I’ve been riding Yamaha R1′s since 2002. Even I find it hard to believe that over a decade has passed since I first discovered that absolute power does indeed corrupt absolutely. I love my big boys, but they’ve never had names. They certainly have more personality than the Honda’s I’ve ridden, but not as much as the Ducati I owned, which almost immediately told me his name was Fred. Making the annual pilgrimage to Laguna Seca, our favorite way to bond, he told me his name, Big Will. What’s interesting is that this didn’t come until after living together just over 3 years, and him tossing me off in December because I made the slightest error on the wrong tires. Lesson learned, I switched back to Pirellis and had him fixed up.
But now he has the scars of a crash, something none of my R1′s have endured. It’s weird to think I haven’t crashed a single R1 in all these years. I’ve crashed other bikes, developing a theory that I only crash bikes I don’t like. I wasn’t thrilled with my 09, I loved my 04 better. But she had 50,000 miles, and when the stator & rotor melted together I decided it was time for something new and shiny. That new & shiny R1 happens to be a lot heavier, and seriously thirsty. Then right after our 3rd anniversary, I abandoned him for Shaq, a Zero FX which is perfect for everyday riding, as I reported here. Big Will sat and collected dust until the time came to get that starting issue sorted before the sabbatical. $1300 later, he was ready to go anywhere, as fast as I dared. Yet I discovered on this year’s ride I just didn’t want to go as fast. It’s really unnerving, and something I hope to work through in Level 4 of California Superbike School sometime soon.
After December’s highside, I was nervous on the R1. It pissed me off to have the PTSD symptoms return, the whole nonsense of imagining myself crashing as I’m riding. That’s no way to roll through life. So I started back to therapy, and got a smaller bike, which I was planning to get anyway. Shaq is so light and easy to ride, he’s just bundles of joy. Big Will, on the other hand, requires respect and skill. Practicing closing the throttle just a little instead of snapping it shut every time I realized he requires a strong right hand, too. It takes strength to close it just a little. And that can be the difference between a low side and a high side.
Riding Big Will feels like nothing else. It’s that feeling of omnipotence, that thrust of 177 horses itching to be set free. He’s tremendously powerful, so you really don’t want to piss him off. He tried to tell me his name was Bill, and I knew he was lying. I knew he was Big Will, just like the man of the same name I’d dated back in NYC. Riding him with his scars makes me nervous, I want to hide them with fresh cosmetics, but can’t afford to right now. And there’s a part of me that can’t bear to spend money to maintain a bike with 25,000 miles on the clock. It’s a fault of mine- I’ve always preferred new relationships over old ones, and it’s especially strong with motorcycles, especially ones that aren’t exactly built for the long haul. Perhaps cleaning up Big Will and doing all the cosmetic upgrades I’ve wanted to do since I bought him will be a way of moving toward becoming capable of valuing a long term relationship. With a motorcycle, at least.