As I rode into Salt Lake City, my BMW K100RS was humming right along, though it’s tires were shot, brake pads thin, engine oil black and dirty, fairing covered in bugs and road grime. Our Iron Butt Rally was only minutes from being over and I caught myself leaning in close and patting the K-Bikes pearl white aluminum fuel tank with my leather gloved left hand, and saying aloud, “Thanks for everything!” The K-bike seemed to shrug it off, saying” Anytime”. The Iron Butt Rally has been known to break a man’s spirit as well as well as that of his steed.
The BMW had, over the last 11 days, been subjected to torture. From 115 degree heat in El Centro, California, to bringing me across the entire state of Ohio in a driving rain, my motorcycle endured. We had traveled about eleven thousand miles over the last eleven days, and every time I accelerated, it was usually full throttle. Many times, when I braked, it was scrubbing off speed from 80 plus mph. Sometimes, the only break that myself or the BMW would get would be when we stopped for fuel. Twenty hour stints were not uncommon. The German built BMW dutifully went along with whatever I asked it do. In eleven thousand miles, crammed into eleven days, it never missed a beat.
This is probably the first time that I realized that motorcycles have “Soul”. I don’t mean they have ’A’ soul like the one I have that God gave me. This motorcycle has character and attitude, panache if you will. I think what I have come to realize is that a lot of inanimate objects that we take for granted are the direct result of the passion of their creator. The BMW K-Bike design is not an accident. It is the end result of someones idea of what it should look like, ride like, and perform like. I remember reading a magazine article addressing the very model of BMW that I owned. The test rider for the magazine was interviewing one of the engineers that was responsible for creating the K-Bike and complained to the engineer that this motorcycle had a significant amount of vibration at 50 to 60 mph. The engineer had a puzzled look on his face, then asked “Why are you riding so slow? we designed it to ridden much faster”. Engineers had not considered the speed limits of the good ol U S of A but had the German autobahn as its test track. Indeed, this BMW K-bike had little or no vibration between 75 and 130 mph. Soul built right in.
Sorichio Honda was so passionate about building a complete motorcycle that he named his first motorcycles “Dream” . Mr. Honda had grown up poor and his first foray into design was a superior piston ring. Though he was pleased with his design, he dreamt of being able to design and manufacture a complete engine, then the entire motorcycle. His “Dream” came true when he built and sold his first complete motorcycles, bearing his namesake in the 1950s. In 2001, Honda became and still is the number one manufacturer of engines in the world. Dream realized. Soul, no extra charge.
What do you ride? What do you drive? Think about the vehicles that share your garage or driveway. Do they have soul? Try this. Slowly run your hand over the gas tank of your motorcycle, or the fender of your car or truck, and see if it will respond. If it has soul, it will speak to you. You may even be compelled to give it a good soapy wash, or lay on a coat of fine carnuba wax. You may realize that it’s crying for an oil change, or needs a new pair of shoes. Or, or maybe, maybe, when no one is looking, you’ll give it a hug. After all, it does have soul. Boyd