Wednesday, 15 August 2012

First love..... a red Fastback.

The Red Fastback

Some women never leave you, and nor do some bikes. The memories that come flooding back when I look at a Norton Commando, are real powerful........ so much that they sometimes shock me.

I saw a Red 750cc Norton Commando Fastback parked up the other day, and I was in a right old nostalgic state...... couldn't leave it, and kept walking back to it. A bright red Fastback .... she was one of my young life’s “Firsts”.

I wanted to take it home sooooo much. Wanted to feel her under me again, wanted to touch her, feel her throbbing between my legs, like only a Norton Commando can. Wanted to run my hands over her polished alloy timing chest… trace the word ‘Norton’ so beautifully cast into the alloy, like I used to do when I was polishing my old Fastback.

I wanted to get on her again, and feel that precious moment again, when I bought mine from Bridge Garage, in Exeter. It too was a red Fastback. A beautiful, gleaming red Fastback, and I fell for her the first time I saw her, crammed amongst all the other second-hand bikes in their showroom;… all looking like abandoned and forgotten souls wanting to be loved again.

I bought her without a second thought.

I was barely twenty, been riding like living was going out of fashion since sixteen, but was still pretty raw to ride a bike like her as she was the biggest, most powerful bike I’d ever ridden.

I rode her away from Bridge Garage, up onto the busy flyover roundabout, stopped her and just sat there tight to the curb with the traffic going by. Her engine was patiently ticking over, heaving and shuddering on the rubber mountings in that lovely Commando "rubbery" way, and it was a moment I’ve never forgotten. She was quietly waiting for me to do what I wanted to her, anyhow, anywhere, any time, any place. Quietly twittering away in that uniquely way those Commandos did through her kicked-up twin peashooter silencers, and seeming to say;

"I’m ready when you are, sonny boy, take your time".

She was so latently mighty, so brutal, and I felt afraid of her but somehow not at the same time. I can remember saying to myself... "What have I bought? What have I done?"... I’d just exchanged a nearly new Bonnie, [650cc Triumph Bonneville], for her, but compared to the Bonnie this thing felt like I'd moved up into the Big Boys league ......... Like , REALLY moved in with them, and I wondered if I was up to it right that moment. I was a nutter and I was good, bloody good, but was I good enough for this? Sitting there on that flyover, I wasn't so sure.

She felt like such a handful She was so tall, splayed my legs so wide, was heavy, solid and just exuded pure badness, the likes of which I'd never felt under me before. She made me want to scowl at the world. She was like the sort of girl you wouldn't want your dear old Mum to see you out with. She was going to do some real BAAAAD stuff with me. She knew it, and so did I. She also seemed to know it was my first time in the big league, and that I was sitting there, unsure of myself and not knowing quite what to do with her. I could sense that she just wanted me to let her clutch out again and ride her, and somehow I just knew she’d show me the way.

I can remember how she felt as I thought to myself, “OK, no way to back out of this thing now,” and gingerly eased the clutch lever out. She just grunted as the revs dropped, I felt her trying to stall, but refusing to at the same time. I automatically gave her a touch more throttle and she grunted softly dug deep and unexpectedly lunged forward. I snatched the clutch in again and slipped it a bit longer the next time.

I rode her through the heavy and slow Exeter traffic, and it was a very steep learning curve. Lots of lunging forward every time I let that clutch right in and a good bit untidy until I got the measure of her gearing. She was so high geared compared to the Bonnie, that you just had to slip the clutch all the time and daren't let your hand off it once it was really in. She would run away with you if you didn’t snatch that clutch in quickly enough when the traffic slowed. She'd run you into the back of the car in front, all too easily. As soon as the clutch bit, she just surged forward grumpily with hardly any revs on. She was saying "If you think THIS is trouble, wait until you really let me loose", just like the Bad Girl she was. I couldn’t wait to get out of town and get some room around us.

Finally, we got out onto the lovely open roads, and in a few miles I was giving her all the beef she could feed on and trying for all I was worth not to wind up throwing her down the road. Sure, I was overcooking it all over the place and had some real near misses, but I just didn't care, in the way you don’t when you’re so young and invincible. I was laughing at her way of being so fast without trying at all.

I remember that the most clearly of all; feeling so damn happy and laughing aloud so much as I rode her non-stop all that hot and glorious sunny afternoon.

This was different from the Bonnie. That was fast for it's day, but this girl was REALLY fast, mean as hell and took no prisoners. This was what I'd always wanted for as long as I could remember. I'd always thought it would be somthing like this in all the hours I'd spent as a kid sitting on Dad's old 1952 BSA B31, wearing his leather flying helmet and goggles and dreaming of riding like a God. Now here I was, doing it for real on a top-end bike. She was a Superbike of her day, and I knew nothing was going to be the same again. One of those moments in life, and as sweet, timeless and memorable as making love to a girl for the first time; when everything changes, and an innocence is lost forever.

It was such a perfect time, that first ride on her back and I think it was the first time I ever felt a bike really looking after me. No matter what I did wrong, she seemed to just show me how to get out of it. Like an experienced woman making love to a young boy, she gently showed me the way to please her, and the more I pleased her the better it got. She'd been around the block a few times, and there was a soft power in the way she handled under me. I loved her from those first few miles, and I never, ever, stopped loving her. She made me feel just so proud to be on her back and I rode her all the rest of that day and deep into the dusky moonlit darkness. I just couldn't stop. I laughed a lot that afternoon and I never felt prouder when I finally parked her up, so tired and so happy that I'd found something so very special.

When I went to bed that night, everything felt like it had changed. I was different from who I was when I'd woken that morning. I was finally the Greaser I always wanted to be. Head to toe in creaking black leather, a white silk scarf made from genuine coffin liner and walking so tall. No one was going to mess with me now, I thought, and y'know, no one has ever since.

Anytime I want to, I can conjure up that first hesitant moment when I had paused in wonder, sitting quietly on the flyover there on the cusp of something so new. Listening to her ticking over patiently, blipping the throttle and feeling the huge shudder under me from that lovely big-twin motor spinning itself up.

Seeing that pretty Red Fastback the other day, took my breath away and threw the passing years  aside. Like turning a corner, suddenly seeing a first love again and feeling the trembling, breathless surprise of her,.... and it being the first time you saw her all over again.

© Kevin Udy 23/03/05

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