It's all about the motor
By Parson Thru
I just watched a Harley Sportster go by with a slack, bag-o-nails engine. Sounded like someone on the Metro with a lifetime tobacco habit. The Harley’ll probably rattle on for a little longer, too.
I’m in the sun, within hailing distance of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. The plane trees are beginning to respond to the heat, but they’re not rushing into anything – they’ve seen it all before.
A much tighter Sportster just cut by.
I’ve had my share of shagged-out engines. Spring reminds you of things like that.
The K1100 was a rattler – mis-firer, too, from the very start. I’d been in too much of a hurry to buy it. It was old, but the mileage was pretty low for one of those. Abuse or neglect – it’s the same thing in the end: mistreatment.
I nursed it through another nine years – serviced it; changed the oil and filter; good oil and genuine BMW parts. Got a hundred and thirty out of it one afternoon coming down from York. Regularly ran up and down those motorways at ninety, no trouble. Just rattled and burned a little oil.
The six-hundred Bandit a couple of bikes before was junk. Shagged-out top-end. Oil-starvation probably. I rushed into that one, too. Duped by the local dealer. It still went, though. Palmed it off onto another dealer in Bucks. in part-ex for a twelve-hundred. Funny how well it ran that day up the A41.
Now that big Bandit was a bike. Looked just like the six. My partner didn’t even know I’d chopped it in. I had to tell her a week later. But she understood. Low miles; healthy engine. I bought it using the grand my uncle left in his will. It was the right thing to do at the time. Life’s for living, right?
I rode it up to Leeds a week later for the engine to be tuned. Jack Frost. He blew more life into it. Made it breathe. That’s what it’s all about. I listened to them running it up through the red-line on the dyno thinking they might kill it. Jack’s mate winked and told me it’s all down to how they leave the factory: you’re lucky to get anything out of some engines. He showed me the power and torque curves on the chart: it was a good one. I felt a tingle.
That bike flew – I saw a hundred and fifty-six on the clock – and it sounded lovely, streets away. My partner, who’s no petrol-head, told me she actually misses the sound of it coming down the road. The Serb border-police weren’t so keen, but I reckon it was a shitty job down in Kosovo after the war.
The Bandit accelerated so hard out of junctions and roundabouts I couldn’t change gear fast enough – even without the clutch. The needle just kept whacking into the red. When the front wheel came up, the tank hit me in the balls. Bad technique, I guess, but what a bike to ride. I’m told it’s still doing the rounds in London.
Last bike I had was a Harley Sportster – twelve-hundred. I needed a change after the K1100. This time, I checked the motor over before parting with my cash. It ran sweetly – all standard except a dealer-fitted Stage 1 tune. Checking out the owner’s as important as checking the bike and he seemed fine.
I bought it down in Lymington and rode it back up via my partner’s folks' house. That V-twin stormed up the hills between Dorset and Somerset. They say the Stage 1 doesn’t give you much, but it was a free-spinning, taut engine. Just the slightest rustle from the valve-gear. Perfect.
Me and the Sportster had a lot of fun: the found summer of a motorcycle hermit.
On paper, the Harley was a puppy compared with the big Bandit, but it was a good ride and that’s what counts. Get the revs up – it had an improved head and lightened pistons over earlier models – and it was arm-tugging. And the sound of those pipes…
With lower handlebars and a smaller front wheel than the custom models, it even held the road some. But, above all, the engine felt good. Jack Frost could have probably done a lot with it.
In the end, it’s all about the motor – the heart of the bike.
Ok, I suppose I’d better get some work done.