Old Italian motorcycles are a lot like cornering.
Owning an old Italian motorcycle is an amazing contrast of experiences. When everything is working, an old Italian motorcycle sings the songs of an angel’s dreams. The bike and rider become one, working in perfect synchronicity. There’s absolutely NOTHING to match the feeling! It’s soul stirring! Until it isn’t, and you find yourself sitting on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck.
Let me step back a bit. The key to owning an old Italian motorcycle is properly executed preventative maintenance. No shortcuts. You need to learn how to do it correctly, and you need to do it regularly. You start with the basics, and you perform them consistently until they become second nature. As you gain experience, your confidence improves and you’re able to tackle more complex tasks. Not only do your wrenching skills improve, but over time you develop an ability to perceive subtle incongruities in the way your bike runs and handles. A slight tick from the engine, or a minor change in steering effort may go unnoticed to a novice owner, but they get your spidey senses tingling.
By investing your time and effort in becoming intimately familiar with your bike, you’re able to identify potential problems well in advance. You implement the skills you’ve developed to prevent the serious issues born of apathy. You’re rewarded with many more weekends of dancing through your local twisties with your favourite partner while your neighbour curses his luck with the exact same motorcycle. But he tends to ignore maintenance for a couple of years, then tries to catch up. His lack of commitment has turned his ownership experience into a love-hate relationship. Cornering is the Italian motorcycle of riding ability.
Many of us took a rider training course to get our licence. A novice course may touch on cornering, but there’s not much instruction beyond trusting the tires and having the rider look where they want to go. How much cornering can you do in a parking lot after all? Besides, your goal at that point is to get your licence and get out on the road. That first course was likely the most valuable investment you made towards your safety as a new rider. Should your training stop there?
Advanced training can help you develop higher level skills. The single most commonly identified skill riders report as lacking is cornering technique, yet we live in an area festooned with twisty roads. Learning proper cornering techniques under the tutelage of a skilled coach will heighten your enjoyment of your bike and the roads while greatly increasing your safety margins.
Remember when we talked about maintenance? You need to practice those skills! Regularly! You can’t ignore them for a couple of years, racking up seat time, because when you really need them, they just won’t be as sharp. Your lack of maintenance could leave you sitting on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck.
And that’s why old Italian motorcycles are a lot like cornering.