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Choppered and Tuned

For every life there's a motorcycle; for every motorcycle a song
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of the horizon go even better with music. (Credit: Michael Ciaglo via Getty Images)

Spring’s a-comin’, and what better way to spend it than on a motorcycle. Nothing goes better with a good ride than great tunes, but take it from us: until you are absolutely sure of what you are doing, hold out on Bluetoothing your favorite playlist into your skid lid. Personally, I found singing aloud while wringing the throttle on my Bonneville most satisfying. My preferred pipe warmers en route to our gigs? Zappa’s “City Of Tiny Lites.”

There’s a thousand songs out there people will swear are the best motorcycle songs ever: Highway To Hell, Start Me Up, Go Your Own Way, La Grange, Born To Be Wild, Born To Run, Born In The USA, Born Free, Born To Die, Born Slippy … you get it.

Here’s a little pocket guide to biking and grooving.
P.S. Always check your brake pads and tire pressure—oh, and every intersection.

Rock on wheels: the Harley Davidson Road King. (Credit: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Get a load of you: pop. 270 lbs of sunburnt, hairy-backed alpha male, looking resplendent in your well-worn 10-year-old Stones tour t-shirt and sleeveless denim jacket, covered badges and adornments, but none being the Boy Scouts ‘library’ patch your mom so vainly hoped you’d score by your 10th birthday. No siree, none of that pussy shit. The pride and joy pinned to your left pocket is the Everybody’s going Gonzo button, a treasured relic from the Nuge’s legendary gig with Aerosmith at the Pontiac Silverdome in what should have been your senior year. But fuck that pussy shit, too. Despite all the weed, acid, and ‘ludes (“luuuudes, maaan!”), it was Bud that put you on the consciousness expanding trajectory of life.

And here you are, rumbling west on Interstate 90. Destination Sturgis. It’s gonna be real. The mercury’s at 92, but your Western Fit Levis, hand-stitched Texas boots and that 114 thumping under your ass dials it up to about 105.

Sure, it stings that Maureen got taken by the commie pox two years ago, but she lives on: airbrushed onto the tank and inked into your forearm. Pity that crackhead tattooist wasn’t as artistic as the guy at the custom shop. Hey! Maybe that nice ol’ Texas gal you got drunk with last year will be back; have a bit of a cuddle and kiss during the Aaron Lewis gig. Ain’t nothing wrong with a bit of lovin’ in the Badlands.

Bike: Harley Davidson Road King Special
Song: Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town”

Nobody knows the stress of your life. You hit Dogpound Gym in Tribeca at 5am, then start your other workout at 6:30—12 hours minimum, five days a week making crazy coin in that Wall Street brokerage house. The only way you could make more money is if you had a dollar for every time some sleazebag creep ogled your chest or made some idiotically juvenile comment about “chicks.”

Your graduation present to yourself on completing Harvard Business School was a Repsol Honda. Every weekend you’d suit up and wend your way along the backroads of Jersey to the Delaware Water Gap, learning every nuance of both the roads and that machine, imagining how Nicky Hayden would move through that hairpin, downshifting to second and not losing the line. Jaw extended, focusing on the point. Then home via the 80, knowing the state cops are few and far between on Sunday afternoons.

Alvaro Bautista cornering fast enough to experience time dilation, relatively speaking, on a Ducati Panigale V4R. (Credit: Ivica Glavas/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

But you grew up very quickly on that fateful day you read how the Kentucky Kid got taken out on a bicycle in Italy. It gave you that leap of faith from road to track. Goodbye you asshole cagers on cell phones. That Repsol still resides in a garage in Brooklyn as testament to your true passion, but it’s more often than not your rare-as-rocking-horse-shit Bautista that gets loaded into the specially converted Mercedes van and driven up to the track at Harpersfield. Each time you tear down that main straight that wild part of your mind challenges you to bottom out onto the grass. What was that comment your father made when you first learned to ride? “Two wheels move the soul, baby.”

Bike: Ducati V4 Panigale (Bautista replica)
Song: Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”

That last clown who aggressively tailgated you then took umbrage at your middle finger salute by deliberately swerving into your lane is A) still trying to figure out how the fuck does a replacement Ram Truck wing-mirror cost so much and B) living in unparalleled obsession looking for you, unawares that you live 30 miles apart. Of course the way you disappeared into the traffic at light speed didn’t help restore his fragile manhood. Ah, you crazy kids.

Now let’s just a have a quick little look-see inside those panniers. Oooh, a dog-eared copy of Geek Love. Impressive. Some edibles. You naughty boy. Two cans of Monster. Predictable. Ancient Blockbuster Video card. Weird. Guannnic beanie. Whatever. Davek mini umbrella. Pourquoi? Tire repair kit. Good luck with that. Joni Mitchell’s Hejira – on 8-track. Hipster mogul. A Wexler’s Deli menu. What? No DoorDash?!

A font of style. (Credit: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty Images)

Now remember, the shittier the helmet, the cooler the shades. Get online and find yourself a racked pair of Louis Vuitton sunglasses; ones that would look hip on your girlfriend. Also, upgrade to a Breton shirt. Hell, then smoke enough skunk so you won’t know whether you’re at the Electric or the Trevi fountain. Given how compact your world is, that two and a quarter gallon gas tank should easily carry you for about two weeks. Or get you from Silver Lake to Tijuana in one hit. Either way, it’s rubber side down, shiny side up, bugs in the teeth. 

Bike: Vespa GTS Super 300 HPE
Song: The War On Drugs’ “Thinking Of A Place”

The first time you slid your serpentine ass into those Alpinestars one-piece fusion leathers, you practically got a hardon checking out your reflection. And for good reason. Dragging yourself out to the California SuperBike School has more than paid off. Endless hours of tearing into bends with those hyper-extended skate wheels jutting out from the lean bike gave you that confidence you always knew you were going to attain. You might not be breaking Márquez’s heartstopping 68 degree lean, but you’re getting damn close.

As for that video of you tearing through those four guys in the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca in 2022—over four million views on TikTok and YouTube, with hundreds of comments likening you to the Doctor 46 and Stoner 27. The guys at the track are right; you deserve a little bit more than a free set of Pirelli slicks and tire warmers, but you’re not in it for anything but the thrill of racing.

Deus est machina. Pravesh Batra poses with his Suzuki Hayabusa in New Delhi. (Credit: Money Sharma/AFP via Getty Images)

That’s why you’re off to Italy in July. Ten days of winding your way through the alps, averaging a couple of hundred miles a day. Sure, you might sneak a peak at Mont Blanc and check out Juliet’s fake balcony in Verona, but it’s day seven that you’re anticipating the most. The legendary Stelvio Pass, with its 48 hairpin turns, will be when you really know the hook is in you. Focus baby, and don’t do any of that poodling around with your left hand on your hip nonsense here. Forza!

Bike: Suzuki Hayabusa
Song: Black Box’s “Ride On Time”