Gentleman’s Express

Gentleman's Express                

Weather: Sunny this morning, above freezing. Rain tonight.

All the ice is gone from the roads now. In it’s place are patches of salty sand which, if you’re not paying attention, can still put you on the ground. It’s kind of like riding over tiny ball bearings. But if you stay in the wheel tracks of the endless parade of cages, it’s usually not a problem.

I’ve been riding the Black Baron 250PM for the past five days. It is quite a change from the Red Baron. The extra 100cc’s mean that I can keep up with traffic on the highways within the city.

60 – 65 mph is sustainable, and actually quite pleasant. Since he is still under break-in restrictions, we are not doing any top-speed or sustained full-throttle runs yet. But I like the way he accelerates, and I don’t have to watch the rearview mirrors with the same intensity anymore. Now I am scanning forward for cops, hidden in radar traps. Standard operating procedure…

Which probably saved me some money tonight, on the way home from work. The Black Baron and I crested a hill on West River Road, and came upon a Minneapolis squad car parked on the grass, facing traffic in the right lane. This is a new “hide” for them. Normally, they don’t drive on the grass, as this is city parkland.

Nevertheless, there he was.

As soon as I saw the lightbar over there on the right, I was grabbing brakes. We weren’t speeding a lot, but we were a bit above the limit. The Black Baron has hydraulic disc brakes front and rear, and we were legal by the time Johnny Law could draw a bead on us. Yup, Spring is here, and the games have begun.

East River Road, on the Saint Paul side of the river, has many interesting curves. I quickly found the limits of the Black Baron’s lean angle there. The centerstand is the first thing to touch down on either side, and it doesn’t take much. I heard the sound of metal-on-tarmac several times as we hustled through my favorite sections. I was feeling kind of sporty tonight.

But the Black Baron isn’t really a sporty scooter. He is more of a Gentleman’s Express. If you do some research on that term, you will find that there have been several motorcycles and some other vehicles throughout history that have worn that sobriquet.

Fast in a straight line, with civilized handling, but not well suited for hooligan antics. This is more of a dignified, comfortable ride. When operated in that fashion, the Black Baron shines. I’m thinking we might have looked a bit silly tonight, throwing sparks from the centerstand as we negotiated the Ford chicane. No matter. Inside my helmet I was wearing an ear-to-ear grin. Just another night, having fun on a motorbike. What a tough life…

It is supposed to rain most of the day tomorrow. I’m struggling with whether or not to ride. This is not my scooter. It is a development mule. Does that mean I’m supposed to knowingly subject it to a saltwater bath, to see which parts corrode overnight? That wasn’t covered in my mission briefing. The cage is running alright, and I can certainly use that. But I have developed a serious aversion to driving, especially since proving that I can ride in almost any weather.

The soothing tones of Comcast’s Weatherscan channel are playing in my ear as I type this. I see a strong storm system heading our way on the radar, but it has quite a few gaps in it. Maybe we’ll get lucky, and enjoy a dry commute in the morning. It doesn’t matter if it rains on the way home. Man, I sure don’t want to drive…

Guess I’d better sleep on it.


10 Responses to “Gentleman’s Express”

  1. James Says:

    I just added you to the motorcycle blog aggregator. Keep posting, we don’t get a whole lot of scooter posts.

  2. Dan Jones Says:

    Hey Gary…

    Sure was a pleasure getting to meet you at Baron HQ today. I was in to pick up the Black Baron’s brother, Hiyo, short for Hiyo Silver. When I turned around and saw the Black Baron with a guy leaning over him, I realized it must be you and sure enough it was.

    I’m glad to hear that the Black Baron is doing well. Your description of it as a Gentleman’s Express is right on the button and that’s exactly what I had in mind for this scooter. Trips to the fitness center, small shopping trips, and general errands will be the bread and butter mission for Hiyo with the occasional long cruise so he can stretch his legs and have some fun.

    It would have been fun to cruise around with you for a while but, this being our first date, I wanted to have a little private time with Hiyo to get acquainted. I’m glad I ended up with the 250cc instead of the 150. This scooter takes off briskly at the green light and has a nice feel to it. The weight is substantial and yet I can still flick it around with a butt twitch. The stiff breeze coming off Parker’s Lake did not have as much impact as I thought it would considering that these scooters have a fairly large side profile. I’m looking forward to some fun cruising on this new toy after the break-in period.

    Ride safe and keep on writin’
    Dan Jones

  3. Tiff Says:

    Another possibly appropriate phrase is “Grand Tourer”. Kinda like an BMW R1200 vs a Suzuki GSXR, or Aston Martin vs a Ferrari. The red car is better to drive round a track at 10/10ths, but the the (racing) green one will be much more pleasant over a long journey. Astons are the cars for which the GT badge was invented……

  4. Gary Charpentier Says:

    James, thanks for the consideration. Folks, you should check out his site. It is a veritable clearing house for moto-related web content.

    Dan, it was nice to finally meet you. We will have to get together for a ride sometime. Maybe when Baron holds their open house?

    Tiff, yes, I like the Aston Martin analogy. The Black Baron does have a certain James Bond aura about it. I keep imagining where I would install the pop-up rocket launcher and machine guns. They also have a prototype 250SX in the shop, which has the 250 engine in a Red Baron style chassis. Now THAT would be sporty! I can’t wait to road test that one.
    There’s your Ferrari analogue.

    Ride well,

  5. Tom Burull Says:

    Keep up the great site Gary. Sorry to hear you didn’t get a call from Cycle World, but your style is more “Motorcycle Consumer News” – don’t you think?

    Ride Safe and have fun,

    PS: Dan Jones, great name for a bike. My wife called mine Silver after the Lone Ranger’s ride. But, I never really got into the name until your comments to Gary. Hiyo! Great name! I’d like to use it for my bike, if it’s alright with you.

  6. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Tom, I really wouldn’t know. I can’t just pick up MCN off the magazine rack, and I don’t think they have much content on the web. So I’ve never really read them.

    I suppose I should subscribe one of these days, but that gawdawful title! I am not a “consumer” of motorcycles. At least I don’t like to think of myself as one. I am a rider, a caretaker, a collector, a restorer, a customizer… anything but a consumer. The connection is much deeper than just a man and his property.

    Heck, there’s enough material here for a long blog entry. Maybe I will tackle that one of these days. Thanks for giving me food for thought.

    Ride well,

  7. Dan Says:

    Gary, just wanted to let you know I read the blog every day now, the Black Baron looks awesome! My Riva 125 is adequate for my 12 mile each way commute, but sometimes a little more would be nice, like your new ride.I have always equated motorcycles to women, they are all beautiful in their own way, and you wish you could have them all. Dan

  8. Dan Jones Says:

    Tom Burull: Be my guest.

    Gary and all: I think every bike needs a name. Even my bicycles have names. Some of us have very strong ties to our machines. They can be as demanding, temperamental, and high maintenance as any significant other. Thank goodness, they can also be exciting, enjoyable, and provide memories that can last a lifetime.

    Dan Jones

  9. irondad Says:

    I agree that we are not consumers of bikes. I am more of a Devotee. Or, dare I say it: a man/machine type cyborg. My human soul and the bike’s mechanical soul combine in a synergy to make a complete being. Apart neither of us is whole.

    MCN probably used the “consumer” from Consumer Reports. That seems to be their intent since they switched over. They could condense the magazine to about a third of the content and it would be perfect for me. Have you actually seen the web site?

    They have some articles available on pdf’s. There’s a good forum if you sift through the written word loudmouths and those who espouse upon that which they know nothing.

    Miles and smiles


  10. Tom Burull Says:

    Thanks Dan. Hiyo it is!!!

    Ride Safe and Have Fun,