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Common Tread

What's your motorcycle's GCF rating?

May 10, 2014

Ever get caught looking? You know you're busted when it's more than just a glance... you were staring. Your faithful partner might understand, but she might also slap you for what you are thinking. Perhaps it was your past unfettered behavior that spurred the smacking, or maybe something you said with a dreamy voice like, "I used to have one like that... man, I wish I'd never let her go."

I am of course talking about a machine, and GCF. The acronym is an abbreviation for “Garage Contemplation Factor.” It is that indescribable allure of an inanimate object, be it antique drill press or motorcycle, that makes its image stick in our mind’s eye. Even with a garage full, we want one more. Guys have been known to spend the grocery money on a whim, for a gadget that slips underneath their skin like a dolphin into a swimming pool. Once the thought is entertained, the motion is as unstoppable as a charging rhino. Who could blame a man for this weakness? And the transgression is not limited to men. Women too are kicking back with a glass of Chardonnay and staring unabashedly at their machines.

Many motorcycles rating high on the GCF scale are the ones we wish we had bought way back when, or the ones we wish we’d never let slip from our grasp. I once met a man who told me about his old ’69 BSA 650 Lightning. He spoke of it with great fondness, stars in his eyes. When I asked him why he sold it, I was stunned by his answer.

“I didn’t. It’s in the shed out back. Wanna see it?” In that moment he became the smartest man I had ever known. All the way home I suffered apparitions of the 100 or so bikes I have bought and sold over the years. I must confess there were some I should never have purchased, like the 1971 Kawasaki 350 Bighorn that seized a dozen pistons during the six months I owned it, but some just made me sick to think they were gone forever.

My 1974 Yamaha TY250 Cat was a bike I should have kept, and it broke my heart when the first of three 1972 XL250s was stolen. My old 1969 Suzuki TS250 Savage with its gorgeous green tank and polished chrome fenders should have never left the stable, nor my 1970 T500 Titan, but it had to make room for a new Honda CB750F Super Sport, another bike now considered a collector.

But a few current production machines also rate high on the GCF scale, like my BMW R1200GS Adventure. I can sit through a whole Negra Modelo without ever taking my eyes off it. The stout lines of an exposed steel frame, husky boxer motor, and “all business” TKC 80 tires looking to the untrained eye out of place on a 600-pound motorcycle, make this art I love to ogle. And the memories... it has taken me places I have no right to expect a beast of its bulk to travel.

So, what is it about these special manifestations of our psyche that burns their image on the plasma screens of our minds? Maybe it is those unforgettable experiences we had together. But I would submit to you that it is even simpler than that. It is the very thing that caused us to take the plunge in the first place. It is the way they look even more than how they handle or their horsepower. Like with our mate in life, if we are to be honest, isn’t curb appeal really where it all began?

We appreciate the exposed marvels of design that make an engine artwork. Every chassis piece serves a purpose. Each line makes sense and every control is where it belongs. Even the badge identifying the manufacturer has a story to tell, a legacy, whether it be a hawk wing, crossed tuning forks, a bar and shield or a roundel. Knobby tires speak of diversity and capability beyond their street-bound cousins and they make a statement few modern road bikes can match.

Perhaps these are some of the reasons we stare, even sit with our mate, in silence, yet enjoying the communication taking place. If we get slapped, so be it. It was worth the look.