Stressed Member By Art Bennett


By Art Bennett

Illustration by Keith Hunwick

It never fails: Squidrider Monthly prints an article saying something like, "Installing Hell's Fire spark plugs netted a gain of almost half a horsepower at redline, and if you don't use 'em, well, it's probably because you're a loser or some kinda sissy." The next day, when I show up to work at my thankless job as a motorcycle mechanic, half a dozen customers are already waiting in line, waving copies of Squidrider and demanding a plug change now. No amount of reasoning can get through to these trend slaves. If it's in print, on TV or on the 'Net, then it must be true seems to be their battle cry. "Look, your bike's plugs are just fine," I pointed out to one of them, "but your tires are balder than the Governor of Minnesota." "Don't mess with my head, dude," he retorted. "Squidrider says that Hell's Fire spark plugs have 69% more sex appeal than other brands. Whadda ya think I am, some kinda sissy?" Sigh.

Ah, yes, motorcycle magazines and the influence they wield. I remember how I hung on every word I read in them when I caught the bug in the mid-'70s. As a kid, I was completely nuts over motorcycles, and when I couldn't ride or work on them, I read and re-read my collection of magazines deep into the night. They served to expand my tiny universe and gave me something to dream about and strive for. I especially lapped up technical articles, learning things like how much more powerful K-Mart ignition coils were than stock Yamaha RD350 ones--you know, important stuff. I also learned that a little reading can save hours of fruitless troubleshooting time. I loved test articles and gleaned tidbits of information from every one. My collection of magazines grew and grew. Sure, I was a little nerdy, but at least it was motorcycle nerdiness. Sometimes I got embarrassing cold sores or acne on my adolescent face, so I'd hide from the world and read my stacks of magazines, dreaming of the day when I would own a bitchin' dirtbike and bad-ass street machine. Motorcycle magazines were comforting to my tortured teenage mind, providing the goals and inspiration to ride out the hard times. When the world got too heavy, the babes in the Norton ads would console and reassure me, telling me to hang in there. That might explain my weakness for babes with pouty lips and Union Jack bikinis...

I grew up (but never matured), got married, moved into a trailer park, got unmarried--yet still kept my magazine collection. Friends and customers would give me their motomags when their spouses got fed up with the "wasted space." I bought magazines from newspaper ads, flea markets and garage sales. My collection accumulated exponentially until my trailer started sinking in the mud from the sheer weight. It finally came time to move them when I barely had room left for my pornography collection -- let alone room to live in. I had to rent a big storage space and enlist the help of a buddy to clear out the thousands of moto-mags packed in my crimped-aluminum abode. Eight pickup truck loads and a case of beer later, the deed was done. Like all great loves, it was a doomed one. At some point, I got sick to death of motorcycle mags and discovered that life has more to offer, at least reading-wise. Maybe it was one 600cc shootout too many.

Could have been another of those dull touring stories that lacked sex, violence or high-speed chases. Or it might have been one of those gratuitous project bike stories where they spend a wheelbarrow full of money on an innocent bike, rendering it overwrought and nearly useless. Maybe the tiresome hype of "THIS! YEAR'S! FASTEST! QUICKEST! MOSTEST! AWESOMEST! EVER!!!" just got old. Whatever the reason, the passion was gone. Sure, I still read plenty of motomags, but mainly to keep abreast of what devout magheads are babbling about. It's always amusing to hear people quote motomags like holy scripture. "Loudbike says to remove your bike's muffler and air filter so the engine can breathe properly," or "Superscoot says the new XYZ-13 is gonna have carbon-fiber pistons and go 250 mph!" Worse still is when some blabbermouth starts spouting something they read in a magazine as if it were their own brilliant insight-- especially when they misquote the article or gets the facts wrong. Be sure to correct such plagiarism whenever it comes your way-- loudly and derisively. Humiliation can be an excellent learning tool.

Seems every time I check the newsstand these days, there's yet another magazine devoted to American V-twins. The cover always has a depiction of an eagle, an American flag, a buxom babe or two, and a bike covered with that most useful of accessories, chrome stuff. A quick perusal of the mag reveals letters to the editor from the not-so-literate, photos of fun-filled rallies that I wasn't invited to, an update on The Motor Company's latest legal shenanigans, a couple of custom bikes that luminously illustrate how some people have too much time and money, ads for window-rattling exhaust systems, and cloying articles that forever wave the flag of self-congratulatory patriotism-- Mein Kampf for the Mein Dless. There's also been an alarming proliferation in Gen-X-targeted dirtbike mags. They mainly focus on baggy-pantsed nutcases catching Big Air, titillating close-ups of dangerously overinflated tits, and ads for awful-looking apparel that naked Third World refugees would refuse to wear. But I suppose if they inspire today's glowering youths to read (or at least look at the pictures), then they must have some redeeming value.

By the way, just for the record: Remember that flap not so long ago over how the British press claimed that Suzuki's TL1000S tended to tankslap? After a few months of this grief, Suzuki issued a worldwide recall, instructing dealers to install a steering damper. Several U.S. motomags thereafter condemned the British press, saying they caused hysteria over nothing. Gosh, they seemed to say in as many words, we've had no such problems with our TL1000S test units. Must be those effete Brits and their socialized road maintenance. Sorry, but I have to back up the Limeys on this issue. I, for one, got into several God-Save-The-Queen tankslappers on the then-new TL, just riding them briskly around the block. No shit. I have to wonder how much the U.S. mag's pronouncements amounted to a self-serving attempt to undermine the credibility of the British moto press. It's no secret that (this magazine excluded) their rags are much more detached, diehard, and entertaining than our stale Stateside stuff.

Speaking of which, we here at Twistgrip have been toiling relentlessly at the task of bringing a little levity and humor to the ultra-PC U.S. motorcycle maga-scene. Unfortunately, every time we print something with a hint of controversy, irreverence or good old-fashioned bad taste, it seems to land us in hot water quicker'n a buzzy blonde. Seems as soon as a new issue hits the stands, the phones start ringing over some naughty thing we did or said. Why, we've even had to put several ribald features on the back burner -- stories that practically guarantee cheap laffs at somebody else's expense--and that chaps my britches. So to all you pickle-pusses who can't stand it when we poke a little fun: LIGHTEN UP, WOULD YA?

Lately, some folks have been renouncing motomags for the instant access of the Internet. Talk about a mixed blessing. While it gives the techno-weenies an outlet for their silliness, it also allows misinformation to spread like E. coli on fast food burgers. Customers bring me reams, bales and boxes of non-data, un-knowledge and fact-free documents they've downloaded from the Web. I politely decline their offerings, telling them I don't have the time to read much fiction these days. Don't become a 'Net nut, Ned. It's a dead-end street. Leisure time is better spent riding, thumbing through dog-eared old motomags, or peeping at copies of Nudies on Parade. At least until the Twistgrip Web site comes online, that is...

As my psychic advisor says, "Don't be a media-led sheep." Twistgrip is here simply to hold your hand and gently nudge you towards the path of righteousness. In the meantime, go out and buy lots of stuff from our advertisers so I can stick around and tell you how to live your life.

-Art Bennett


Editor's note: Art's mega magazine collection is for sale! Inquire within...

Copyright Twistgrip Magazine 1999

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