I'm not adventurous and my habit of pre-judging tends to torpedo new experiences. During the past 35 years at Penn State I can probably count on two hands the number of times I have not ordered chocolate ice cream at the world famous Berkey Creamery. I find something I like and I stick to it. And I draw a lot of conclusions from limited information and experience. It explains why my heart sunk last week when Craig Kissell suggested I try the Triumph Street Triple. I don't ride motorcycles like that. I hate that feet back riding position and I'm not interested in a machine that's described as a streetfighter or referenced along with smoking rear tires and sirens. In my head I knew exactly what this bike was and had no interest in riding one. I know what I like and this wasn't it. While my brain scanned Kissell Motorsports for alternative suggestions what came out of my mouth was, "Sure, I'll take it for a ride.".
Despite being narrow minded about choices I am quick to admit when I'm wrong. Not even a mile down the road I was smiling and telling myself that the Triumph Street Triple was fun. The riding position was different and my big clunky Wolverine boots weren't ideal for the shift level but those were merely minor adjustments waiting to be made. Even though it was fun to ride I was uncertain how it would hold up for a longer ride. By the time the motorcycle was parked in the driveway I was making plans for the next morning.
My body isn't as limber as it once was so before departing the next morning I spent 15 minutes stretching my legs and hips to help me adapt to the riding position which is decidedly more restricted than my Vespa. I was skeptical about how far I could ride comfortably. Since the Street Triple placed me in new, transformational territory, I figured I would add another element to the trip --- I would keep photography to a minimum. No frequents stops to look around and explore. This time I would just ride, chew up miles and have fun solely with the motorcycle. And I managed to spend a minimal amount of time on pictures, usually just making a quick shot when I had to stop to stretch or get gas. The ride was a no frills adventure.
Departure time put me on the road just after sunrise on a clear, mild morning. The first stop was just outside of Centre Hall, Pennsylvania to tie my shoe. And make a quick photo. At this point I was intrigued by the engine and transmission performance. The power was smooth, positive and relentless in any of the six gears available. I was able to manage at slow speeds when necessary and a twist of throttle transformed the Triumph into nothing short of a monster on the road. It's clear this motorcycle is made to move fast and hard down the road. The tires seemed to stick to the road and I could see why some riders may succumb to temptation and enter the riding realm of interest to the State Police.
On PA Route 192 east of Livonia I decide to stop and stretch my legs. I've only gone 32 miles but I'm still concerned that I'm suddenly going to cramp up in the still odd to me riding position. While stopped making the picture a young man in a pickup truck slows to inquire if I require assistance. I'm reminded of how often people have stopped to offer help over the years when I am out in the middle of nowhere making pictures. I guess motorcycles and scooters should be moving, especially so far from town. I give him the thumbs up and he returns the gesture and motors on as I continue on my way east towards the Susquehanna River.
My just ride and not take a lot of pictures plan wasn't perfect. I did putt around (if you call moving slow on the Street Triple putting) R.B. Winter State Park a bit and just had to make a photo as we entered the forest with the morning light streaming in. I'm a sucker for these pictures. Besides, it gave me another chance to see the instrument cluster on the Triumph come to life when I turn on the power--- the fuel system pressurizing and a futuristic sweep of blue lights around the tachometer make me smile as the bike says, "lets go.".
I planned to have breakfast at some yet undiscovered diner along the way. I passed several options in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania preferring to keep riding. I finally pulled off the road at a Pennsylvania Fish Commission launch area on the east side of the Susquehanna River. I needed to sit for a few minutes to to sort out some competing noise in my head. Breakfast was loud, fuel was quiet but persistent, and where I was going was just annoying. Undecided I sat on the Triumph looking for a sign of which way to go as two Harley-Davidson Road Kings roared by. While normally oblivious to other motorcycles on the highway save for offering a friendly wave in passing a light flickered in my head and I pulled onto the road in the direction of the Harleys. Working fast through the gears I closed the distance between us quickly and rode behind them until we reached an intersection where I paused to allow them to regain their independence and privacy. It was an unusual action on my part to chase someone down and I can only attribute it to the power available on this machine. As I sat at the intersection I reevaluated my behavior and made a note that I don't have to act on impulses -- especially on the road.
After adding several gallons of premium fuel to the tank I made a decision to follow the river south towards Harrisburg, a route I've not ridden before, and take the ferry across the river at Millersburg. I acted on impulse again, this time to make an unnecessary photograph of the Triumph outside an abandoned factory in Sunbury. It's how I imagine a Triumph, born in the industrial areas of England where red brick is king. A homage to my idea of a streetfighter.
Another picture, another required stop. This time to replace my gloves for a lighter, cooler, mesh pair of Triumph gloves. With absolutely no luggage space on the Street Triple I carry everything in my pockets -- camera, notebook, pen, extra gloves, cell phone, wallet, and extra ear plugs. Looking down the road at the absence of traffic I am again struck by thoughts of increasing speed. I've reached the breakin mileage point where I can add another 1000 rpms. Then I remember all the deer crossing signs I've passed and the knowledge that Pennsylvania holds the North American record for vehicle deer strikes. As pretty as Bambi is I don't want to run into her. Or him. Managing risk I continue on my way at legal speeds. And still smiling. Any objections I had about this motorcycle have evaporated and I am just enjoying the ride.
No excuses. I just wanted to make a picture. At this point I had ridden almost 90 miles and no longer had any concerns about riding position or seat comfort. Check and check. And I was losing a bit of my will to not make pictures. The photographer in me remains stronger than the rider. So I needed to look at the old Conrail car that someone had gone to the trouble of placing on their property. Couldn't figure out why they would go to such lengths to get it there and then let it decay. Photographically though it was a fine subject.
It was only 8 more miles to Millersburg and the Millersburg Ferry, the only remaining paddle wheel ferry crossing the river. The last time I made use of it was in the 1980s while working on a documentary film about water. On this day the ride across would be purely for pleasure.
The ferry sits along the shore at the bottom of a step dirt drive. I was hoping that the boat would be on my side of the river so I wouldn't have to wait too long to cross. All hope was dashed for a quick crossing when I pulled up and saw a hand written note "Not Working Today". I suppose I should be grateful. The deck looked a little more rickety than I remember and certainly was uneven to park a motorcycle. That sign saved me the unpleasant phone call to Craig Kissell, "You'll never guess where your brand new Triumph is. In the Susquehanna River. Yeah, that's right, the Susquehanna. Can I still have the Scrambler???".
Looking down river towards Harrisburg and the closest bridge at Clarks Ferry I had to make a decision of whether to head south or turn back and go the way I came. Without a map handy I chose to continue south to what had to be a closer crossing. The ferry would have to wait for another day.
Traffic increased as I traveled south and my stomach was making more frequent reminders about breakfast. Without the ferry crossing my time table was a wreck and I wanted to be home before 1pm. The next day was my daughter's wedding and I had some things to think about. So I abandoned plans for a sit down hearty breakfast and opted for the continental cuisine of a Sheetz cheese dog and a bottle of water. Enough fuel for me to get home.
If I had more time I would have chosen a leisurely route home to site see and make more pictures. With the press of time and schedule I chose to follow US Route 322 and see how the Street Triple performed on the 70 mile trip home. The route would provide a limited access busy highway for all but about 7 miles of the trip. While the bike had no problems flowing along with traffic it certainly wasn't at its best being buffeted about with neither fairing or windshield to help diffuse the air disruptions of a steady stream of eighteen wheelers on the road. The bike held it's own but the combination of wind and turbulence demanded a lot of attention at times. It was nice to know that a twist of the throttle would leap the bike forward and beyond things if required.
When I got home I had put just under 200 miles on the Triumph Street Triple, a machine that 24 hours earlier I had no interest in at all. It was a minor transformation and another lesson learned on the road, this one about judging books by their covers. The Street Triple obviously has the power and design to live up to its streetfighter reputation. But I found that it is just as accommodating to a non-streetfighting rider. And it is fun, really fun to ride. It may not be the all-around bike for my daily riding requirements but it may be for someone else who has no interest in farm lanes and forest roads. On the street, it's in its element.