Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jul 22 2003

Wednesday was looking like the day Typhoon Imbudo …

Wednesday was looking like the day Typhoon Imbudo would choose to screw up our weather, so I decided to change my plans and rent the Hornet on Monday instead. I made a few calls and cleared my schedule before riding down to the rental place. There I had to sign several forms to sign saying that if I damaged the bike, not only would I have to pay for repairs, but I’d have to pay rent for all the time it was out of commission. It was 10:30 before I set off north on the silver motorcycle. My first impression was that it was surprisingly easy to maneuver through traffic. Once I got the hang of the greater weight it was easier and more confidence inspiring than the bike I ride every day. It still didn’t seem all that much more powerful than what I was used to.

Traffic seemed interminable due to the heat and one red light after another. It was a relief to finally pass through the tunnel to Zhishan Road near the movie village. The Hornet appreciated the legroom as well, and although the twisty bits required some shifting, it was by no means a struggle to get to the top of the mountain range separating the Taipei basin from the coastal areas of Wanli and Yehliu. It was cooler up in the mountains as well. I stopped several times to rest (and take pictures) as I wasn’t used to the heavy clutch or seating position of the bike. There was hardly anyone on the road, and I didn’t see much traffic until I hit the coast and turned northwest to proceed up around the top end of the island. The roads that run along the coast are straight and wide, so I opened up the bike to see what it could do.

It can do a lot. From a standing start, the bike can reach crazy speeds before you can say holy sh-, and the engine sounds wonderful as it goes about its job of launching you into orbit, reving happily right up to (and occasionally even through) the 15,000rpm redline. The huge tires, especially in the monoshock-equipped rear, provide exceptional stability at speed, and wafting along the highway at over 120kph is a rock-solid experience, no shudders, no squeaks, no clanks, no fuss. It was exilerating.

It was also too fast. I found myself at a seafood restaurant near the famous and touristy Underground Temple Full of Musty Statues within a matter of minutes. Half an hour later I was parked on the dock at Tamshui. I had expected the trip to take all day, and here I was nearly done at just after noon.

I sat in the shadow of the lightpost on the dock, watching the tourists boats come and go for a while. It was quite pleasant. Besides a wrapped-up fisherwoman, I was the only one there. After some consideration, I decided to head back up into the mountains, up into the cooler air at the top of Yangmingshan, or as close as I could get on a motorcycle. The coast road was quick work but still too hot. I knew from previous experience that the road from Tamshui up the mountain is nice and full of interesting curves, and it being a weekday I wouldn’t have to deal with too much traffic.

On the way up I slowly got used to the broader and shallower power band on the Hornet. My RZR is pretty anemic through most of the needle’s trip around the tach, but it was a sweet spot where the power spikes, almost like a turbo. But once I adjusted to the 4-stroke engine, it felt a lot more convenient. I had to shift less and less as I learned not only where the power was, but also how to lean the bike over in corners. It went over quite easily thanks to the wide tires.

At the top of the mountain I stopped at the lookout and listened to the chorus of cicadas and other insects. It was a truly lovely sound and caught me by surprise. There were a couple of other riders there looking down on Tamshui and the ocean, but no one said a word, as if we were in a sort of trance induced by the insects. Out in the ocean freighters seemed to be floating in the sky as the reflected sunlight on the water obscured the horizon.

The other lookout, on the city side of the peak, was crowded with day-trippers, mostly noisy older women complaining loudly about how noisey everyone else was and eager photographers snapping away at the view. A couple of people asked about the Hornet, and one old guy even asked if he could sit on it. He thought it was a litrebike for some reason. I guess it does look kind of hefty for its size. I can imagine that a litrebike would charge up the mountain with even more authority, but I can’t really understand how much authority one needs when charging up a mountain.

I sat on the lookout bench for a while, staring out over the city as rainstorms floated over it. The sun was beginning to set when I left. I took as many mountain roads as I could on the way down, ending up in Beitou, where I hit rush-hour traffic. The Hornet got a few stares and even some challengers on Da-du Road, which crosses the floodplain, but of course nothing could even compare with it. I was due back at the rental place at 8pm, and I rode around the city until after 8, reluctant to turn it back in. When I got on my own motorcycle and started riding home, I was shocked at the difference. My bike suddenly felt like a pile of loosely connected parts shedding bits of rust as they all clanked against each other. The brakes felt dangerously mushy and the steering vague. I’m afraid that riding it will never be the same.

It looks like Typhoon Imbudo is going to give us a miss, heading instead straight over to China. It’s been windy and fresh, the clouds practically scurrying across the sky all day. I’m still glad I got the chance to spend Monday tooling around on the Hornet. I even made a little 5Mb Quicktime movie from footage I took during the trip; it’s now in the Sight of the Moment slot. There’s also a few Mirror project pictures on the subject.

If I want to ride anything bigger in the future I have to get another license, which costs NT$8,000 including mandatory classes culminating in the examination itself. One guy told me now was the time to take the test, before they began changing the rules so that if you’re above a certain age and height you have to take the test on a certain category of motorcycle. I still don’t have that kind of money, and my left hand is still sore from working the heavy clutch on the Hornet. That said, I still wonder what it’s like to ride the CB400 super four…

posted by Poagao at 12:45 pm  

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