This past Sunday was the inaugural Distinguished Gentleman’s ride. I was perusing Craig’s list a few weeks ago and saw that there was a local contingent for the ride right here in Rochester, NY. The premise of this worldwide event is to get dressed in your best clothes to be “distinguished” while riding your vintage or home built motorcycle around the city with like-minded people.
I have a bike that I call Purple Rain. It is a 1979 Yamaha XS650 Special. I purchased this thing for the Ozark Mountain Scramble that happened earlier this year in Arkansas. I figured this would fit in with the vintage part of the ride as it is 33 years old.
The distinguished part I thought was going to be a little harder. I have a saying as I am always wrenching and tinkering with machinery and other greasy things that “Just because I am a scumbag that does not mean I have to look like one.” With this in mind I went to the thrift store to get my ensemble for the ride. I started in the business suit section of the store and everything looked too ordinary to be classified as “distinguished”. So I went in search of the most “distinguished” look I could find. All that kept popping up in my head when I said Distinguished Gentleman to myself was 19th century England and Sherlock Holmes. On through the throngs of giveaway garments at the goodwill store. I went looking for that period correct look I was going for. What we found was this hideous tan hound’s tooth sport coat with complementary pants and a turtleneck shirt to finish off the set. This is a quite a departure from my norm of blue jeans and black t-shirts. All this glamour was a measly $13.98 including tax. OK, enough with the attire description and on with the ride.
The weather was a bit sketchy for a motorcycle event as they were calling for temps in the low 40’s and rain. The ride organizers posted rain or shine we would ride. I got dressed in my newly acquired wardrobe and headed out. All I got was a sly smirk from my wife as I walked out the door. I felt really strange getting on a motorbike dressed like this. The feeling was like a cross between the Prom and Halloween with the anxiety of what was to come. I donned my helmet and gloves for the 25 mile jaunt to the starting point.
The 25 mile expressway ride to Downtown Rochester was fairly uneventful with the motor on my bike buzzing along at 5 grand the whole way. I made the light at the end of the off ramp and headed down the busy urban surface streets towards my destination. All was going smoothly then all of a sudden the bike quits. You all know when something like this happens a rush of panic comes over you and a series of questions run through your mind is it electrical? Is it mechanical? Is it fuel? I topped off the fuel before I left. I did not hear any clanking as I coasted to the curb. The only thing that was left was electrical. I checked the battery connections and they were tight. I opened the fuse box and the main fuse was burned. I replaced the fuse with a spare that we were carrying along with some basic tools. The lights came on and the bike started. At this point I did not know why it blew the fuse so I put away my tools and headed down the road. One block farther and the bike died again. Damn I thought to myself there must be a short in the wiring somewhere. Keep in mind I am working on my bike on a city street “Distinguishably” dressed. I pulled out the tools again to get at the fuse block. Yes, the main fuse was popped once again. It was time to start tracing wires to see if I could visually see where the problem is. I was about to remove the gas tank and spied the harness that was tucked under a sheet metal cross brace on the frame and the protective sheathing was pulled away. I grabbed this section of wires and noticed a small rub through mark on one of the wire. Bingo! We have found the problem. I installed another main fuse and the bike lit up like a Christmas tree. Once again, I picked up my tools and reassembled the bike and headed down the road.
The starting point was a few miles from my roadside repair spot. I pulled up to the curb in front of the coffee shop that was the designated jump off point. A few bikes were on the curb but no one was milling about so I went inside. I was greeted by a crew of people that were dressed just as goofy as me. I laughed as we exchanged pleasantries. The lot were enjoying hot beverage as they were waiting for the others to gather. As the crowd of bikes enlarged I went outside to see what the others were riding. The majority were on 70’s and 80’s Japanese motorcycles stock and modified. 1 each Norton, Triumph, Ural and Harley were in attendance. There were a few dual sports and Cafe'd bikes also. All told 41 bikes made the start.
The ride was planned as fairly short run through downtown surface roads to an English style Pub as the end destination. As we saddled up to take off the Norton failed to fire. So he pulled out of line to sort out the problem. There was a chase truck to pick up stragglers if needed. Old motorcycles don’t always cooperate with what you want to do. The actual ride went off fairly well with a light drizzle as we started down the streets. The roads were wet but no puddles yet. We toured around the city on streets that I have never been on and areas that I have never been to so that was refreshing for me to see a side of the city I have lived in my whole life from another perspective.
The Pub was an excellent choice for an end stop. They had micro brews and genuine pub food. Also a good gathering place for public speaking and commiserating with new friends. A few awards were given out for different distinguished things. I won the breakdown award for my roadside repairs on the way to the event. All and all I hope I made a few new friends that I will see in the future for more riding and laughs.