….and it goes “whirrrr”.
I spent today at meetings in London: it was hot, dirty and noisy and I was contributing both considerable decibelage and a fug of semi-combusted hydrocarbons to the ambience by whomping around on a 1000cc Ducati. At regular intervals the phrase, “there has to be a better way to do this”, kept springing to mind. Of course, my bicycle would have been perfect for the job. Had I been able to get it there: with a despairingly predictable lack of joined-up thinking on transport and the environment, the UK government has allowed the rail operators to ban bicycles from most services. Which has rather put a stop to that.
This evening however I’ve found that better way: I went somewhere else in space and time, to where the whole future arrives, not with a bang, but with a muted whirring – to my first close encounter with the ENV — the world’s first dedicated fuel cell powered motorcycle.
I’m not impressed by power. No, really. If I were, I could have bought any of the current crop of Übersportsbikes for less than I paid for my Ducati, had another 45bhp in my right hand and a license in the shredder. I’m much more interested in handling, real-world performance, and maybe a little bit of cool engineering style. However…
The UK’s Bike magazine recently asked for contributions to a story about the why, the how and the myth of “Sports Touring”. Which prompted me to put together a few random thoughts, and here they be:
There’s something very basic here: you don’t need some full-blown mile-muncher to tour on: what has been done on a Gold Wing will, I guarantee you, also have been accomplished by some nutter or other on a Honda 90, probably whilst wearing wellies. They may have been a bit slower, carried fewer changes of clothing and been rather more numb of the fundament at journey’s end, but they’ll have gotten there. The fact that the current round-the-world record holder, Nick Sanders, did it on a Yamaha R1 is indicative both that you can tour on anything and that he really is quite mad. Mind you, if he’d done it on a BMW 1150GS, as per Kevin & Julia Sanders, the previous holders, he probably wouldn’t look quite as shagged out as he does in every picture I’ve seen of him. But he did it. And there’s nothing quite like barreling across Europe on a sporting motorcycle, accepting the slight-to-monstrous trade-off in comfort for for the sheer joy to be had from being able to make full and focussed use of the really fun bits: the hairpins of the Alps, the fast sweepers of the Eiffel Mountains or the cliff-hugging nadgery of the Amalfi coast. That’s what it’s all about.
Now for a little of the how and what…