It would be a statement of the obvious to point out, even to a non-rider, that the experience of riding a moto is very different to driving a car. But perhaps it is less obvious that the experience of owning a moto is also very different to owning a car.
To most of us, a car is a purely functional form of transport and an impersonal machine. Granted, some drivers choose a faster or more luxurious model and enjoy driving them, but essentially cars do their job in the form we buy them. Petrol-heads might tune the engine and stiffen the suspension, and boy-racers might add a spoiler and some go-faster stripes. But they are in the minority; for most of us, once we have chosen the model and parted with our cash, we do nothing else to the car. Nor do we bother to learn what goes on under the bonnet, never mind attempt to work under there.
The experience of owning a motorcycle, however, is quite the opposite. In this case, I strongly suspect, the owner who leaves his machine exactly as it came out of the box is very much in the minority. Adding, changing and altering parts on your trusty steed is, for most of us, an integral part of owning a moto.
The reason for this is an interesting question. I, for example, have never been drawn to things mechanical and for the most part, the inner workings of machinery has been a dark science for me. Yet nevertheless I too have embraced the hobby of customising motorcycles – swapping, adding and modifying parts in the quest for the perfect machine. And furthermore, I’ve surprised myself by learning a thing or two about mechanics; every so often I pick up the tool kit and work on my bike.
Another characteristic common to many bikers is their desire to share their work with others on the web. Someone, somewhere had tried most things you can do to a particular bike, so there is a wealth of information out there. One such source for me as I refined my Tenere was Jaume V, aka ‘Trail Dreamer’, who has evolved his machine into the most well-appointed and beautiful 660 Tenere out there. Over the last year or so he has answered questions, we have shared ideas and over time became ‘on line’ friends.
Jaume lives close to Barcelona, so Pau and I paid him a visit to finally meet him in person. He and his British wife Claire welcomed us with open arms and we stayed a few nights with them, enjoying the fresher country air after the stifling heat of downtown Barcelona. And inevitably, we took our bikes out for a ride on the miles of tracks in the woods only a mile or so from Jaume’s house.
Despite appearances, our bikes are actually very similar. Both have upgraded shocks and dirtbike forks with a 320mm single rotor, lighter pipes with opened-up air boxes and mapping through Power Commanders, better pegs and bars, hand guards, etc. But Jaume has gone one step further with an 18” rear wheel, upgraded hubs, a custom-made rally fairing shielding a roadbook, and a stunning livery which he designed himself. It’s a beautiful bike indeed, and beside my battle-scared mount even more so. I rode it home; with its stiffer suspension, snappy gearing and noisy enduro pipe, it looked, sounded and felt much more like a rally bike than an overlander.
Bikers are different to motorists in another regard – they almost universally acknowledge each other when they pass on the road. They only time I have experienced this behind the wheel was when I drove a 1960’s Morris Minor. (I suspect VW Camper owners do the same). Bikers do differ, however, in the manner in which they greet each other. In Spain and France, they usually raise their left hand just above the grip. In the States, a laconically outstretched arm, held at waist height, is more common. In South America a wave is normal, or a short beep of the horn when the bumpy dirt roads discourage the rider from removing a hand from the handlebars.
In UK, motoqueros nod or dip their heads inwards as they pass another rider. Very rarely will you see someone wave. And conversely, I have never seen a rider outside of the UK employ this nod as a greeting. This has long baffled me, until the penny suddenly dropped when we made a short excursion into France. With the right hand on the throttle, a rider can only lift his left hand off the bars. This works for those who ride on the right-hand side of the road, because the left hand is closest to a passing rider. But us Brits ride on the left of the road, and a raised left hand would be hard to see by an oncoming biker – hence the nod.
I assume studying variations in how people in different countries greet each other on the road is also a biker thing – or is it just me?
To learn more about Jaume’s Tenere project, visit his blog at traildreamer.com