Uneasy Rider: Of Borrowed Bikes, Broken Bones & Bad Juju

Motorcyclists are divided into two camps: those who will loan their bike to a friend—or sometimes damn near anyone—and those who won’t. 

The CityBike Wrecking Crew—named with tongue firmly in cheek by the way, although you’ll see there is some substantial wrecking now and then—is necessarily prone to loaning motorcycles. We have to be: we borrow bikes from the companies that make ‘em, and we pass our own bikes around pretty promiscuously.

Mind you, propensity for loaning doesn’t seem to correspond to love / connection type behavior like naming one’s bike, calling him / her baby… you know the kind of shit I’m talking about; the kind of shit that leads to people posting moronic memes on Facebook with “clever” punch lines (so named because people that post such garbage should be punched) about choosing a motorcycle over a girl. Always “girl,” not “woman.” You see the mentality we’re dealing with here?

Anyway, point being that some chucklehead who lovingly calls his Gixxer Velma is as likely to loan it out as a dude who doesn’t lovingly bestow a lady’s name on his new Hawg.

A couple years back, maybe more now that I think about it, my friend Young David told me something like “I’m gonna sell my F650GS Dakar. You wanna ride it for a while?”

Now, Young David is so named because of his youthful appearance, not because he’s ten years old and doesn’t understand that a story that begins with him loaning a bike to me, one he’s thinking of selling, might well end with that bike no longer saleable, at least in one piece. I say “so named,” but he doesn’t actually know that I call him Young David—I guess that cat’s outta the bag.

Anyway, David, young or old, gave me the keys to his really well set up GS Dakar. My initial take was roughly this: “Kinda porky for a 650 single, but feels pretty light at speed, easy to thrash around in corners.” That porkiness really came into the picture when I lost the front end in some sloppy shit out at Knoxville, and by lost, I mean I had to go find the bike once I came to my senses. It was a ways downhill from where I’d lost track of it, sorta pointed the wrong way, wheels on the uphill, making for what looked like a very difficult recovery. I alternated between swearing at the bike for its obstinate refusal to come back up to the trail and swearing at myself for putting it there, but eventually got it righted so I could accept that the bike was a little fuckered, and move on to figuring out what I’d tell Young David.

He wasn’t too concerned, but it seemed like a good excuse to do the right thing and buy the bike, so I did. Maybe I’m not giving him enough credit, and that was the plan all along: “I’ll loan Surj the bike, he’ll wreck it and then buy it, and I’ll skip all that Craigslist nonsense.”

More recently, Fish left his DR-Z400SM at my house. This is that promiscuity I mentioned—he had ridden away on whatever press bike was hanging ‘round World Headquarters at the time, leaving the violent-looking, flat black DR-Z behind, with some encouragement to ride it. This bike was also for sale.

So one morning I hopped on it for my daily commute into SF. I didn’t take a moment to get to know it, just rode. I was rushed, stressed, not in a good headspace for riding, let alone riding an unfamiliar bike (although I’ll admit I take a bit of issue with this whole “you gotta be zen to get on the bike, bro,” because if I waited for low-stress days, or hours, or fucking seconds to ride, I’d never ride) and I crashed in a most embarrassingly stupid way. I’m not going to go into the specifics of the crash, so just imagine you crashed in a way that made you want to not tell anyone, and we’ll say I did that.

It hurt. I was certain I’d broken a bunch of ribs, and I was dizzy and shaky for a good ten minutes before I could ride the rest of the way to work, where I temporarily abandoned the bike for a cab to the doc, in hopes of giving up a bunch of money in exchange for some disapproving glares and a speech about how motorcycles tend to lead to these kinds of scenarios. I was basically ok, maybe a concussion—hard to tell on account of all the existing brain damage, I guess.

I got the bike back to my house, and Fish came over to check it out. “No worries,” he said. I tried to get replacement parts, but he wouldn’t hear of it, just repainted the cowl to get the bike back to its original menacing flat blackness, and eventually sold it, with no one the wiser, although I guess that cat’s out of the bag now, too.

I felt terrible about wrecking the deathtrap DR-Z, which is what I called it to make myself feel better about crashing it. Motorcycles are dangerous, after all, especially that one. Anyway, I made sure that Helmut had a sweet new pair of Buffalo Pros with Fish’s name on ‘em the next time he stopped into Helimot, and called it good.

Even more recently, Fish hatched a plan to go to King of the Motos and I said, “Hey man, you oughtta take the CRF250L project bike,” so named because we did a bunch of stuff to it over the course of several articles. It’s probably the best set-up CRF250L west of the Pecos, maybe east too, and it’s a pretty goddamn sweet bike, in spite of being a pretty goddamn wimpy 250.

So away he went. I didn’t give it a second thought, as I’ve tossed that thing down the trail at pretty much every opportunity. It still looks surprisingly good, like a midnight shift waitress in some diner, the one that’s still pretty even though she’s clearly had some rough years and would probably really appreciate a nice tip on the bill.

A few days passed before I heard from Fish. I figured he’d been tooling around the desert pretty much non-stop, and I was right. But he also informed me that he may have crashed the CRF, and may have also broken his foot. Just as he had been when I crashed his bike, I was only worried about him, not the bike—like I said, that CRF’s been beaten like a redheaded stepchild caught shoplifting while high on crack cocaine bought with li’l sis’s lunch money. It’s used to it.

Turns out, much like my ribs, his foot was just bashed real good, not broken. So we both got away relatively unscathed—bikes get fixed as much as needed, we have a good laugh, and it becomes part of the mythology of the CityBike Wrecking Crew: how Surj and Fish just trade off on trashing each other’s bikes.

I am happy to report, however, that I recently rode Fish’s beloved, hopped-up, tricked-out, bad to the motherfucking bone FXR to work, without incident.

This column originally appeared in our April 2017 issue, which you can read in all its original high-res glory here.