As I am in the process of doing upgrades on my 2009 Ducati Monster 696+, I have been thinking about why I ride a motorcycle. On my way to sign for this year’s taxes, I thought a lot about what was so great about riding through cold rain, over wet streetcar tracks, for an hour. Why would I ever put my life on the line every time I decide to go to the grocery store or to school? Why not settle down and buy a nice BMW, get a real house and not travel every time I am not teaching?
The moments I ride my motorcycle are when I am most free and Zen; if I am not totally focused in the moment, then I will get hit by one of the hundreds of cellphone-using drivers. My 18km drive to and from work lets me forget about the day’s dragging problems and to just be. I get to wave at the other riders who identify with the fact that I, like them, am a little odd. It truly is a brotherhood. The yuppy mid-life crisis guys don’t get that; they never wave. They are too cool in their own mind to associate with riff-raff, and they would drop the bike trying to give a low-down peace sign. So be it.
I see riding a motorcycle as a journey. I am not a pro. I do not ride fast. I wear all of my safety gear. I want to improve my riding skills over time, and never get in over my head. I am going to take the M2-Full license course this summer, and maybe a day course on motorcycle maintenance, because I have put 9000kms on the Monster. I finally feel ready to try for the real license, and it might be nice to know what to fix if my motorcycle breaks down on the way to work. I will never be cool talking to the bike shop mechanics, but I also do not want to be the dude who drops off his bike in a cloud of clueless hipster-cool.
The upgrades on the Monster, which I will take photos of for the blog, should begin next week when the parts arrive from California. I will be using Rizoma bar ends, an oil cap, and a brake fluid resevoir. I decided to go with blue andonized aluminium on these parts. I will also be replacing the tank plastic strip with a carbon fibre piece, as I have worn the finish off the grey plastic. The photos featured here are the remnants of last year’s upgrades: parts that either did not fit or were too difficult for me to install then. The Rizoma Avio signals now have an add-on kit which will connect the bullets to the 696’s current square connector. I really did not feel comfortable cutting wires to splice things home-job style, and the dealer price to do the work would probably be at least $200. The oil fill cap annoys me. I bought it in Rome last summer only to find that it was too big. I do like the blue though, and this year’s aluminium billet pieces will be in that colour. The upgrades might be small compared to putting on carbon tail pipes, but the little things make a difference to me.
I have been planning the trip to Chicago with my mother in June, and have been kicking around the idea of taking a day trip up to Milwaukee to see the Harley-Davidson Museum and visit the old school brewery town. I may be nostalgic, but I love the heavy metal , dark custom machines that Harley is producing these days. In fact, the choice between the Monster and a Nightster came down to the lack of availability in Toronto, and that riding a Harley in Toronto traffic would be as deadly as trying to ride a Monster across country. When I am ready – which will not be for a few more years – I plan on buying an Indian Chief or a Harley with the custom paint job, like the Devil’s Infantry limited edition, and driving across the USA one summer to photograph America small towns. It is a romantic notion of the American Dream, but then that is the only reason to ride a motorcycle in this century.
One final note: a gentleman from Tennessee is in the process of ordering a digital copy of one of my motorcycle photographs from last year. There could be no greater compliment for my work than that.