I was looking for a new bike.We'd be moving to start a new venture and I would be back on the treadmill, commuting a fair distance to work. I had been hired as a consultant for an interesting, one could even say `unique`, project. My days as a consultant were now over. I had succeeded in being selected to head the centre that would be the launch pad for the project I had helped to create.
I trawled the motorcycle press to study form. I wanted a general purpose machine that was big and powerful. Commuting doesn't require `big and powerful`, I require it. I wanted something I could load up with luggage and travel distances on, but I also wanted something that was lively, handled as surefootedly as a mountain goat and was above all a pleasure to ride. I started looking closely at the adventure/enduro types and after shortlisting what I fancied, set about fixing up test rides from local dealers. Always interesting and great fun.
I had ridden the big Honda Varadero and a couple of BMW GS's before deciding to try a bike I'd always had a strong liking for, the Triumph Tiger 900 triple. My nearest dealer was an hours ride away and so after confirming there were some in stock I rolled across into the next county on my Harley Davidson Road King. This bike was my retirement gift to myself and I had no intention of letting it go in a trade off. I was buying a second one, the first time in my life I felt I could afford to run two quality bikes. I kicked out the big, chromed stand which Harley Davidson refer to for some strange reason as the `jiffy` stand and let the bike rest over easy, assuming that familiar lazy lean to the left that all Harley's have, like how a person would prop their head on their hand whilst sat casually at a bar.
I found a lovely red Tiger complete with colour coordinated luggage and sat on it, stared at it from all angles and then ran a dozen or more questions through my head all asking pretty much the same thing, `can I live with this?`. I wandered over to the lady behind the desk and requested a test ride. No problem. My documents were checked and she motioned to a colleague to push the bike out front. She then said, "We don't allow unaccompanied test rides so one of our staff will come with you". I had never heard of this before, but I needed to ride that bike so, whatever. I asked how I was to be accompanied, thinking that a pillion rider could be tolerated, although I wouldn't get on the back with a rider I didn't know. It turned out that the young woman who pushed the bike out was going to lead me around and had re-appeared in full leathers carrying a helmet. She said `I'll take out the new Daytona, I love riding that bike`. And so it began.
We rolled out of the dealers, me on a larger capacity but enduro-styled machine following saleslady riding what was a very, very quick sports bike. She led me out of the town and onto a road that headed out into the countryside. Before we'd even reached the end of the 30mph speed limit she wrung its neck and the bike leapt off like a TT racer which, in effect, it was. I wound up the Tiger and was immediately impressed by the 900cc triple cylinder motor which was a dee-light. It flew and I quickly gained on the lady and her beloved 675 triple - until she saw me in her mirrors and then off she went again, front wheel clawing into the air. I glanced down and saw that, in a blink, I had gone from legal to 40 mph beyond the National speed limit. Although I was comfortable on this empty, straight road at this speed, I was certainly not wishing to break the law in such a flagrant manner and on a bike I had barely even warmed up. I rolled off the throttle and decided to do my own test ride regardless of Betty Boop and the rocket between her legs.
The following 30 minutes found us swinging through multiple bends and blasting along straights. I was riding noticably quicker than her through the former and she was disappearing ahead on the latter, whilst I rode my own ride, legally. The final few minutes were on a dual carriageway that led back to the dealership. I sat comfortably on the big Tiger and decided I really liked it, especially that fabulous motor and its very apt tiger-like snarl as I opened it up. I was doing 75 as we approached the 50mph limit signs. Rocket woman was behind me for the only time during the ride. As I crossed the 50 limit, my speed was exactly 50, just like the police driving school trained me. The lady on the Daytona went past me in the outside lane at a speed I would estimate at being in excees of 110mph - well in excess, although I'd never prove it in court!
At the dealers I handed in the keys and grabbed a coffee from the machine. Ms `Valentino Rossi` re-appeared in her corporate kit, her cheeks still rosy flushed from her exhilerating ride. Together with the other lady they came over and asked me what I thought of the Tiger. I gave them my considered views on its many and various qualities and concluded that it was a brilliant bike and how I was deighted that Triumph were producing such good kit. My riding `supervisor` agreed and then told me that she thought I was a `really good rider`, which she wasn't expecting on account of the fact I `arrived on a big Harley` and how she felt she couldn't have gone any quicker through the bends yet I seemed to be breezing through them and that she thought I was going to pass her. I then said that I knew the bike was very quick but that I had no desire to exceed the speed limits by as big a margin as she did. I also pointed out that I wasn't a Harley rider, but that I was a motorcyclist who happened to own a Harley.
I finished my coffee and told the manager lady that I'd think about it. As I turned to leave I had a change of mind and decided to clear the air, for I was troubled. I asked her about the accompanied ride policy and then mentioned how much her sales lady enjoyed the Daytona and seemed very confident on it. I then said that I would be brutally honest and stated how I believed she was lucky that I wasn't some sort of `Alpha Male` rider that might have seen this fast lady on a fast bike as some sort of threat or challenge, both equally dangerous things. I pointed out that riding in excess of 100mph whilst leading a perfect stranger out on powerful motorcycles was, in my opinion, a very risky business. She took it quite well and apologised, saying that she knew the other gal `loved that 675`. I told her I was more than happy with the test ride and that I was simply stating that the next man who wants to test a bike and gets behind her colleague might not have the same riding experience as me and, worse, might feel the need to exert himself beyond his limitations - I reiterated, a very risky business .
I then noticed a pile of leaflets on her desk. They were publicising "Bikesafe". I pointed them out and we got into a conversation about the scheme. She thought it was a good idea and told me that all her staff had taken up the chance to ride with a Class 1 advanced police motorcyclist and how much they had benefited from the experience. She asked me if I'd taken it up. I told her that I had spent my last year in the neighbouring police force, that I was the deputy head of the traffic division and that going round all the bike dealers persuading them to support the scheme was one of the most positive things I did in that time. It was at this point that I noticed her previously healthy complexion change and the colour rapidly drain from her face, turning a sort of milky grey. Her expression changed to one that I imagine was prevalent during the French Revolution, in the lines awaiting the guillotine. I said `cheerio` and left. I think the conversation had just about dried up anyway.