Many things in life are determined by the dimensions of one’s bodily appendages. Sometimes this results in pleasure, at others in pain. For my sins I am a larger-than-average gent who has experienced many examples of the perils of living at the outer reaches of the population bell curve. Big feet, big shoes. Big hands, big gloves. Big head, big helmet. You get the picture.
Average-size people have absolutely no idea of the challenges and anxieties faced by folks with abstract or abstruse dimensions. The world is their oyster. It beats a path to their doors. They are festooned with rich product offerings and choices. Bastards.
Against this background of impending disappointment I made a decision that if I could acquire a helmet that fitted, I would take that as A Sign.
I wandered into a local motorcycle store and enquired about helmets. A willing salesperson soon discovered that sizes like “large” and “extra large” were anything but. Undeterred, he said that “one of the mechanics out the back” had a large cranium and borrowed that person’s lid for me to try on. It fitted. Snugly, but at least I could get my ears inside, a task not possible with anything else I had tried previously.
He ordered a new one for me. Thanks Craig. It’s all your fault.
If one has a 64cm cranium, there are two manufacturers who make a full-face helmet that fits that size: Shoei and HJC. New Zealand distributors only stock these in black. Unsurprising, given that they probably only sell two a year. Orbiting moons are an optional extra.
From that moment, I got excited. Enquiries were made about class 6 licensing requirements and basic handling skills training. An interest in 250cc motorcycles was also spurred.
For many years New Zealanders have been ripped off in the 250cc motorcycle market. Choice of new machines has been limited and pricey, but the biggest rip-offs have been in the second-hand market. 20-year-old machines sold for ridiculously exorbitant prices when compared to their larger capacity siblings.
In 2003 there was a motorcycle business in Lower Hutt called Motorcycle City. They sold a lot of “grey import” machines, usually from Japan with lowish mileages and in reasonable condition. I bought a Yamaha FZX250 Zeal from them with just over 6,000km on its clock. My Beloved acquired her first two machines from them: an original Honda CB100 that had travelled less than 12,000 miles and, a couple of weeks later, a Kawasaki EL250 Eliminator.
The summer of 2003 had some amazingly good weather, particularly at weekends, so we went riding. A lot. In our nine months of restricted licenses, we clocked up 17,500km on our 250s. We took them to Nelson, and around East Cape. In that period we rode them in every condition imaginable, with the exception of snow. We learned a lot, including how to travel lightly and keep the weather at bay.
With great excitement we celebrated our transition to full class 6 licenses by buying a grown-up bike each, in this context, machines larger than the 250cc maximum imposed on learner riders before LAMS standards were passed into law.
I had spotted mine in the Honda dealership at Bay View near Napier when we had passed through a few weeks earlier on our odyssey around East Cape. It was a Kawasaki ZRX1200R. It was gorgeous, and still is. I was smitten.
Beloved also knows about life on the outer reaches of the population bell curve. She stands 158cm bolt upright. This means that motorcycle seat height becomes an important dimension if a shorter rider desires to touch the ground with both feet. In the absence of seat, suspension and shoes modifications, this limits the choice to cruiser motorcycles.
After struggling to get motorcycle shops in Wellington to take an interest in selling her a brand new machine, Beloved acquired her new ride from the then Suzuki dealer in Palmerston North. A Suzuki VZ800 Marauder. Her first of two. She rode her trusty learner Eliminator to Palmerston North, test rode and then procured her new ride, which she then rode to Napier. I flew directly to Napier from Wellington. The following morning we pillioned to Bay View so I could uplift my new steed.
The rest is history.
In the following 10 years we’ve knocked off over a quarter of a million kilometers on several different machines. Each. We’ve ridden in three foreign countries. We’ve made some great friends and seen and done some amazing things. Both of us have cheated death, at least once. Registration and fuel costs have increased dramatically. A large number of tyres have been worn out. We still love riding motorcycles.
This journey started in January 2003. We celebrated our first decade on two wheels in an appropriate manner. We went for a long ride.