|Chapter 2 - Gott the Creator should have been Italian|
Squeak has already described how she finally got the two wheel bug (see Pillion Point of View) but I think that it is only fair that I should provide a clearer less biased view of the process.
So while enjoying a week's holiday at Noosa on the Queensland Sunshine Coast one day I decided it would be fun to hire a bike. It was my original intention to hire a Ducati Monster (that Italian influence again) but when I got to the hire shop David at Aussie Biker Tours, gave me the bad news, "the Duke's got a buggered clutch". Personally I couldn't see the problem after all who needs a clutch. But David was adamant - no Duke. So we looked over the range of mounts available and there was much to chose from. I was tempted to take a BMW F650GS and give that a rap up the 40km coastal sand strip, but again Dave intervened and suggested the Hog. Frankly I was horrified at the thought and told him I hadn't ridden a Harley in 10 years and had no desire to reacquaint myself with the marque (I said something along the lines of 'a Harley? F&%k off"). But he challenged me, "just take it for ride, you'll like it".
See! I am a sucker for a sales pitch, so I agreed. I grabbed a helmet and jacket for Squeak and roared off on an FXD "D" being for Dynaglide (Dyna is short for dinosaur). At first I couldn't find the bloody foot pegs. I would take off from an intersection and my feet would naturally go to where they were used to finding the pegs on the Zed. I must have looked like a total bloody idiot as I rode (wobbled) away from the lights with my legs waving around madly searching for the forward mounted pegs.
I got back to our unit without falling off and announced to Squeak that she could take it or leave it but I was going off for the day. Surprisingly she agreed to come, I think the leather jacket with all the tassels and buttons were too much for her. But when she put on the helmet - it was a 'small' size - but it wobbled around like a bucket on a billiard ball. So back to Dave to get an XXX-Small - which even then was a tad too big. How can so much chatter come out of such a little head?..Don't get me started on a little head!
Finally we got underway and about 20 minutes later we pulled over for our first stop in the pretty little town of Kenilworth and as she admits the first stop for her was the Chemist for a set of ear plugs. Then she decided that her jeans were not quite right so we had to buy another pair that suited better. When she started looking at the boots, I threatened to leave her behind.
We had a really nice day with lots of stops for shops and galleries and boutiques and any other building that had an 'open' sign out front. And I have to admit the FXD was good fun. It went well, stopped ok and only scraped the pipes on right handers. So that evening Squeak questioned why couldn't I get the Zed back on the road and we could join Ulysses and have a lovely time.
By this time the Z650B had been stored in the shed for about 3 years, with only an occasional gentle kick over to keep the cylinders and bearings from seizing. But we lived in the mountains about 160 kilometres inland and so the air was dry and cool and the bike was in terrific general condition, considering it was 25 years old. I replaced the fork seals, the battery and stuck a couple of new shocks on the back and that was about it. I changed the oil, filled her up with fresh fuel and away she went, as if she had only been parked the night before.
Squeak hopped on board the by today's standards, sumptuous pillion seat and off we set. We did many short rides on the Zed and Squeak was happy. But if I was going to go touring around two-up with luggage, I wanted something bigger, something newer, something Italian.
For years I had purchased the monthly AMT and other publications and the dream of a Guzzi was well established. In fact I met my first Moto Guzzi ( Moto GOOTZI you idiots, not guzzy) when I was only about 17 years old. A bloke I knew who had already left school bought an Ambassador V700 and that was a really big bike in those days. It was big, black and when the engine started up, the whole bike threw to the right as the piston fired and the enormous flywheel spun over. I was in love with the looks and the sound, even though I wasn't even allowed to touch it.
When I bought my Benelli a year or so later, it was little and red and things just fell off of it, even when it was stationery - that's Italian bikes for you.
So with the Zed on the road again. one morning I had strange stirring (not that kind), I just had a feeling that there was something waiting for me in Tamworth (do do do do - outer limits style) and I suggested we hop on the Zed and take it for a run down there (about 180km round trip). Squeak squeezed on her specially ordered ultra-XXXX-super-small full face helmet and her specially modified size 6 leather jacket and size 4 boots and away we went.
My logic told me to try Bikes & Bits as they are Harley and Ducati dealers so a v-twin specialist. But nothing there - well nothing we could afford. So we rode down to Harry Pines and had a look around. Now poor old Harry had passed away the year before with new owners still using the business name and there was quite a bit of old consignment stock sitting around. After a cursory look at the new bikes there over in the corner was a 1996 Guzzi Nevada 750.
I had seen them in the bike sales magazines very occasionally but never in the flesh. It looked just like a scaled down California, and that is what it was. I am only 173cm tall and Squeak is 150cm (ie 5 foot nothin) and when I sat on the Nevada it fitted like a well made leather glove (Italian leather). To be honest it felt like a 250 but once it roared into life and I took off down the street, I knew this was no 250.
It feels like a 250 because it only weighs around 170kgs but the engine pumps out 34 kW at 6600 rpm - pretty modest 5kgs per kW meanwhile with 57 Nm at only 3000 rpm it punches the light weight out of corners and up hills with ease. Now by comparison the 1996 Harley Electra Glide with almost twice the engine capacity produced only 43.8 kW but weighs in at 336 kgs or 7.6kgs per kW.
It was a few dollars more than I wanted to pay (read more than I had) and so I rode the Zed home feeling excited but frustrated.
Luckily at the same time and after many years of horse riding Squeak had lost her enthusiasm for equine events Meanwhile she had a perfectly good horse float parked in the paddock, which had only moved twice in the last 12 months and that was only for the rego checks.
Being the kind hearted and generous soul (or is that sole) that she is, she agreed that if we fixed up and sold the float we could use the money for the Nevada. By lunchtime next day it was repainted "hammer metal blue" absolutely gleaming with a for-sale sign posted brightly on its side it was parked out the front of our house for all the world to see. And sure enough it sold!
So that is why Squeak now owns the back half of our Guzzi.
We have run up over 20,000 kilometres and we love it. We live in northern NSW near Dorrigo and while in Kentucky we were only about 100 kilometres from Gingers Creek and the magnificent stretch of biking road called the Oxley Highway. Something like 58 kilometres of non stop s-bends and switch backs down a 1000 metre drop - fantastic. We also did the Walcha - Gloucester - Wauchope loop often and that is just a great ride. Today we duck down the mountain from Dorrigo to Bellingen for a cappuccino , some people would kill for that ride so easily at hand.
Squeak weighs in at about 50 kgs and so even with panniers and bags the Nevada goes beautifully and handles like a true Italian thoroughbred.
One day we came to Ginger's Creek on the Oxley Highway and I pulled over to stretch our legs and Squeak ripped off her size minus-3 helmet and yelled "I want to do it again! - only next time I want to be up the pointy end". So she booked in for her learners course, not as easy as she thought.
Although pass or fail she learned a lot ( a lot of it bullshit) and now she will never be the pillion she was. It will seem funny not having a Squeak on the back end.