“We are motorcycle people; we walk tall and we laugh at whatever’s funny. We shit on the chests of the Weird….
But when we ride very fast motorcycles, we ride with immaculate sanity. We might abuse a substance here and there, but only when it’s right. The final measure of any rider’s skill is the inverse ratio of his preferred Traveling Speed to the number of bad scars on his body. It is that simple: If you ride fast and crash, you are a bad rider. And if you are a bad rider, you should not ride motorcycles.”
– Hunter Stockton Thompson
Insomnia, I am convinced, holds prime real estate in the latter circles of hell; it is nothing short of a merciless cur whom I wish all sorts of ill, but which can also have her benefits. Among them is access to the joy of a truly open road in the hours before dawn — which is fun if you’ve got a car, more fun if it’s fast, but most fun if you’ve got a breakneck speed motorcycle.
The machine in question is a Tornado Red 2010 Triumph Street Triple; it has been my dream bike for upwards of three years now, and the object of many a tumescent fantasy. The naked streetfighter is equipped with a 675cc, liquid cooled, DOHC, inline-3 engine producing 106 hp and 51 lb/ft of torque, which amounts to exactly one shitload on a bike that weighs in at just over 400 lbs.
This Street Triple is, to my eye, nothing short of very, very strong pornography. Having had access to it for only a few months (and living in one of the worst cities for traffic in the continental U.S.), I’ve rarely had the opportunity to really open her up. The inverse succubus that is insomnia afforded me that privilege.
It is some godless hour on some similarly godless weeknight, and the evening air is shall we say uterine. There’s a marked difference between trouble sleeping and full blown insomnia, as I’m sure most of us born in the age of designer drugs and casually prescribed amphetamines know all too bitterly. I’ve gone a full 72 hours without any hint of an REM cycle, and am beginning to make headway towards day four of chronic restlesness.
Floating around me is the dreamily blissful delirium that accompanies sleep deprivation, along with vague memories of that random, dubious fact that driving with under three hours of sleep is just as dangerous as driving over the legal limit. It’s been weeks since I’ve written anything — which makes being awake and unproductive just that much more unbearable — and so I decide to hop on the girl (who I have very affectionately named Valerie) for a late night ride under cover of darkness.
Ignition on, throttle open, helmet closed — first gear and out of the gates is where we begin. I live off the junction of two major highways in Austin. One of them, the Mopac Expressway, is known for being a parking lot from the hours of…well, most of them. The other, however, is a veritable orgy of risk for the speed junkie seeking refuge from the tedium of routine life (or hell, on less fortunate days). I kick it up from second to third, bringing me to a more brisk 75 MPH. The open road calls to me like the siren of death she’s always been. Who am I to deny her?
As I’m merging onto the highway in fourth at 90 MPH, the girl moans intoxicatingly at 7,500 RPM. I’ve been riding motorcycles with all the reckless abandon I can muster for getting on four years now, and never have I been so hopelessly smitten with a machine. Despite having ridden sport bikes with a great deal more power than Valerie, nothing I’ve ever been on delivers speed the way a Street Triple does — the torque alone brings new meaning to the frequently misused phrase “to die for”.
If you’re wondering why I refer to the bike as a woman, it’s an old and admittedly weird habit of mine. My cars have always had male titles (e.g. the Dark Knight, the Duke), but the relationship I have with my bikes is a different one altogether. They inspire lust and adoration in me; they pose a direct, unequivocal threat to my livelihood — and I fucking love them for it.
Now I’m rocketing north up Mopac at a cruising speed of 105 in fifth, and my heart rate is really starting to get going. I can actually feel the alertness that insomnia has been purloining. Riding elevates the senses in a way that nothing else does, because being on a bike leaves you no choice but to be at your absolute sharpest — or like that, you’re a very messy streak of blood, guts and shit on the pavement. Central Texas is hill country, and thus rider country. I’m in a state of utter motoring nirvana, headed towards the Westlake Hills, easily my favorite place to ride in the Austin area.
Time to slow down, but only just. The road’s twists and turns are not unlike the curves of my favorite lover — flawlessly tight, sublimely arching, divinely proportioned. Shift down to third and keep it at a steady 65 mph for the bends, my favorite recipe; it is pure sex, life, worth dying for — I can assure you. Get lost in the speed, the adrenaline. Savor every second of acceleration. Cherish the road for what it is, the closest you can get to heaven on earth. Inspire fear and envy in the occasional late night driver. Overtake everything in your way. Trust in the girl, even though you shouldn’t. Valerie is quickly rising the ranks of all time great women in my life. Paul sang it best: “Oh, darling, please believe me”. I’m in love for the second time.
Taking full advantage of the straights in top gear, I push it to 120…maybe 130, when I’m feeling bold or playfully suicidal. Keep on riding till the sun comes up, find a serene place to watch it, then ride some more. Smoke a cigarette with the same breathless desperation you do after the fuck of your life, then promptly smoke another. Turn around and head home, filled with more reluctance than it’s possible to convey. Stumble into bed, drunker than any amount of whiskey could make me, and lay down with the comfort of knowing that within seconds I’ll fall into a deeper sleep than I’ve enjoyed in what feels like forever. I close my eyes and hear the achingly lustful moan of that girl in my head. Then lights out, like the title suggests. Like never before. Like a match in a bottle.