DANCE OF THE LEVERS
Turning the key and thumbing
the starter button the engine immediately spun over and immediately sprang to
life, quickly settling into a smooth idle; the wonder of modern fuel injection.
It would take a few minutes before some numbers would show on the dash's
digital temperature gauge's little window. It would be more than enough time to
don a helmet and pull on gloves. As the motorcycle's engine warmed up, the
rider took a walk around looking for anything out of place or abnormal
Oil pressure, lights, tires, and other safety checks were already completed.
The rider approached the motorcycle from its left side and took the
left bar in his hand and swung a leg over the machine putting him in the
saddle. Without a thought the rider's left foot swept back the side stand with
a bump of his heel; at the same time his left hand pulled in the clutch. In one
movement his left foot went from bumping the side stand up and then to stepping
down on the shift lever, putting the machine into gear. As the transmission was
moved from neutral to first gear the motorcycle lurched forward with a clunk.
With the right hand opening the throttle and the left hand easing out the
clutch lever, the machine began to move forward slowly at first and then
increasing speed at a measured pace. Without notice the rider's feet found
their foot pegs.
Turning out of the driveway, the rider and machine
gained speed quickly, the left boot's toe lifting the shift lever and his left
hand pulling the clutch lever to the bar in quick succession. This shifted the
motorcycle's transmission into second and then third before coming up to the
traffic light at the corner.
With a practiced smoothness
the bike's transmission was down shifted to first, the brakes applied and the
throttle turned down for the stop. Looking left and right for traffic; the
sequence for forward motion was begun again as the rider and machine turned
right, this time gaining speed much quicker but just as smoothly as before.
The rider and machine traveled through the morning traffic quietly
belying it's capabilities to those who noticed it pass by. Making the trip
through the city, the engine and tires began to fully warm up.
Crossing the James River Bridge, the motorcycle's speed quickly reached the
legal limit. The rider deftly dodged traffic and crossed over the grating at
the center span and began the decent on the other side. Speed now slowly
increased from 55 to 70. Without much notice or effort the rider and machine
were rolling along at 90, the tach's needle barely reaching the 5000 rpm mark;
barely half way to red line.
The sky was clear and no hint of rain in
the forecast. The air temperature was in the high 60s and supposed to climb to
over 70 as the day went on.
The rider dressed in a full set of armored
leathers, with his feet set firmly on the pegs, knees tucked into the tank and
his head erect; eyes scanning the road ahead as far as he could see; he was in
full control. The concerns of life were quickly pushed from his conscious mind;
now only thoughts with controlling the high performance machine under him
filled his mind.
Three miles later, reaching
the end of the bridge's causeway he slowed the machine back to the legal speed
and continued up the road to the next traffic light. The light was red and the
machine came to a stop just as smoothly as it gathered forward motion. The
light changed to green and once again his feet and hands began the dance of
levers without notice or thought. Clutching, braking, throttling and down
shifting, the rider's eyes picking a turn point all in what seemed like one
movement. Then with the bike slowing, it leaned over and turned right; all of
it seemed perfectly natural to the rider.
After the turn the machine
gathered speed only to slow once more for another turn. This time the machine
turned left but gathered its speed much faster as it rushed toward the next
bend in the road, a right hand banked turn.
The machine's quiet
demeanor now changed as the RPMs and speed increased, the howl from the exhaust
became louder. Downshifting through the gears to second gear from fifth, the
throttle rolled off slightly dropping only a few rpms, the rider deftly shifted
his weight by sliding over the seat to the right; he then put pressure on the
right handle bar to turn the motorcycle and set the machine into a lean.
It looked as though it was done too late. But the man and motorcycle
dropped into a lean defying gravity. They moved from the left side of the lane
to the right side. The motorcycle's speed raised dust from the inside of the
corner as they passed just past the apex of the corner. After passing this
point of the pavements edge, the motorcycle began to straighten up from its
lean and gain speed at a dizzying pace.
The road now straightened out
but climbed up and then fell away. The motorcycle's acceleration was so hard it
lifted the front wheel from the road at the top of the rise. As the machine and
rider continued on, the front wheel settled back down to earth and began its
task of directing the machine on its way.
The rider's mind now raced
ahead to the next turn, when his thoughts were interrupted by a familiar aroma
which erupted into his conscious. The smell of fresh cut grass, he
instinctively slows the machine to assess the meaning of this intrusion to his
thoughts. They pass by an old man on a lawn tractor cutting grass on the right.
The old man stops and watches the motorcycle go by and waves, the rider waves
Now well past homes the machine regains speed quickly. The next
corner is a left which drops down and then goes up hill; at the top of the hill
it sharply turns right leveling off into a short straight section.
Abruptly the sound of the machine changes as the rider down shifts; blipping
the throttle to synchronize clutch speed with the rear wheel. The engine is now
spinning somewhere around 11,000 rpms, the rider shifts to the left of his seat
as the machine moves to the right of the lane.
Once again the turn is made
looking like it was done too late; the bike leans over and straightens up on
the left side of the lane. The rider slides over to the right side of the seat
and the bike makes the right hand turn with ease and grace, topping the hill at
a speed three times that which was posted on the last sign. The rider eases off
the throttle and slows the machine back to legal speed. Inside his helmet, a
small grin begins to appear on his face.
The rhythm of corners
continues in different patterns throughout the day. The rider's dance of the
levers is repeated over and over again. On some sections of road the machine
displays its true capabilities. The rider and machine are enjoying the day.
At a roadside stop to take a break, the rider walks around the machine
looking and touching it with an intimacy genuinely saved for a lover; a member
of the opposite sex. Together they have gone fast and defied the forces of
gravity. Only another rider can understand the intense affection a rider has
for the machine under him. The more it's ridden the more it becomes alive and
part of the rider; they meld together; two being one.
After the break
they roll back onto the road and head out to explore more corners. Rolling down
the road the dance of levers begins again and is repeated time and time again.
The machine moves smoothly, the rider controlling it with subtle
movements that even other riders don't notice. Motorcycles are deceptive
machines, watching a rider on the road belies the amount of physical control
and skill required to keep it moving and defying gravity in the corners.
Many folks are drawn to the
mystic of the machine, and have found out that it requires more than knowing
how the levers work. The skills required to perform the dance of the levers
take time and practice to master, and few do. Learning to stop the machine is
the hardest skill to learn, next is the ability to corner the machine at speed.
It's the new riders who learn these things the hard way.
fun, but it's serious business too, not for the immature or those who like to
show off. A moment of inattention can be deadly on a motorcycle. Overriding
your skill level will always end in continuing the rider's education about
gravity, friction and medical care.
The rider is now coming to a
straight section of road, which runs for a mile or more, with farm fields on
both sides and where the road surface is clean and dry. There's no traffic in
sight, a quick check of the mirrors and the rider slides into a full tuck with
his chest lying on the bike's fuel tank and his head tucked into his
windscreen. His right hand opens the throttle all the way to the stops. The
loudest sound the rider can here is the roar of air being sucked into the
machine's air box. The exhaust sound levels rise to a roar, the tach needle now
approaches that red section on its face and the motorcycle accelerates at a
mind numbing pace.
The snick of gear changes, with an almost
imperceptible drop in engine rpms sends the machine and rider to speeds
measured in three digits. The road passes underneath the rider and machine as a
complete blur, as if they're in a time warp. The rider doesn't notice, his eyes
are focused way down the road on the horizon as far as he can see. The view in
his peripheral vision is a blur of incomprehensible images. All of his
concentration is focused on the task of controlling the machine and scanning
his path ahead.
The next corner comes up fast. The rider begins the
dance of the levers once more, sitting up braking, downshifting and maneuvering
the motorcycle to the outside of the turn to set up for the corner. Down
shifting quickly the machine never bucks or wobbles. The front shocks compress
under the brakes and then rebounds as the brakes are slowly released and the
bike approaches the turn point. The rider has shifted his body to the inside of
the machine; the lean takes an extreme angle. The tires are now being pushed to
the limits of traction.
As the bike passes the apex of the corner it
comes back to an upright position quickly gaining back the speed it shed
entering the corner. It looks like a ballet of rider and machine as they
disappear around the bend following the path of asphalt. Watching from a
distance, the rider and machine disappear blending into the horizon, the
wailing sound of the machine slowly leaves, and a deafening silence is left in
its place. That is the music which accompanies the "Dance of the Levers".
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