Posts Tagged Kawasaki

Passion: What a biker can teach you

“The Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one thing when a person died. Did he have passion?”

That’s a line from the John Cusack movie “Serendipity.” It’s likely not true, but it should be. It should be the only question we ask during life let alone after it.

In our crib-to-cubicle world we give status to those who pursue and achieve wealth, instead of passion, happiness and health. We tend to question those who would do foolish things for the sake of a moment of joy. It was 17 degrees Fahrenheit in New York City yesterday. Most people would think it stupid to leave the house to take their daughter to piano practice and utterly insane to go look at motorcycles you can’t even take for a ride.

Smiling ear to ear off U.S. 1 in California last year.

But these are bikers. Motorcycle riders. Whatever you want to call us, you can’t call us passionless. We’ll talk your ears off about our bikes and the adventures we had on them. (Remind me to tell you about the time a hawk landed on my leg when I was riding a rented Harley.) People who don’t ride scratch themselves bloody wondering why anyone would risk life and limb to do 65 miles per hour with five gallons of fuel between their knees and a battery two inches under their ass. I will never run in the house with a knife, but damn it will I ride.

I ride because there’s something Zen in finding calmness from the raw and visceral experience of going fast through the landscape that taking a walk or a ride on a mountain bike can’t give you. Nothing synchronizes the heart, mind and breath like the potential of being maimed. It’s that sense of danger that makes me focus and find peace in that tiny little space behind the handle bars. I can get to that calm and joy with the twist of the throttle – air space usually reserved for only the highest order monks and yoga master.

In that space, it doesn’t matter that I’m not rich and still spend most of my days in a cubicle.  Because, under my helmet you’d see I am happy.

Jose Mallabo

Carbon version of the Diavel is $20,000 of hotness.

Best in show from the New York IMS in descending order:

  1. Ducati Diavel. Nothing on the floor looked like it. But why would you stick this in the corner of the booth?
  2. Harley Davidson V-Rod Muscle. American brute force.
  3. BMW R1200R. Hottest do-everything sport standard anywhere.
  4. Kawasaki Ninja 1000. Even the 50-year-old cruiser guys thought it was cool.
  5. Victory High Ball. Spokes, white walls and Victory style may make this the only true cruiser I would buy.

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You meet the safest drivers on a Kawasaki

As I got cut off on the freeway today, I muttered to myself “probably a Celtics fan.”


You see, in one of my all-time favorite books ‘Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs,’ Chuck Klosterman made an epic and never-before-heard-of argument that the ‘80s rivalry between the Lakers and the Celtics represents everything in life and the world.


He didn’t just argue that there were two kinds of people on the planet. Chuck goes off. He says that the rivalry explains race relations, religion, politics, math and even the metaphor of Man vs. Beast. I’ve been a Lakers fan since Jim Brewer was lacing them up with Jamaal Wilkes. I get it.


As I pulled into my garage, there it was. Chuck’s holy grail of modern media based satire sitting on the shelves next to my Kawasaki. I flipped to the Lakers chapter. His first quasi-sociological test is this question:


“What kind of car should I drive?” 

If you’re a Laker Person, buy a two-door car, preferably something made in America. I’d go with a Camaro IROC or possibly a Ford Probe. These are fast, domestic vehicles, just as the “showtime” automaton was a sleek, streamlined machine that came from the streets of Michigan (which is where Magic was raised). Meanwhile, Celtic People are four-door sedan owners. I lean toward the Chrysler LeBaron and the Chevy Cavalier, the veritable D.J. and Ainge of the automotive universe.


I swear. He wrote that. And, as I re-read it, I still think he’s more right than wrong.


If I could build a case to Chuck to update his thinking, I’d say that there is another way of looking at the denizens of the world: two wheel drivers and four wheel drivers. Now that I’ve been riding a motorcycle for more than a year, the world is far clearer to me. Those who voluntarily risk their lives by balancing themselves on 100 horsepower rockets in rush hour traffic are the most careful, most defensive drivers on the planet. In all my years of driving a car, I’ve never once been cut off by a motorcyclist. But the minivan swoop into my lane or up my tail pipe is a regular activity.

Chuck Klosterman striking a pose for Spin

Chuck Klosterman striking a pose for Spin

Short of making every drivers license test include a motorcycle safety course (which would teach all motor vehicle drivers the life and death proposition of getting behind a wheel or straddling a bike), I’m wondering why we can’t simply turn those oversized shoulders into motorcycle only lanes?

With the international push to be green, can’t people see that even the least fuel efficient motorcycle gets more than 30 mpg? My Kawasaki gets 45 mpg and would be my daily driver if it weren’t for that Chrysler Town & Country lurking to cut me off at freeway speeds because junior is late for a play date.

It’s a given that riding a bike 70 mph is dangerous. So is cutting a bagel, but most of us don’t get tackled by a car while spreading cream cheese. And if it does happen to you you might want to think twice about eating breakfast on the median. While Chuck is right that the Lakers – Celtics rivalry explains humanity, driving or riding with the fear of death explains how people go about their days.

Riders know. For the most part, bikes don’t kill people. Crashing does.

– Jose Mallabo

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Ball bearing in the wind

450 + 150 + 40 = 640

640 lbs.

That’s the combined weight of a Kawasaki Ninja 650R with me and 3 days of gear strapped to the top of it. You can imagine just how strong the crosswinds were to be blowing that kind of weight left and right across an 8-foot wide lane like it were a ball bearing in a Pachinko machine.

During the last 19 miles of what was otherwise a spectacular 675 mile ride up and down the California coast through Mendocino, the great redwoods, the land of Big Foot and up to Eureka, I all of a sudden was in a blender of 50 mph wind. A blender that Moses himself may have plugged in.

Humboldt County gas pump doesn't want you "smoking" near it.

Humboldt County gas pump doesn't want you "smoking" near it.

My speedometer said 55 mph. I could hear the motor running and exhaust blaring. And I clearly was pointed west, but I felt like my tires were stapled to the asphalt while taking vicious southbound left hooks of wind to the right side of my head and rib cage.

During normal conditions, you ride vertically to go straight. Leaning left to turn left and right to turn right. But on a stretch of road no more than 20 minutes from home I was leaning hard right to go straight while dancing precariously on the left yellow line of the road. If you’ve ever looked at the shrapnel of debris just left of that line, you know it’s not a good place to be driving anything short of an Abrams tank or a water buffalo.

As I looked down at that yellow paint directly under my left foot there were no words, but only that “oh fuck” feeling that under these circumstances aren’t words but is in fact a state of being. Like happiness. Or anger.

At rest in Mendocino

At rest in Mendocino

About 2-3 minutes into this ridiculousness, the thought of pulling over crossed my mind. I quickly dismissed that option because waiting on the side of the road for the wind to die down would guarantee on thing and only one thing for when I decided to restart my motor: darkness.

Head down. Maintain white knuckle grip. Lean hard right and keep front tire pointed west.

The problem was there were 15 more miles of this hell to deal with. I tried to psyche myself up for the challenge like I was a character in a Steinbeck man vs. nature novel.

“King Kong ain’t got nothin’ on me!” I shouted in my already very noisy helmet.

“King Kong ain’t got nothin’ on me!”

Looking back now, it sounded very little like Denzel and a lot more like “Gingko’s main God almonds on knee!”  Whatever. It got me through the first few miles of this last leg of my trip.

But like any motivational speech, I got bored with it quickly and had to find something else. For some reason Lieutenant Dan jumped into my head. I couldn’t get the image of him shouting at the heavens on Forrest’s boat out of my mind. As I continued to take shots to the head and chest from the wind I thought “why the hell am I challenging God to knock me off my bike?!”

Stupid is as stupid does.

It took me about 30 minutes to ride through those 19 miles. I got home and immediately felt good about myself. Not just because I got through that windstorm. But I completed my first real motorcycle adventure. 675 miles. I survived retirees driving RV’s that were pulling SUV’s up narrow, winding roads. I survived a plate of bad tuna on the first night of my trip. I survived stoned neo-hippies walking aimlessly across my path. I survived soccer mom’s driving while text messaging.

A million dollar view worth the ride, Advil and Pepto Bismol

A million dollar view worth the ride, Advil and Pepto Bismol

15 minutes after pulling my bike gear off while folding laundry, I actually thought maybe King Kong had nothing on me…

That giant sucking sound isn’t the wind. It’s the air of my ego leaking out of the ball-bearing sized hole in it. While I may have cheated a severe limp and some road rash, I couldn’t escape the one universal truth in life: No one — not King Kong, not Lieutenant Dan — has the constitution to lie in wet sheets.

– Jose Mallabo

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