Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2010 Harley-Davidson Tri-Glide Ultra Classic

2010 Harley-Davidson Tri-Glide Ultra Classic - front view - copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell

The first thing I noticed about the trike was that it was backed into the parking spot.

Readers may know that I am not that into Harleys, but even at ten paces this struck me as an unusual machine. For one thing, it seemed all Harley, front to back. Every other three-wheel H-D I have seen was an after-market affair, but this bike’s running gear and bodywork looked seamless, and Harley-Davidson badges and etchings outnumbered the U.S. Marine Corp insignias.

2010 Harley-Davidson Tri-Glide Ultra Classic - engine detail with Marine insignia - copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell

After giving it the once over, but leaving my camera in the car, I entered Black Canyon to complete my original mission. Coffee. Walking towards the counter, I saw Dennis sitting alone at a table reading the paper. I knew the Harley had to belong to him, because printed across his chest, his T-shirt read “got freedom?”

(This is a game I like to play by myself – or sometime with others. When you walk into a smaller restaurant or coffee shop, and you notice an unusual vehicle in the lot – try to identify the owner of said machine. I am usually pretty good at it, although it can be tricky.)

2010 Harley-Davidson Tri-Glide Ultra Classic - instruments - copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell

“Yep, that’s mine” Dennis told me. Dennis confirmed that his bike came right from the H-D factory with all three wheels, and, yes, it does have a reverse gear. He’s had it about a month and has logged some 1,300 miles, hurrying to get it through its break-in process. He’s trailering the bike down to Tennessee soon to meet some friends and ride the infamous “Tail of the Dragon”, a tangle of a road that has 318 corners in just 11 miles.

2010 Harley-Davidson Tri-Glide Ultra Classic - rear view - copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell

Out in the parking lot, I asked Dennis about three-wheeling vs. two-wheeling. He admitted that “You lose the freedom of the road – that’s what I call it…”, as he grabbed imaginary handlebars, and tilted at his hips - one way then the other. “With this, instead of leaning, you use your arms to steer.”

But Dennis praised the handling and comfort of the three-wheel ride, and added that his wife really liked the feeling of stability. And being able to control the radio from the back seat.

2010 Harley-Davidson Tri-Glide Ultra Classic - Dennis - copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell

2010 Harley-Davidson Tri-Glide Ultra Classic - U.S. flag reflected in chrome - copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell

I urged Dennis to take it easy on the Dragon’s Tail, three wheels or not, and he climbed aboard his Tri-Glide, released the parking brake and took off, flags flying.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

London - Brabus smart roadster

Brabus smart roadster detail - copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell

This little car had me baffled. It clearly said “Brabus” on its hind end, but I only knew Brabus as the most radical tuner of Mercedes-Benzes. Producers of insanely powerful versions of large Benz cars with outrageous aerodynamics (fender skirts!) and equally excessive price stickers.

You may be aware that Daimler AG, parent company of M-B also owns smart, the maker of the diminutive, smart “fortwo” coupe which is quite popular in Europe and made its way to our shores just a couple of years back.

Besides the fortwo, smart (all smart brand names are not capitalized except when grammatically required) makes, or has made, several other models for sale in Europe and Japan. (Including the ludicrously named forfour – a four door sedan.)

This tiny roadster is a smart car, and that makes it part of the Daimler family, and that makes it fair game for Brabus. From 2003 or 2004, Brabus smart roadsters and coupes were built in limited numbers until the demise of the standard smart roadster in 2005.

Built in the spirit of Triumph and MG, it looks like a blast to drive.

Brabus smart roadster - copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell

All words and images copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dublin - Volvo “Articulated Lorry”

Volvo Guinness truck - Dublin, Ireland, copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell

As I mentioned in my previous post, my wife, a couple of dear friends, and I just returned from a short trip in which we made our way from France to Ireland, via London. My fascination with motorized vehicles of all sorts was stoked continuously with the sight of all sorts of cars, trucks and two and three-wheeled machines that you don’t just see over here.

In contrast to the soft, romantic lines of the tiny Vespa scooter I shot on a Paris sidewalk and published here a couple of days ago, I present this Volvo semi tractor (“articulated lorry”) slumbering with three wheels on a sidewalk on a gritty side street in Dublin.

Obviously, the Guinness livery drew me to this particular rig. I am hardly an expert on semis (or “artics”), but I was compelled to do a little research and found that these “cab over” Volvo trucks are not sold here in the U.S. They’re used in European countries because it’s easier to maneuver them through the narrow city streets. Volvo trucks are sold here, but only what the Brits call an “American cab”, where the driver sits behind the engine and its phalanx-like hood.

(This comes under the almost-certainly-more-than-you-might-want-to-know category, but have you ever wondered why you see trucks with wheels that are not touching the road, like the middle ones on this truck? It’s called a lift axle -those four wheels can be raised when loads are light to save tire wear and fuel, and must be lowered when the truck is fully loaded to distribute the weight on the road and for increased traction. Also, notice the adjustable wind deflector on the roof, which should be down without a trailer and up when one is attached.)

(If for any strange reason you find yourself becoming fascinated by trucks of the U.K., you must set your browser to this site: BigLorryBlog. Yes, it’s a British blog about diesel-powered trucks. Enjoy!)

I was struck that virtually every semi tractor I saw in Ireland was equipped with enough candlepower across its roof to melt Irish crystal at a kilometer away. I never did any driving through the countryside after dark, but these things must look like flaming dragons flying over the hills and into the deep green valleys.

All words and images copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell

Friday, September 18, 2009

On the (Wrong Side of the) Road

Vespa scooter in Paris copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell

I have recently had the pleasure of visiting Europe for the first time. I traveled to France, England and Ireland in a trip I have dreamed of for years.

To me, cars have always expressed their nationalities the same way that books, movies and art do. Only the French could have designed the Citroen 2CV, and a Morgan says “Great Britain” as clearly as Big Ben’s chimes.

(Remember the term “foreign car”?)

In recent decades, of course, auto manufacturers have gone multinational, and most vehicles have had their idiosyncrasies wrung out in order to maximize their potential markets, which is a shame, in my opinion.

That being said, there are still a lot of cars on the streets in Europe that you do not see here in the U.S., and I enjoyed looking at the Citroen Picassos and Peugeot Bippers, Fiat 500s and Skoda Yetis, and varieties of Ford products that will soon be coming here to the States.

My three traveling companions share my obsession with motor vehicles to varying degrees. One, not all. My wife, understanding of my condition. The last, to a fair degree. However, none was anxious to spend many minutes of our two week journey walking around cars looking for a great angle, trying to compose a photo so that it would include objects that would reflect the place where the picture was made, or accosting complete strangers to interview them about their interesting cars, tiny trucks, vintage motorcycles or cab-enclosed scooters.

So, these cars, trucks and bikes were shot while on the move, “snapshots” in the true sense of that expression, without much compositional thought beyond the automatic, and will have to speak through my commentary, as their owners were not sought out or accosted.

Anyway, from time to time I will be posting some of my photos of interesting vehicles I encountered on my journey, starting in France with this classic old Vespa scooter, which simply purrs “Paris”.

All words and images copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell