Feelin’ the power!

Ah…breathe in that fresh April air. The spring season is upon us and with it comes a cavalcade of scents produced by blooming flowers, freshly mown grass and trees with new leaves.

Ah…breathe in that fresh April air. The spring season is upon us and with it comes a cavalcade of scents produced by blooming flowers, freshly mown grass and trees with new leaves.

Of course, the only smell that really matters is the high-octane fuel being burned inside your 1000cc of raw power! Yes sir, for the delightful chum in the slow lane, spring might be coming up roses, but for the motorcycle enthusiast, spring is that sacred time of the year when it’s just dry enough to ride and not quite hot enough to make you sweat inside your leathers.

Motorcycles come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from casual cruising to top-gear track racing. The most common type of motorcycle you see outside a pool hall or a leather bar is called a cruising bike. Popular cruisers include bikes made by Harley Davidson, Triumph and BMW.

If you’ve watched the American Chopper show, the bikes they make are called, well, “choppers,” so named for the nefarious Hell’s Angels who would steal–or “chop”–their engine and body pieces from other bikes to build their own iron steed. The goal of a chopper isn’t typically performance or practicality, but rather to look gnarly and sound louder than 30,000 Marines at Iwo Jima.

Choppers and cruisers make up most of the motorcycle market, though in recent years they’ve become less of a reason to ride and more a starting point. Modern riders will use a cruiser to pass the motorcycle endorsement test and secure their rights to own a bike, and then they’ll rush to the nearest motorcycle dealer and hungrily eyeball the rows of shiny, sleek sport bikes.

Sport bikes are a class of motorcycle tuned for performance and agility rather than prowess or a bar-brawler image. Sport bikes are primarily made by international manufacturers, with Japanese companies like Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki leading the import market. European manufacturers are among the most revered names in the sport bike world, including names like Ducati, Aprilia and Moto Guzzi.

There are a few different methods of classifying sport bikes. The most common method of consideration is the engine size, measured in cubic centimeters (cc). Sport bikes generally have engines sized greater than 450cc, and the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) limits the sport bike class to 600cc for bikes with four cylinders and 750cc for twin cylinder bikes. The number of engine cylinders is crucial in balancing weight with power output, and the AMA limitations define the supersport class.

The “super” part of that word derives from the next class up, known as superbikes. These beastly steeds have engines sized between 800 and 1100cc, and are meant for one thing: going fast enough to make you piss yourself. Superbikes generally weigh around 400 pounds and are known to produce as much as 140 horsepower. That translates to getting from a stopped position to 60 miles per hour in less than four seconds, with experienced riders able to turn a quarter mile in under 10 seconds.

As insane as that sounds, there is yet another class called hyper bikes. These things are idiotically powerful, boasting engines as large as 1300cc and capable of speeds as high as 180 miles per hour. This class of bike is not one that can be bought fresh after passing an endorsement test and there are very few production models that are street legal.

If you’re really interested in finding a hyper bike that can easily outrun cops and get you from Portland to Eugene in 45 minutes, look into the Suzuki Hayabusa. This bike is so stupidly fast that Suzuki had to start installing speed restrictors on the engines a few years back, limiting the bike to a still excessive 186 miles per hour.

It’s important to note that making it to Eugene in under an hour would require zero traffic, perfectly dry roads and a damn good rider. Oregon is host to some of the best rides in the Pacific Northwest, among them the many flat, straight stretches of Interstate 5 and the delightfully gripping curves between Bend and Salem on Highways 22 and 20. However, the Highway 26 route to Oregon’s beaches, also called Sunset Highway, is arguably the best ride on the west coast.

If you want to experience sublime riding, get your bike tuned up and fully gassed one night and set the alarm for 5:00 a.m. Wake up and suit up in your leathers and helmet, hop on your bike and get to any Sunset exit between Portland and Hillsboro, going slow and letting your bike warm up a bit. Once you get past North Plains and any risky traffic, pick up the pace and get comfortable at a speed that you wouldn’t dare try in the city. It’ll be about sunrise when you get through Banks and now is when you really screw it on, being mindful of the law as you enter three-digit speeds.

Soon enough, the sun will have broken above the horizon and you’ll be about ten minutes from Seaside. The crisp, clean morning air will be waiting for you as you gulp in an exhilarated lungful and shut off your bike. Climb off that sexy machine and stroll to the boardwalk, pick yourself up a few Pronto Pups and watch the seagulls gather in the sand, knowing that you can make it back to Portland by lunch with ease.

Spring is a great season to ride and it doesn’t stop there: the world-class racing of Moto GP, the world-premier superbike racing group, comes to the Laguna Seca Raceway July 20-22, the only American Moto GP race. Tickets are already sold out, but you can see the godlike precision and sheer power of the best riders in the world on ESPN and the SPEED Channel as they race along the most precarious track in the country.

Laguna Seca is known for the many altitude changes it puts riders through who are used to flat tracks and jamming it full throttle the whole way. American riders like Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards get an advantage here as they sprint through the infamous Laguna corkscrew. This aptly named stretch is a quick series of hairpin turns during a rapid 30-foot drop and even bicycle racers hate this thing because it happens so quickly.

Yes, motorcycles are plenty of fun and a whole lot of power to stick between your legs. If you ride, do what you can to be safe and for fuck’s sake, ride within your limits. Motorcycles can kill you before you even realize you’ve hit something or gone flying from your seat.

Take a few riding classes and get used to the thrill before mashing a sport bike into sixth gear, and once you know what you’re doing, take a cruise down I-5 and look for a stationary cop using a radar to catch speeders. Roll up to him, stop, look at him and flip him off. Then just leave–you can pull that off with two wheels and reckless abandon. Besides, they’ll never catch you with their silly radios and if you’re lucky, they’ll call out a helicopter and you’ll end up on the nightly news as the next Evil Knievel. Happy riding!