(Originally posted on motorcyclebloggers.com: Friday, March 21st, 2008 at 2:55 pm by rhino)
Several years ago I had a defining moment related to women and motorcycling. I was talking with some coworkers about two-wheeled touring in southern Utah and our resident biker chick, I’ll call her Molly, suggested we combine a ride with attending the annual Shakespearean festival in Cedar City. Not a suggestion you’d expect from a rough and tumble kinda gal like that.
Now I’m not the most cultured soul, but I liked the idea of riding some great roads and combining it with some intellectual entertainment, so I was in. The other riders in the conversation all bowed out with a myriad of lame excuses. So Molly and I made plans to ride the backroads down south, camp in the mountains (we were both cheap) and spend a couple days watching traditional Elizabethan thespian-ship.
I decided to take my Suzuki Bandit 1200 since I needed to take camping gear and a few days worth of supplies. I would normally have preferred one of my sportier mounts but El Bandito Grande, can hold it’s own when the road starts changing elevation and direction, and is vastly more comfortable on the long straight stretches. Molly rode her Harley Springer Softail Classic. I’d give you the multi-letter designation, but I’ve never acquired the knowledge or desire to decipher it. Molly was a match for her bike: attractive, in a girl next door kinda way, but also a tomboy and a bit rough around the edges.
We rode down to Cedar Breaks and pitched our tent in the mountains about 20 miles outside of town on a great piece of convoluted pavement. This gave us the opportunity to enjoy some challenging riding to and from our scheduled showtimes. And getting away from the crowds at the festival was a welcome respite also.
When we awoke the day after our arrival, there were no plays to attend until the afternoon, so my first thought was “let’s torture some rubber for an hour or two”. Molly was the still sleepy and bowed out, so I took the bags off the Bandit and proceeded to do a little canyon scratching. Now, the Bandit’s no ballerina, but she can get leant reet o’er when necessary, and after several entertaining passes through winding bits, I headed back to camp.
Upon my arrival, Molly (who was a bit more lucid), asked if I wanted to try out her Harley for comparison. As I’ve stated before, I’m not one to turn down the opportunity to experience a different flavor, so I said “sure”. As she proceeded to give me a pre-flight briefing, I could tell from her marketing type description of the bike, that she expected me to be totally enamored by the experience. Likely believing this test ride would have me eschewing all other manufacturers for American iron.
As I mounted the beast, my first thought was how different the riding position was. It took me several tries to find the floorboards. They were a lot further forward than I had imagined. The bars were also higher and further back than anticipated, putting me in the chopper traditional ape-hangar pose. Not a feeling of comfort or control for my sporty tastes. As the engine rumbled to life, I noticed shaking the likes of which were almost disconcerting. The front wheel moving back and forth a couple inches at idle. Also, the mirrors were a blur until you revved the engine. And, if you’ve never experienced heel/toe shifting, you are in for one strange experience.
So I took off, riding quite gingerly for the first several miles. As my confidence grew I started pushing a little and discovered some additional concerns. As expected, the floorboards touched down quite early, limiting my pace substantially. While the engine pulled strongly, it ran out of revs fast. The suspension travel was so limited that even small bumps caused wallowing and bottoming. And the brakes required a seriously hefty squeeze to get the bike to slow with authority.
As I arrived back at base, the expectant look on Molly’s face hinted that she was waiting for me to start gushing about her choice of mounts. In a good news, bad news choice, I usually lead with the positive side. I complimented how far Harley had come from it’s days of noise, smoke, leaking and general unreliability. I also made mention of the motors torque and relative smoothness when underway. I noted that resale prices made it a good investment. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of many compliments related to actual functionality, especially when compared several other brands I’ve sampled.
After my synopsis, which created a look of disbelief and likely a bit of incredulity, I took a few steps back over to the Bandit. As I slung a leg over and pressed the starter button, a surprised Molly asked “Where are you going?”
“To get the taste of that Harley out of my mouth” was my reply.