Saturday, January 23, 2010

Because it's beautiful.

The engine has moved into the realm where airbox volume and exhaust pipe length conspire to create a perfect storm and revs build magically. I am not sure what sounds angrier, the motor or the wind around my helmet. I’m a little startled to see how close the sun dappled pavement is, hanging slightly off the bike and looking at onrushing Wilton Road between the clutch lever and the rearview mirror.

We’re well into, “please step to the front of my vehicle and place your hands on the hood” speeds. Perhaps closing on triple the speed limit, but I am unsure of how it’s posted here. The bike comes upright. I concentrate on keeping my breathing even and steady, to stave off any panic that might come. My mind is, blissfully, given over to my body.

High on the ridge the road opens onto a straight boarded by meadow. I back off the throttle because there’s no sense in carrying any more speed between corners. In the high summer the light it is bright enough to bleach everything. The tans and greens of early August fuse into muted pallet joined at the hip with cicadas and the smell of bar-b-q.

For no good reason except the bike is fully upright, I drop two downshifts and let the motor pile against itself. The rear wheel hops and chatters until I squeeze the front brake. When wheel and engine speeds match and the rear hooks back up. Its sloppy technique, but I allow myself the pleasure of it.

The left turn is now at hand. The rider in front of me blinks off the long straight on onto Damant Road, which follows a brook of the same name into the valley. He rides like Hailwood, bolt upright on the bike, all long graceful arcs. I have no idea how it works for him, but it must.

I can’t see much into the corner, as the road there is deeply overhung with trees. The bright light of the open makes it look black to my eyes; but the front end is compressed and I am already off the side of the bike holding it upright by pushing the grip forward. I snap it into the turn.

Damant falls sharply away from the ridge, and the transition is abrupt. The whole bike goes light, with the suspension topped out. Everything is weightless midcorner at the exact moment I am shifting my body to the other side for the right hander fast approaching. My eyes come into focus, adjusting to the deep shade under the canopy, the bike touches down and we are away, like sparrows.

Later, that evening I am more than a little drunk and riders are gathered by a fire. I hear some conjecture about why the moon looks so big on the horizon and listen to their explanations. To my addled brain, none sounds right and offer this: “It’s because when you look at the moon on the horizon it’s distorted by the curve of the atmosphere, which acts as a lens.” I am drunk enough to listen to myself talk as if I someone else were speaking and I think, “sounds pretty good!” To my surprise I hear myself add, “but my mother, who is Italian-God bless her, would tell you “because it’s beautiful.”” And, just then, I know which answer is right.

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