the corners than the originals (and now the Konis, with a higher spring rate than normal, seemed to work better, and I need to lower the front forks in the clamps and crank on a little more rebound dampening...) Well, you get the idea. Everything you bolt onto the Guzzi can affect everything else, so it is wise to first ask someone who should know, then plan. Now all I need is a frame and engine and I'll have the beginnings of a new brand of bike, "Moto Bathtub", (albeit one that may be a bit too gaudy for the conservative crowd).
Thoroughly investigate every piece of riding gear before you buy.
The best way to acquire knowledge is by experience.
The cheapest way to acquire knowledge is by someone else's experience.
Have you ever noticed that many of your clothes seem to shrink the older you get? Maybe it has to do with the fabric or something. My rain suit seemed to shrink after several seasons of disuse. I guess it's like a sponge and would stay its original size if kept wet. I tried soaking it but it never would swell up to what it was a couple of years ago. Strange, isn't it? Well, what the heck. I ride on down to my local bike shop and try on another one and find out that even the size designations are different. "Do these suits run small for size? I used to wear a medium. Is that price for the whole suit or just the top? ...You mean I have to pay that much for the whole thing?"
The rain suit I bought is a well known brand of very high quality (with a correspondingly high price). It definitely will keep the rain out, but...and that is where some simple questions concerning a simple need would have saved a whole bunch of money. The problem became apparent on the way to New Mexico ( It seemed I learned a lot on the way to New Mexico). About one hour into the trip, Guido and I had to don our rain gear and spend the rest of the day riding in both sprinkles and flash floods. My suit kept the rain out, but by the time we got to Amarillo I was soaking wet from perspiration. Guido was dry as a bone. I spent the better part of $150 on a rain suit that takes up most of my tank bag and bathes me in sweat in 75 degree weather, but Guido spends twelve bucks on a suit from a local discount store that fits in his back pocket and keeps him dry and comfortable. For as many times as I've worn this suit in the past four years, I could have bought the $12 suits, thrown them away every time I needed one and come out $125 to the good (and remained dry in the process). It should have been obvious. Ask questions.
My old open face helmet was a little scarred and tattered from several joyous meditation sessions with the pavement, a few tree huggin' sojourns in the wilderness at speed, and a couple of sideways sabbaticals on a flat track with me and the bike becoming one with the universe. I decided to restrict myself to a full face helmet since certain parts of my chin and neck developed unusual folds that would flap wildly in the oncoming wind. (Isn't it interesting that the skin becomes so uniquely supple with a little age?) My new helmet, made in Italy, was very comfortable - for the first 200 miles. Double "X" size with a double "X" price, special ordered and used...No, they won't take it back. Helmets are not like shoes; you don't "wear" them in. Oh, it was a little snug around the jaw, but I thought that I would have to get used to it. After all this was my first full face. Guido buys a used one for $20 that looks just as good, and after I tried it on, I attempted to trade him out of it. He didn't go for that. I should have borrowed or tried several until I found one that "felt" right. Simple in application, though it seems not so simple in concept, expensive brand names may not be the best choice, and if it isn't comfortable now, time is not going to make it any better. This perspective holds true for jackets, gloves, shoes, jeans or riding pants and anything else you might have to wear for an extended period of time on the road. Lack of common sense? Maybe. A little too anxious to get on the road? Definitely.
Get to know and understand your motorcycle.
This sultry vixen vexes my emotions with her temptress' ways. Her "come hither" look and coy demeanor invoke a restrained sigh and rapid pulse. The moisture that I wipe from my hands before I caress her, I discount to the humid weather, but she knows that it is the expectation of her soft tremor and supple movements at my requests. She requires nothing less than the demands of someone gifted in her unusual ways, but to tease her brings a rapid correction of my insensitive nature and a gentle reminder to be bold but not foolish. Though I boast control, it is she that allows my direction and we move as one body through time. She is not adorned as others that may turn my eyes in their direction, but it is this lack of glitter that hides her quiet aggression, exposed only when needed to dispel any suggestion that she is easily subdued. She has seduced me and I am powerless in her presence. (Am I sick or what?)
If you think that your Guzzi is nothing more than a machine, a mechanical menagerie of nuts and bolts assembled in some predetermined pattern, then you have missed the absolute joy of riding and owning a very unique motorcycle. I often wonder, at times, who owns whom? I am constantly reminded that we ride, not drive, motorcycles. We do not steer mechanically through movements, nor do we balance by fixed point, but move and flow with the needs of what is offered, whether it be sweeping turns or quick corrections at speed in traffic. We have to take an active part. We and our bikes move in unison and with a dependency on each another's position. Yes, all motorcycles require some physical input by the rider, but the Guzzi seems to take the subtle suggestions of our needs and translates those into fluid motion, be it for twisty turns or slow boulevard cruising, for it handles both very well. Svelte pavement burners require specific techniques of the riders to represent their abilities. Robust heavies require an obliging financial commitment omnipresent with purchased expected handling and character traits. The Guzzi merely requests loyalty. Again, it seems to give the rider a sense of uniqueness, away from the crowded cliques so prevalent within certain circles, and not demanding an acquired representative attitude. Which brings us to:
Do not expect uniform personal character traits at Moto Guzzi Rallies.
You may be required to know more than single-syllable words and a few vowel sounds to carry on a conversation at Guzzi rallies. The types of people evident at these events are individualistic in their opinions, well versed, well read and well mannered. They are considerate, caring, understanding and forgiving. They enjoy talking as well as listening. They are family-type people, close and tolerant, but varied in interests with a common bond cemented by their love of this motorcycle. They want to be set apart from the average crowd without pretense to diminish acceptable social values or behavior. They love fun, responsible fun, the kind anyone can have and all can enjoy. They are single and married, have children, grandchildren, and even great-grand children. They are old and young without age barriers. Each individual seems to be interested in the other without consideration of social standing. Basically, they are just great people to be around.
At the New Mexico rally, I spent much of the time just meeting and talking to new people. To give you an idea of the vast background differences encountered, let me recount some of the subjects discussed. I talked with "Big Red" (now, "Little Red") at length about firearm exterior ballistics and accuracy problems and found out his father was good friends with an individual who can be considered the "Guru of Wildcatting". I had an extended discussion with Dorothy about pecan pies and specific ingredients that should and should not be added. Elaine and I discussed exotic foreign coffees and proper brewing methods. Jake and I wandered down the river collecting and sampling wild greens, roots, insects and a few things neither of us could identify. Robert tried to explain how to place an elk call in the roof of my mouth for better sound control (I almost choked!). John and I discussed the advantages of a vertical over a horizontal boring mill, and Jodi captivated me with her knowledge of domestic political agendas. Bobbie, Gene and I got into a heated discussion of the advantages of a representative republic versus a pure democracy, and Freddy and I weighed the distinctiveness in taste and smoothness of single malt scotch over blended. We made side bets to see how many bags Ken would buy, as he wondered just how many Corn-Nuts a squirrel can stuff in his mouth. We floated bits of twigs fashioned to look like insects down the river to see if the trout would rise and strike them, and listened to Tom lead us on a pothole-by-pothole dissertation of the roads we should not return home on. Yancey mused over the lost art form evident in a Vincent, and Lisa definitely agreed with my theory that, indeed, objects needed most at any particular time may travel through alternative time continuums, only to reappear when discounted as lost and replaced. Of course, somewhere in all of this rhetoric, motorcycles were discussed and with the passion evident in that the Guzzi seems to elicit from its riders. Clearly, this is not repr esentative of most motorcycle groups, but hang around a bunch of Guzzi riders long enough, and you may just grow to like what you see. I do.
A good sense of humor is not required to ride Moto Guzzis, but spend a little time around Guzzi owners and you may acquire one.
Within the MGNOC organization, there are many well known pranksters as well as those friends love to poke fun at each other on a regular basis. This constant jousting between friends is part of relationships developed over a long period of time, and many are very personal. Putting yourself within easy reach of any of these jokesters may get you drawn into the wonderful world of cattle prods on a regular basis and introduce you to people who will literally give you the shirts off their backs and their last dime, if they thought you needed it. Everyone does something "dumb" that they hope will not be remembered but, it seems, that few will let them forget. Oddly enough, this is the way many of these friendships begin for most of the pranksters have "Been There, Done That." (I will tell on myself once again purely for example only.) Several months ago I was perplexed about a carburetor problem. (The mixture always appeared a little rich.) It seemed that my acceleration off idle was lagging with a "bobble" until the bike was moving well. I dropped the main jet needle, raised the needle, adjusted and readjusted the idle mixture and balanced the carbs 'till I was blue in the face. On cold starts I had a slight "pop" through the pipes until the engine was warmed up. I reviewed every available option until I finally decided to trailer the bike to E1 Dorado, Arkansas and let Gene take a look at it. I took it off the trailer, started it and Gene promptly told me to kill it and pull the plugs. In 30 seconds he had a new set of plugs in the bike and that cured the problem. The set that fouled had only 5000 miles on them and I never would have suspected they may have been bad. The problem was not that I had driven 250 miles round trip to get a set of plugs changed, it was that my riding buddy Guido and a recent new Guzzi owner and friend were present. No, they won't let me live that one down. Now my new Guzzi tune up kit supplied by my "friends" is a small plastic bag with two spark plugs and instructions, "When all else fails, just change the plugs!"
I've always fancied myself as someone at least marginally quick witted, but I found out at the New Mexico National that my sense of timing and quick assumptions can backfire. By now it should be well known that many of the Guzzi riders have a soft spot in their hearts for Harleys. Their ambiance is addictive to those who like the singularity in original style and presence. It should also be well known that the Harley riders maintain a considerable amount of respect for Guzzis. Their notable endurance and individualistic character in form endears the Guzzi to those who enjoy the uniqueness of disassociation with the mundane. However, some may not know the common ribbing that many of the Harley riders must endure based on a minor historical enigma. A buddy from my part of the country, who had ridden his Harley Night Train to the rally, was crossing the short river bridge across from the lodge. He hung the rear tire on the cross boards and almost dropped (by just a few inches) his bike in the river. If you were there, you remember that this bridge didn't have side rails. Anyway, several of us rushed over while he was holding on for dear life and helped to right the bike and get him on across. We had a good laugh after it was all over, and the only damage done, other than to his dignity, was a broken turn signal. (He said he would have rather run naked through a church than drop his Harley in front of all those Moto Guzzi riders. It would have been less embarrassing.) On the way back from the bridge, I passed an individual who remarked, "Man, I'm glad he didn't drop his Harley into the river. I wonder how you would have ever fished it out?" As I passed by him, I responded in matter of fact terms, "A quart of Castrol GTX 20W-50, 4/0 treble hook and heavy leader on a floating fly line should do." The joke was on me. This was his first Guzzi rally. He rode a Ducati. He didn't get it.
So, you see, revelations to the rider are a constant occurrence and many times manifest themselves in small and unusual ways. There are thousands of minuscule details revealed to the rider, many of whic are rectified without conscious thought. Some may seem, on the surface, unimportant, but in retrospect these often can modify a minor, annoying situation to one of an enjoyable learning experience for those with whom they were shared. However trivial they may be, they do help the individual to reconcile his account with others. I hope through this reconciliation my account may be credited to all those who have shared their patience and knowledge with me.