May 27, 2009

"I need some hep." Yes, you do.

"$50 to borrow your scooter for a 1/2 hour - $50 (Eagan, IGH, Burnsville)

"I need some hep and if you have a scooter that is at least 50cc's, street legal and licensed, I would like to borrow it for a 1/2 hour to take my Minnesota motorcycle test. I quickly found out last week that my full size Harley Davidson will not, under any circumstances, navigate that course. We could meet there, I use it for 20 minutes and then you are on your way. The preferred location is the MN License Center on Cliff Rd."

Ah, Craig's list. The place where all sorts of entertainment can be found and where people admit to the damnedest things. Sometimes the most personal failures become hillariously public in the strangest places. In this case, a big, bad Hardly rider looking to borrrow a 50cc scooter so he can pretend to ride competently enough to pass the state's license exam. I wonder if he'll wear his black toilet bowl helmet, tasselled buttless black chaps, and patched-and-badged wife-beater leather vest when he takes the test? That would be one hell of a picture.

Funny. I could have sworn that I met this guy, 4 times, this past week. We get this plaintive whine at least once an MSF class. Hundreds of Hardly owners take the Minnesota MSF course because "it's impossible to pass the state's test on a real bike." I'd like to address the "impossible" bit first. I've seen an old guy (my age) pass the state's test on a Goldwing with his wife sitting in the passenger seat. I've watched a couple of successful tests taken on Yamaha R1's, not exactly a bike designed for close and slow encounters. It's not a hard test. It requires basic low speed control skills, but it's a long way from being an observed trials event.

The problem with buying a bike for image is that most of us can't live up to the image. Usually, you have to work up from beginner to whatever target you're hoping to become. Buying a race car doesn't make one a race driver and buying a motorcycle doesn't make one a motorcyclist. The Hardly beginner-bike path is similar to those game players who actually buy into the idea that playing a video game is the same as doing the thing portrayed in the game. I've witnessed this disconnect with people who play Guitar Hero, Motocross Madness, and God of War. Unfortunately, going for the real thing in hopes that it will be liking stepping into a simple-minded video game is bound to end in tears and physical injury.

The character who listed this ad would be better served by removing all of the fluids from his Hardly, having an attractive stand fabricated for the hippobike, putting the Hardly on the stand in his living room in front of a big screen TV, and putting Wild Hogs in constant-loop mode on the DVD player. He could pretend he was cruising the streets in the safety of his home and nobody would be able to burst his self-image or break his bones.

On a more honestly entertaining level, a friend hooked me up to this New York Times article: The Case for Working with Your Hands. In the first few paragraphs, the author says, "The trades suffer from low prestige, and I believe this is based on a simple mistake. Because the work is dirty, many people assume it is also stupid. This is not my experience." He makes a case for real work over virtual work that is compelling and honest; something that is missing from practically every social and economic analysis I've read in the last decade. Thanks, Rob.


Anonymous said...

Years ago, when it had just dawned on me that the "rugged New England farmer" was a hacker, and the farmhouse I'd bought was a from-the-ground-up lemon, I was down in a ditch I had dug, rectifying that house's total lack of a foundation. Someone I knew slightly drove up and tried to engage me in conversation as I removed impacted stones put where I found them by forces of the late Pleistocene. At one point he took note of my activity, calling it "good honest labor". I was offended, I discovered, and was glad when he had gone. Was my labor outside this foundation hole therefore dishonest? No, calling the digging honest was just another way to make the time pass.

Four different people sent me that "The Case for Working with Your Hands" article.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Nothing new -- years ago, H.D. refused to advertise in "Easy Rider" Magazine, which was probably the only Harley / biker-culture magazine at the time, because they didn't want to "tarnish" their image, and be identified with the scuzzy biker types, which were the icons of the culture the wannabes line up for today. I guess they still believed they could make enough money selling bikes to the Shriners. Honda sure showed them the flaws in their thinking. PK

T.W. Day said...

Interesting. How many years ago are you talking about? Honestly, Hardly was totally off of my radar from 1967-1992. Until I moved from California to Colorado, I barely knew they still built motorcycles. You'd see some patched and badged and tattoed ZZ Top characters occasionally in LA, but their bikes looked so obsolete that I always assumed they were vintage.

Anonymous said...

Time frame was about early seventies until HD "saw the light" sometime in the mid to late eighties. About when they started marketing their name and all the silly merchandise like the Harley Davidson toilet seat and Harley Davidson cologne. You've seen how ridiculous it's gotten. It used to be when you went to the dealer to get a MOTORCYCLE PART, there MIGHT have been a T-shirt or two put away under the parts counter. You had to specifically ask for them. They were often out of shirts. It seems those old motorcycling days were more the real thing. PK

Anonymous said...

I was at Nicolet in Madison in spring 1986, but I didn't have an office. I was there to train their people in how to build multi-wire proportional counters, but I did go to some enervating meetings. One woman who worked there told me about the many who want to raise their children on a farm, but who know they can't make a go of farming by itself. So both the man and woman have day jobs in town, then furiously do all the farming of which they are capable in the time not otherwise claimed. So there she was, doing something with surface-mounts by day, then madly picking up children at school, making dinner, trying to keep it all together.


T.W. Day said...

That's something you have to admire about the off-road market. It's always been the real thing. There are some seriously tough MF-ers on dirt. Personally, I thought the HD coffee was probably the bottom of the barrel.

Phil said...

"The problem with buying a bike for image is that most of us can't live up to the image."

Buying anything for "image" is often a narcissistic (lying to oneself & others) act. On the other hand, buying a motorcycle for the performance, engineering, etc, is the act of an enthusiast.

Twelve years ago, I bought a used 1991 BMW K75 after it was recommended by many members of the local BMW m/c owners' club. It's been enjoyable and very reliable. With fuel injection, tubeless tires, single-sided swingarm, & shaft drive, it is car-like in its modest maintenance requirements. But the smooth, counterbalanced 3-cyl. power gives it a character of its own.

Cheers, fellow enthusiasts!