Bikes we love

What I want: Triumph Speedmaster

Me likey.

I started saving money for a motorcycle at the start of the year; thus far I’ve managed to set aside £303. At this rate, I will be able to afford a brand new Triumph Speedmaster in about eight years. But hey, a fella can dream (1).

The Speedmaster didn’t used to be on my wish list of bikes. A few months ago, before I ever threw a leg over a bike, I would stare wantonly at the pictures of machines on Triumph’s website. The America caught most of my attention early on, but somehow the Speedmaster got overlooked. Perhaps because I couldn’t quite tell the two bikes apart. Triumph’s website has a feature that allows you to do side-by-side comparisons of its bikes. Put the America and the Speedmaster next to each other and they are almost exactly the same motorcycle: same engine, same seat height, same weight, same frame, same base price, and so on.
What differences exist are extremely subtle and purely cosmetic. The America seems to have a bit more chrome and a bigger front mudguard. The Speedmaster is 0.3 inches shorter (though this doesn’t affect seat height) and comes with a tachometer. I suppose I made the America the object of my affection solely for the name. America!

But a few weeks ago I happened to be in Bristol for a job interview. The weather was unusually sunny and I was feeling optimistic. I dig Bristol and hope to move there within the next year or so. This job seemed the perfect fit for me: something I wanted to do in the place I wanted to be. In the immediate term, though, I knew it would require a daily commute from Cardiff to Bristol. Which, of course, was not something I saw as a drawback.

The job would have added roughly £12,000 a year to my earnings, plenty to buy a bike upon which I could happily commute to Bristol each day –– filtering through traffic and gleefully taking advantage of the fact that motorcycles are exempt from the Severn Bridge toll. This was a thought that buzzed in my head as I prepared for the interview, a happy wonderful background melody that highlighted the days beforehand and the day itself.

I would describe my gait as nothing less than jaunty as I walked along Portwall Lane on the day of my interview. Suddenly I saw, gleaming in the sun, the most beautiful red… thing… I had ever seen.

“What is that?” I asked myself aloud.

I have notoriously bad spatial relations, so I have been known to struggle to connect a thing’s actual form with pictures of said thing. Though I had almost certainly seen pictures of a Speedmaster and had salivated over its almost identical twin, the America, the bike in the flesh looked utterly foreign. As I got closer and closer I tried to convince myself it was a Harley 883, despite knowing from the engine that it was not.

Finally I was able to read the writing on the bike. A Speedmaster. Great googly moogly what a beautiful bike. I mean, oh, wow. It looks cool, it looks manageable. I would look the bee’s muthhuggin knees on that thing. It’s got that big, comfy seat –– you could sit on that all day long. This, I decided, was a sign. This was the Baby Jesus blinding Saul on the way to Damascus. This beautiful, red piece of British-made sex had been placed on my route to a job interview to inspire me, to let me know what awaited me. I knew –– knew, did not think, did not feel, did not hope, but knew –– that purchase of a Speedmaster would be my first act upon being accepted for the job.

And I’ll tell you, amigos, I knocked that interview out of the park. In the presentation I was required to give I needed no notes, I moved effortlessly along and made jokes with my interviewers. At one point an interviewer was following my chain of thought like the newly converted: “Yeah,” he shouted. “Yeah, that’s exactly what we’re hoping to build here! That is brilliant.”

After the interview I walked again down Portwall Lane and the Speedmaster was still there, shining in the early spring sun.

“You did well,” she seemed to say. “I’ll see you soon.”

Two days later, a letter arrived in the post. It thanked me for attending the interview and informed that, unfortunately, I had been unsuccessful.

The call of the Speedmaster, though, still lingers. I go back and forth on all the bikes I’d like, with the Bonneville often winning the day. But the Speedmaster keeps singing to me. Maybe one day I’ll be able to answer her.

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(1) And I’m unlikely to buy a brand new bike, anyway.