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#1 Jul 20, 2018 3:06 pm

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My best beast

One evening age 23 I was sitting on the verandah of our flat in Red Hills overlooking Kingston, exhaling deeply while contemplating the world at large. Then an inspiration hit me:

I need a bike!

Yes, I thought, a bike - why not? I owned a car at the time, a lemon of a Fiat I’d hated from the first day I’d stupidly bought the damned thing. What I needed, I decided, was a set of wheels I could have fun with, fall in love with and maybe even get laid with. Ergo: a bike! My brothers both rode bikes so I needed to follow suit. It was bad enough being the youngest, I didn’t have to be the wimp as well.

My first bike was a 90cc Suzuki that could barely break the speed limit, but I had huge fun on it for one summer before returning to Jamaica. Fast forward three years to that inspirational evening on my verandah, and I was ready for something more … substantial.

So I bought a Triumph 650cc.

A lot bigger than anything I’d ridden before: a quantum leap in power I was completely unprepared for. I had actually been looking for something a lot smaller, like a Honda 250cc, a bike to learn on rather than get killed on. But the first time I set my eyes on the Triumph all of that changed: I HAD to have it! When I answered the ad in the paper I was dismayed to find this beast sitting in the driveway. It was late evening and in the yellow streetlight the bike positively glowed. Sleek, shiny, sexy. I fell in love.

There was just one small problem: I didn’t know the first thing about riding it. I didn’t even know where the gear lever was, and don’t even talk about kick-starting it. The guy who was selling it seriously asked me if I shouldn’t think about getting something a bit smaller, and he only let me test ride it to the end of the road and back. Even that I barely managed, with him nervously watching my every wobble. But I was not to be deterred. Shit I lied to myself, it’s big but I can handle it. While my inner wimp screamed: N-o-o-o! It’s too big! You’ll crash and end up crippled and ugly! But I was mesmerized by the thought of owning a real live Triumph motorbike. It may have been “only” a Trophy, one carburetor short of the legendary Bonneville, but it was legendary enough for me.

In the sixties, Triumphs were the must-have bike of any self-respecting Hell’s Angel, before Harleys took over. A proper British bike. Brando’s bike. A bike with character, a bike with soul. Never mind that we were into the seventies and Triumphs were now well past their sell-by date, I was Canute-like in my resolve. Even though British marques like Triumph, BSA and Norton were into their terminal decline I still wanted one. After a short haggling session the deal was done, sealed with a tot of rum. All of a sudden this big frighteningly powerful beast was mine. I rode home at 20 mph, scared shitless. Shacks was agog.

“Rass man, you sure you know how to ride this thing?”

“Of course I do, I made it home in one piece didn’t I?”

But inside I knew he was right, I was in awe of the power of my new possession. Now if I only could learn how to RIDE this beast.


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