OWD Roadshow: Streets of San Francisco

p1010864It’s an all-out sprint… actually it’s more than that.  It’s an all-out chase, through traffic with lane splitting, in the dark, on fresh tires, at periodically baffling speeds, and the only thing it needs to be cinematic is a scene heading down a one-way street in the wrong direction and sirens.  This is our introduction to riding with the “locals” in the city.

Heli Kornton, of MaxMoto, is in the lead and keeping up the chase on the new buns is sure as hell scrubbing them in.  The pursuit may not be all I’m up to, but it’s certainly pushing my limits; if this is how the locals ride I’m pretty sure they run a reign of hooligan terror on the streets of San Francisco.

We didn’t start the afternoon looking for a bike chase.  We just thought we’d pop by MaxMoto and say a quick hello to Knute and Heli, talk bikes for a bit, and maybe grab some internet time to arrange for a hotel.  But there was beer, and then thoughts of dinner, and next thing you know we’re going all hooligan sans the steadying influence of sanity.

Heli squeezes the substantial bulk of the K1200RS between traffic to the front of every intersection, I swear the mirrors are millimetres from scraping.  Between stoplights the bike is wide open, at least my VFR is.  He sees gaps in traffic before I even conceive the possibility of squeezing a bike between cages.  This is after I’ve made the potential mistake of asking him to take it easy on us foreigners!  It’s mental… bloody mental… and worse he does it all with glee, ease and what can only be described as a slightly psychotic “joie de vive”.  It’s no wonder BMW chose him as the rider for the ad campaigns for the R1150GS, the K1200LT and the R1200C Phoenix.

Later he relates to us how many R1150GS’s were crippled in the process of doing an off-road water crossing magazine shot; if you’ve ever watched Two Wheel Tuesday in the past three years you’ve likely seen it.  We also learn how sublimely stable the K1200LT is in the dirt and how good it is at 2 mile per hour peg-scraping turns.  And how to do a 200 yard burnout on a gravel road on a BMW cruiser with linked braking.  Theory class for stunt riding is in and I start to take notes, and then I stop.  Do I really need this knowledge the next time I take a BMW out on a tester?

Probably not. I’m sure those in charge of loaners would agree.

Instead I develop a vague sense of hero worship and call it good.  I don’t doubt for an instant that Heli has done this all, and make a note on the palmtop to interview him properly on our return trip.  The hospitality extends well beyond the tales of riding through snow covered passes on K1200LTs and reminiscences on how they scrape under the weight of camera rigs (you’ve likely seen that commercial too); Heli and his girlfriend Jenny offer us up a room.  Two bottles of wine and several stories later and we call it a night, our brains topped up with alcohol and images of 800 pound bikes cavorting in the dirt.

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