Let’s start the new year with a few laughs. I used to write a column called ‘Tales from the Geargrinders’ Arms’ about evenings spent in my ideal pub but sadly I had threats of legal action from the owners of my previous magazine if I continued after parting from them. Anyway, even during this Time of the Plague, I  can still write about having a drink there.

Recently I was sinking a schooner (425ml) of Furphy’s (a beer named after the cast-iron water carts which were made by a firm of that name, but a long way from water) when one of the traditional motorcyclist’s questions came up. Ducati Geoff had bought a not-too-badly flogged Ducati 916 and claimed that his bike was the most beautiful motorcycle ever made.

The Vincent Black Lightning often appears on these lists. This is also the highest-priced motorcycle ever sold at auction.

He wasn’t quite so cocksure after the BMW riders had finished with him. Fortunately, they were distracted by an internal disagreement over the rival claims to fame of the R 90 S and the R 69 S, which resulted in their pummeling each other rather than the unfortunate Geoff.

I could see that some leadership was required, so I said “Hush, children. It is well known that in pub arguments, beauty is in the eye of the beer holder. We need a rational discussion.” I wasn’t watching my back, unfortunately, so the barstool swung by one of the BMW riders came out of nowhere. When I came to, the place was in a state of turmoil with cries of ”Jota!”, “Roller Door!” and “Watch me four square metres!” punctuating the sound of ineffectual drunken punches being landed.

Does the styling of Brough’s Aston Martin AMB 001 work for you?

As they usually do, the fight petered out as the combatants realized they were wasting good drinking time. The bar returned to more or less normal, and not for the first time I blessed the publican’s decision to switch to plastic beer glasses.

“So,” said Ducati Geoff, “so, so… err what? Oh. Everybody agrees that the 916 is the most beautiful bike ever made.”

An undertow of demurring once again developed in answer to that confident assertion.

“You are a moron,” was one of the more coherent responses. “Spiky little things. The Jota! Now there is a beautiful motorcycle…” There didn’t appear to be any other Laverda owners in our little group, so he was soon shouted down. But nobody seemed ready to make common cause with Geoff, either.

“I… I think…” said one little bloke I’d never seen before, “I think you can’t go past the classics. The Harley-Davidson Sturgis is the epitome of everything American in motorcycle design. The blatant blackness, tempered by only the name and a couple of other flashes in orange, makes this a true… a true… wossname. Beautiful. Just beautiful… I’ve got one outside…” He muttered into silence as he took in the wall of incomprehension that his words had raised.

Say what you like about Harleys, but the Sturgis does look good.

There was more of a response to Cracker’s nomination of the Aprilia Moto 6.5, mostly in the form of derisive laughter. Eventually that died down, and you could just hear the Professor saying “…and his citrus juicer doesn’t work either.”

This was clearly going nowhere, or worse. I commandeered the whiteboard that the landlord normally uses to list the names of patrons whose tab is well and truly overdrawn and who therefore risked losing parts of their anatomy, and wrote ‘Ducati 916’ at the top. I said “All right. Names.”

“The Britten.” — “Any Crocker.” – “Yeah? Any Vincent, especially the Black Lightning.” — “Bimota HB4.” – “Ducati 750 SS square case.” – “Kawasaki HP” – “Honda Bol d’Or.” – “Triumph Tiger 100.” – “Honda CX500.” – “BMW K1.” – “Vetter Hurricane.” – “Yamaha DT1.” – “Yamaha DT1? What!?” – “Yeah, what are you putting up?” – “The Munch Mammut.” – “A bloody Munch? With a car engine? Don’t make me laugh…”

Take a Crocker; any Crocker…

I ran out of whiteboard at about two dozen suggestions before the crowd of only a dozen people ran out of suggestions.

“Norton Commando Fastback.” – “That crazy Aston Martin Brough.” — “Suzuki GSX-R750.” – “Which one? Not the slabby.” – “And why not? What have you got?” – “Er, well, what about the Brough Superior?” – “The bike I’m riding right now!”

The argument was still going on after the barmaid had switched off the lights and bidden us good night. As usual, we wandered off in ever-smaller bunches to our homes while the landlord rolled our bikes into the (lockable) beer garden to await our sober return to collect them. Some people never come back. He has a DKW twingle at the back, propped up against the gent’s toilet, that has been there for so long that nobody remembers when it first arrived. Some time around the governorship of Lachlan Macquarie, possibly.

Is the Britten V1000 beautiful, or does it need to grow on you?

Anyway, what do you think is or was the most beautiful motorcycle ever made? Prototypes and concept bikes don’t count. Come on. Surprise me.

(Photos: Factories, QAGOMA, The Bear)

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