“I need new tires,” I kept repeating to myself as I waited for the light to turn green. I was headed back to South Austin after riding long sweepers over rolling hills on Hwy 360. Like neon, the traffic light cast a pink glow over all of us sitting at the light. My snug gloves creaked with a hand-squeeze and my faceshield fogged and cleared up with every breath. I looked around. I could smell the tow truck’s brakes overheating to my left. He was speeding and took the last downhill too fast. Braking hard, his front wheels stuttered, coming to a stop.
Nobody was out, which was weird. It’s Friday night. Maybe it's the surge. Or just the news of the cold, something Texans don’t like. I try not to ride weekend nights, but it’s been too long. From time to time, in winter, I let my bike sit too long…And fast bikes don’t sit, they wait around like dogs on the porch. Dogs waiting for their masters to come back from wherever they’ve been.
Walking into the garage this week, in jammies and house slippers to throw out the trash, I’d see it parked there, sitting like a dusty barn find. Like an arcade game from the 80s, in storage, waiting to come back to life. I stopped and looked at the green trim, the headlights and the stance, and my thoughts started racing. I laughed out loud. “I think I’m the one, not the bike, that needs the trickle charge. That’s it. I’ll take it out tonight.” The garage door rattled. I heard the wind whistle and the dry leaves rustle outside. Cold front coming in, they said, with temps in the 20s.
I rode out to a toll road and opened it up. The tachs looked like two crazy clocks with hands going haywire when I let it loose. My eyeballs flattened back like Rat Fink, and exploded out of their sockets, bloodshot and throbbing, until I slowed it down and relaxed. My circulation came back. “I need new tires,” I said. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
I was out of town, riding back in, taking the long way to the dark hills, and the ZX showed me, once again, its buckled-down stability. Doesn’t move. Take my hands off the handlebars, sit straight up, and she doesn’t move. What a bike. Heavy Duty Industries. I looked down at the gauge. Plenty of gas.
I rode out to a scenic overlook and drove in, the downtown skyline sparkling silver, blue, and red, shining like rhinestones on a singer in the limelight. But there were too many kids parked out here tonight. Zoning out. Talking. Making out. This is their space. Let them be. I could smell the stink of chronic creeping through my helmet. Not my scene. I rode right out and cranked the throttle down and my stock pipes, normally tame, blasted like the breath of Godzilla through the night. I eased up and slowed down. “I need new tires,” I thought. “I shouldn’t have done that.
Ever the loner, I rode out to another scenic spot. I went to Pennybacker Bridge, our great rusted bridge that crosses over the Colorado River. Looks like a thick, chocolate ladder bent backwards between a dynamited hill. I parked by the boat ramps and took off my gloves, ripped off the velcro, and threw them onto my seat like a horseman in the 7th Cavalry. I could hear a thousand taps of 16 valves working like a muffled sewing machine. “I’m at 14k miles,” I thought. “I need a valve check, too. Geesh.”
I hiked around the shorebank and took pictures, and admired the silhouettes of the cliffs on the other side. Two black icebergs adrift on dark glass. The clouds floated across the sky, like a shield of bronze, as the radio towers blinked in unison with red blips of light. I texted my wife that I was headed home, and she texted back, “Ok! I’ll put the pizza in then.”
I rode back the same way. The winds came in, agitated, and jolted me a bit. My eyes were burning from the cedar in the air. I snapped my visor shut. Cold air began to make its way up my sleeves and into my clothes, cooling my neck. The wind whistled in my visor, and I began to smile. I did it.
I got the ride in.