Sunday, October 12, 2008

Racin' With The Wind

Trying to look cool but succeeding only in looking angry.

After enduring a month and a half of motorcycle lessons through the Ondřej Horázný school, and agonizing over the very tricky Czech motorcycle license test, I finally received my Czech motorcycle license.

I felt a great sense of accomplishment, I must say.

And to celebrate, I bought myself what I didn't yet have -- a motorcycle. A beautiful 2002 Honda Shadow 600, to be exact.

To help me find a bike that would suit a beginner like me, I enlisted the help of Hilary and Radek at Motorbike Ventures here in Prague. She's American. He's Czech. They're both cool.

I couldn't believe my luck when I stumbled upon their website (which also features a cool blog about their recent motorbike trip to Albania). In addition to renting motorcycles and organizing trips, they also offer help to neophytes like me.

As their website says:

Are you looking for your very first bike and don't know where to begin? Or are you simply buying a bike for your home away from home and know exactly what you want, but you don't speak Czech and are not quite sure how to register your bike? Let the experts take care of you!

I hired them to help me find a motorcycle. Everybody told me I should really consider buying my bike in Germany, because the Germans take better care of their machines, and the prices would be cheaper.

However, I wasn't keen on buying a bike that I had never ridden, or alternatively, traveling all the way to Germany to see a bike that I may or may not like, or may or may not be able to agree on a price.

A boy and his bike.

I really wanted to find a bike here in Prague -- a bike for a good price, one that I could see if not ride, that I would feel pretty confident I'd be happy with.

Turns out, I fell in love with the first bike in Prague that they sent me an Internet link to.

Radek and I went out to see it. It was exactly what I wanted. A candy apple red Honda Shadow with low kilometers (around 22,000 km), and kitted out with lots of extras -- saddlebags, custom mirrors and handgrips, a GPS hookup, an alarm system, etc.

Turns out, though, that in the end the owner wanted 15,000 CZK more than what he'd advertised it for, something to do with the VAT I'd have to pay since I didn't own a business. He apologized, but Radek and I left disappointed. The original price had been great; adding 15,000 CZK to it made it nothing special, if not a bit overpriced.

The thing is, I couldn't stop thinking about the bike. I had dreams about it that night. It seemed to me the extras were worth the extra 15,000 CZK. Plus, the bike was right in front of me. I didn't have to keep searching. My time is worth something, no?

I called Radek the next day to tell him I'd decided to take it, and Radek called the owner, negotiated a bit, got a few thousand crowns knocked off the price, and we had a deal. And I had my bike.

I bought a Caberg V2R helmet and leather gloves at Biker's Crown, a Czech chain of bike stores, and leather pants and a leather motorcycling jacket stuffed with all sorts of protective pads at Brixton Biker's Best, a local shop specializing in leather gear that amazingly enough has a location in the tiny village of Únětice, just next door to my home hamlet of Černý Vůl, west of Prague.

Brothers Petr and Vadim Dillinger design their own biking clothes and have them made-to-order in Pakistan. They've got a huge selection of quality stuff at reasonable prices.

I'd seen the bike and sat on it and dreamt about it, I'd even paid for it, but until Radek dropped it off at my house, I hadn't actually ridden it.

So much fun riding the same twisty back roads I'm used to bicycling.

Although it did take some getting used to at first.

It's a cruiser, so the seating posture was quite different from the Honda CB500 I'd trained on. And it feels quite a bit heavier. It took a few kilometers before I felt totally comfortable going through turns.

And I've still got a lot of practicing to do. Hilary recommended I buy and read "The Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Guide to Motorcycling Excellence: Skills, Knowledge, and Strategies for Riding Right," which I ordered from Amazon and have been poring over ever since. It's quite helpful.

Riding on country roads, amid the fall colors.

The fastest I've ridden so far is around 105 kph or 65 mph, which on the Shadow feels plenty fast.

I can already see, though, how the urge immediately develops to trade up for a bigger engine. The 600cc is fine for me now, but I'm a big guy, and I'll probably need something more powerful sometime in the future.

And I've now taken Daisy out for two rides as my first passenger. We bought her a helmet last weekend, but still need to get her some leathers.

I still love bicycling, and don't plan on starting Grant's Prague Motorcycling Blog anytime soon, but there's an adrenaline rush to motorcycling that you just don't get on a bicycle, except when you're heading fast down a steep, winding hill.

With a bicycle, you only get that feeling once every ride, if you're lucky. On a motorcycle, you feel that sensation every minute you're riding.


  1. Man, you're Fonzi-esqe!

  2. Hey, did you get the mugshot on the license done after riding the bike without a helmet? :)

  3. I look like that famous mug shot of Nick Nolte after he got arrested for drunk driving.