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Indian CHief Vintage 2009

Ageing Gracefully

(From the Travels with Guido series, MT #355, circa Jan 2020)

by Guy 'Guido' Allen, pic by Ben Galli Photography

Is there such a thing as ageing gracefully? Or is ‘patina’ another word for ‘rooted’

You might be familiar with this. Unless you keep your machinery in a climate-controlled shed, which is way beyond most of our budgets, it rots. There are days when this drives me crazy, particularly on the tail end of winter.

This year, sunny Melbourne was not at all sunny across several months. In fact it was grey and, when it wasn’t raining, the humidity was so high you felt like you needed an aqualung just to walk around.
While that’s fabulous for the greenery around Chateau Conrod, it’s murder on motorcycles. Particularly anything that’s dripping in chrome, like the decade-old Kings Mountain Indian, or any of the seventies bikes, such as the CB750, T160 and Commando.

It seems as if you turn your back for 10 minutes and you can hear the corrosion happily chomping away on the shiny (and now very expensive) surfaces. If you were the sort who shows bikes and competes for awards – muggins doesn’t have the patience – it would either keep you fully employed or drive you round the proverbial twist.

It would be a little like owning the Sydney Harbour Bridge, where painters and maintenance crew start at one end and work their way to the other, only to start over – and that goes on, year in and year out. With a bike, you’d just put a final buff on the last spoke on the rear rim, and have to start all over on the sharp end of the beast.

Who’s got the time for that?

I will admit to experiencing a certain warm inner glow on the rare occasion I’ve collected either a new motorcycle, or one that’s near enough to perfectly preserved. They do look wonderful. But they also scare the crap out of you.

In my world nothing is perfectly preserved, so having something that is throws out the balance of the universe and becomes a source of fear and consternation. Anyone who steps too close must be punished. It must be ridden very slowly, preferably preceded by a man waving a red flag to ward off traffic.

Eventually, thank your god, something happens. It gets a stone chip, or a scratch from a passing idiot (usually me) – something like that. Then we can all relax, as it’s no longer flawless.

That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s allowed to rot. So I do put a bit of effort into keeping them looking reasonably tidy. I don’t mind the odd chip or scratch or sign of general wear and tear as the thing gets ridden. There’s a certain dignity in a motorcycle that has been used and doesn’t mind showing a bit of age. But you can feel a little robbed if the corrosion fairies have a jamboree in your shed and add five years of age in the space of a month.


There are of course a few solutions: give up and buy a Camry; Put them in a glass case in an air-conditioned room; Hire a full-time cleaner; Or just ride them more and stop worrying about it.

Let’s see, that would be: Hell no; Nope – too much like a mausoleum; Dream on; And, yeah alright.
At least if you’re riding them, it’s a whole lot easier to live with the gradual ageing as it’s giving you some joy. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

More Travels with Guido columns


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