Published on March 5th, 2019 | by Boris0
TALES OF THE NIKEN – EPISODE 7
In which our hero finds himself in the company of youth; vile, virile and feral. But also with eyes that plead. And our hero is many things, but he is not without some feeling and empathy for the feckless and unbearded.
“We’re in trouble all the time
You read about us all in the papers
We walk around and bump into walls – a blind delegation
And we ain’t afraid of high power
And we’ve never heard of Eisenhower
Missile power, justice or truth
We’re the Department of Youth”
I hate Goddamn kids. I have one of my own and I love him – all 23-years-old of him – but on general principles, I hate them.
It’s really only when a man crests his mid-forties that he becomes tolerable. I have been tolerable now for more than a decade, so I know what I’m talking about.
Still, coming into contact with youth is unavoidable in my world. I have friends who have sons, and some of those sons ride motorcycles and one thing will lead to another and these sons turn up at my house all glaze-eyed and panting from just having slayed the Putty Road like it was some kind of bitumen dragon. I usually give them beer and an ear, and if they’re well-disposed to listen, I may offer some wisdom of the ancients. Shit like: “Don’t fall off”, “Hospital food sucks”, “It’s always a race” and “Always pay for the girl when you take her out”.
One of my more frequent youthful visitors is Harry. Harry is the son of a dear friend of mine called Nick. Like myself, Nick moved out of Sydney, but chose a sea-change over my coal-and-wine change, and moved himself up near Coffs Harbour. Like me, he left his offspring behind. It’s best for everyone that way.
Anyway, Harry was on his way back to Sydney from his dad’s place and because he is a true believer, he eschews the filthy freeway and turns a five-hour ride into 10-hour orgy of backroad corners. My place is as good as any for a sleep-over, because there is always a chance my impossibly attractive niece will be visiting. And I have beer and know my way around a steak.
I also happen to currently have a Yamaha Niken.
“You want to ride it, don’t you?” I said.
“I do,” Harry said.
I could tell. He had not yet put his helmet down and was peering closely at the front-end as if maybe my niece had hidden herself in there.
“You know if I let you ride it and something terrible happens, your father will owe me forty grand.”
“Is that what a Niken costs?”
“No. But after I pay Yamaha for the bike, what’s left is what it will cost to settle my nerves.”
Harry pondered this for a few moments.
“I reckon dad’s good for it,” he smiled.
“I reckon so,” I agreed. “Either way, I’ll take another bike and go with you. So you don’t get lost.”
At this point, Harry would have agreed to me fitting him with a shock collar and microchip. He very much wanted to ride the Niken. He’d read all the yarns and had come to the conclusion we, the blokes who wrote them, were full of shit. He was, of course, too well-mannered to say that. But there is not a 23-year-old on this earth that thinks us old people know anything worth knowing.
He got on the Niken, and I started my normal spiel:
“Do not over-think it. It acts like a normal motorcycle. Ride it like a normal motorcycle. It has an up-only quick-shifter. Do not touch any engine modes. If you crash make sure you die, because I will not kick a corpse.”
On the surface, the Niken was familiar to Harry. He rides a tricked-up MT-09 he bought off his dad, and he rides it passably well. He’s one of those smart kids who does ride days and rider-training courses. He also rides every day, rides for work (he’s a postie), and regularly does big touring trips. He usually does these on his own because most riders his age are happier dressing up like muppets and riding to a pizza shop once a week if it’s not raining. He’s been on a few long rides with me and my mates, and he’s never been last and he’s never cried and wanted to go home.
So off we went, him on the Niken and me on the Triumph Street Twin I was reviewing at the time.
We weren’t going far. There was a Class 7 Hunter Valley Thunderstorm not very far away, and I’m old enough to know things about thunderstorms.
A few kilometres later we pulled over.
Harry’s face was pleasure incarnate.
“So what do you think?” I asked.
“It’s amazing. It’s…like, it feels big at the front…actually, you think it’s going to feel big at the front and I thought at first it was like a Goldwing (yes, he has ridden one), but then it felt…well, right and really easy to chuck into corners…and…amazing…and…cool…”
“Yes. You still like girls, right?”
Harry blinked at me for a sec. “Um, yes…”
“Good. Just checking.”
The rain drops began.
“We’re going back,” I said.
Harry looked a little crest-fallen. He’d just spent 10-odd hours smashing bends, but was happy enough to keep right on riding the Niken. You can understand why I hate kids, right?
Anyway, back in my garage, the rain hammering the roof and beers in our hands, we took stock.
“How’s it feel compared to your MT-09?”
“It’s bigger at the front, but it’s just like a bike. I didn’t think it would be, but it is – it’s hard to get your head around that. It’s amazing around corners. The engine feels about the same. Maybe a little gruntier. I’d need more time on it to be sure.”
“We’re drinking beer now,” I said. “You need to learn about prioritising stuff during thunderstorms.”
“Would you buy one?”
“No,” he said.
“I still owe dad money for my bike. I’m broke. And I need more tattoos.”
“I tried to wheelie it,” he said.
“Should have been in first,” I smiled.
“Bloody rain,” Harry observed.
“I love the rain,” I said. “I just love it.”
Hate bloody kids, though.