OWD Roadshow: The City by R1200GS

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p1010887Life moves pretty fast in “the City”, or so I’ve concluded.  Charlie Rauseo is on the phone, aside from that little Paris-Dakar thing he attempted recently he’s been a contributor to OneWheelDrive.Net on a few occasions.  The words “meet for coffee” vaguely sink through my hangover and the dodgy cell reception.  So do “Just back from Las Vegas”, “BMW” and then a phrase I don’t quite believe the first time… “You want the R1200GS for the day?”  I ask him to repeat, yes it’s true.  I’m going sightseeing on BMW’s newest!

For our quick coffee Charlie pulls up on the R1200GS and parks it jauntily on the sidewalk in front of “Bean There” or some similarly pun-ishly named coffee shop – I’m struck once more that bikes rule here in a way that is un-conceived of yet in Vancouver.  Our plan of attack is simple; we’ll return to Jenny’s to collect our gear, I’ll ride on the back of Kevin’s Magna to Charlie’s place and then we’ll be off on our own, as a perk I should be able to grab some pictures from the pillion seat of Charlie commanding the GS.

It was a fine plan, especially the picture part.  Except…  except that Charlie is fast… stinky fast…  fast in a hardcore-traffic-is-merely-a-pylon sort of way that would make Vancouver’s most self-avowed hooligan shake his head a bit and beg off.  On the way to Charlie’s, Kevin is piloting the Magna with a 200lb passenger and our gear for all it’s worth.  Very, very few of the shots worked out, but I’m proud nonetheless.  At no point did I scream like a little girl.  I’ve also been reminded why I pilot and not pillion, there was a profound sense of relief when Charlie handed over the keys to the R1200GS and we set out for a ride at a more sedate pace.

The ride and photo shoot takes us along “the Great Highway” and across the Golden Gate Bridge to some of the best local twisties we’ve never happened across before in the Bay Area, out to Pt. Bonita Bay Lighthouse in the Marin Headlands.  The joy began in proper fashion with an introductory series following Conzelman Road, overlooking the bridge to a turn-around.  The weather was bright, blue and clear, the sea a deeper blue to complement, and the road did its best impression of the Italian Coast, and then we got to a turn-around at the “perceived end of the road”, except there was a one-way lane that continued on.

“Continued on”, is not the right phrase; it swooped, twisted, took you to the verge of sky and sea then dived, turned and twisted some more.  There are a shortage of perfect roads in the world, but on a day like today it’s no shame that California offered up this one, especially when taken on a bike as friendly as the GS.  Our ride impression of the bike was almost foiled by the synergy between weather, road, and bike…  almost.  Our pure grinning enjoyment of the GS didn’t quite coerce us into shirking our duties – our review, as well as Charlie’s more dirt oriented one will follow very soon on OWD.

Later in the evening, after re-visiting Charlie and the R1200GS for an evening sea-side photo shoot with it’s elder sibling – the Angry Platypus itself, the R1150GS, we headed to Zeitgeist.

Zeitgeist is the “premier” motorcyclist bar in the City, if a beer garden and “crusty” bar and grill can be called premier.  Regardless of its anti-Conde Naste qualities, Zeitgeist is a motorcycling cultural nexus for the city.  Motorcyclists of all ilks hang here and you’re as likely to meet up with the big-wigs from Honda or BMW as you are a motorcycle courier or track day racer.  There is something missing, there are helmets but no hang ups, the posing has been given a miss entirely – that’s done better by L.A. it seems.  These people are riders, in fact if a city is judged by its riders then San Francisco is hardcore.

Following Heli back to Jenny’s apartment I realize that I’m in danger, it’s not from the traffic, though that is a concern amongst the uber aggressive drivers of the city.  No, it’s this; if I stay here too long I’ll become to accustomed to the in-traffic antics, which is a problem.  Get used to riding like this and there will be no going home.  As contributor and troublemaker Evan Leung puts it, “Traffic can be fun.  In Vancouver I have to hold back all the time.”

Will Vancouver become a city where bikes rule?  I don’t know, gut feeling is it needs to reach a cultural flashpoint, not activism but the creation of a community that is less concerned about looks, less concerned about the latest sportbike specs, less willing to concede to the ignorant masses of cagers, and more assertive.  As the song says, “Less talk more action.”

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