It used to be, or it still is, that when you refer to a motorcycle, the consensus is that one would envision at least a 750cc machine. A crotch rocket if you will. One of those from Honda or Ducati, or if you’re really picky (and have a tree sprouting money in your backyard), a magnificently gorgeous Buell. Yes, those that
race really fast on pavement tracks, not unlike the daredevils who clock way upwards of 300km/h (yes, three hundred) at the Isle of Mann GP. Maybe that’s why Cavendish is so fast, dude grew up conditioned to seeing motorcycle drivers, “pilots” actually, risking their bones at that famous race. I’d also suggest that some could just as well conjure an image of a chopper, with a “biker” astride its custom handmade seat, donning shiny leather chaps, and further whatnots. On the other hand, few would say “yes, of course – a moto. I’d love to parade around on a Puch, or a Lambretta; those are certain to attract me some ladies.” However you imagine a motorcycle, its shape, image and engine grumble will largely depend on the area you grew up in. To me, for instance, a moto comes in the form of the aforementioned crotch rocket: slick, potentially dangerous, considerably aero and most importantly, very fast. Not a chopper. Not a Lambretta either.
“It was very common, or better yet, not uncommon, to be thrown out of a race by vocally cursing a commissary.”
Spring of 1990 or 1991, can’t quite recall. We did a lot of racing, the junior fields were generally numerous; most of the races were consisted of either out-and-back stretches with a rotary on top (imagine a lollipop), or circuitous venues that required skills and consistent accelerations. They were similar to crits actually – but not quite. And as in most races, we had the commissaries on motorcycles making sure nobody was doing sneaky stuff. For road races we had police detail with the required big motos, actual patrol machines that were large and had chromed parts and were very pretty. For local circuit events, the officials would ride a slightly better variation of those Puchs, maybe a souped-up Lambretta scooter. The problem was, many juniors started in the sport really early and already had big boy skills, in other words: the boys moved fast and could easily handle the push-and-shove, including jumping on and off the sidewalk to move up (which was not allowed) and further stunts. And the motos didn’t. Meaning, put a race official in one of those little things through corners that lead to steep, short hills, up, left, down a stretch, right, left, right, etc., and the motos would become a hindrance. The combo commissary + put-put horsepower made it so it lingered, moving a tad slower out of corners and up short inclines. As you may figure, its involuntary pauses in rhythm infuriated the racers, the accordion effect would be multiplied as we tried to ride around the scooter or push it out of the way. It was very common, or better yet, not uncommon, to be thrown out of a race by vocally cursing a commissary.
“I felt slightly put off, damn Belgian stealing my lines, then I realized that my sport was actually our sport.”
Every cycling community has its bad-asses. They come in several forms: tall, short, lanky, thick, skinny, the engines within betraying a seemingly bad posish or not so fluid pedal stroke. Some of them look horrible on the bike, but can make you pay for questioning his/her lack of style or grace. Those are the folks whose innate power would have you wonder where is all that speed coming from. In my junior days we’d refer to that as “riding like a motorcycle”. It did not matter if your head iconized a Puch scooter or a Honda Ninja; the assumption was that a motorcycle is faster than you, so it always came as a compliment. We felt so smart in our world of nicknames and clever associations, that we claimed many of those aphorisms as ours and ours alone. Till a few years later, when I was watching the 1995 Tour de France. Miguelón, then a 4-time winner, perhaps was irritated at the media for accusing him of passive racing, decided to take the matter on his own legs. On the first week of the Tour, which is generally reserved for bunch gallops, he attacked hard on the closing kilometers of a flat stage. “What the hell is he doing?” I thought. It was something else to watch his big frame TT’ing at 50km/hr-plus and leaving everybody in the dust. That is, except for a plucky Belgian (unironically, Mr. Johan Bruyneel) who was glued to his rear wheel and had just enough “juice” in the last few meters to come around and win the stage. Later on, during post-race interviews, he mentioned feeling like he was “riding behind a motorcycle.” EXCUSE ME? Sorry, sir, that is my analogy. I felt slightly put off, damn Belgian stealing my lines, then I realized that my sport was actually our sport. And that general terms reserved for extraordinary feats of strength can only mean so many things. It’s not like in other countries they don’t have motorcycles, or that Bruyneel would refer to him as going as fast as, well, a Siberian Husky-pulled sled? A rapidly-moving… Tank engine? Please.
As a junior I never really got thrown out of a race for cursing an official. And the very few times when I was riding well enough to do most of the pulling, my training partners would praise the speed as “riding like a moto”. It was nice to hear that, imagining myself as a crotch rocket when in reality I was more of a Lambretta due to the slight build. But I still attracted the ladies.