Posted On 27 Mar 2024
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This entry is part 21 of 26 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#26


Driving the family Toyota Yaris is a bit like driving a four-wheel Yamaha, because it was the Yamaha motorcycle factory which designed and developed the 1.5 litre, double overhead camshaft, multi-valve power-plant with which this small rocket-ship of a car is equipped. When I say ‘rocket ship’, bear in mind that the trim little Yaris remains a small car which employs this equally-small, if potent enough, engine to provide the necessary propulsion.

The car can be used as a shopping trolley if that is all you want to do with the thing, but it will happily sit for hours, or as long as road conditions permit, at a cruising speed comfortably in excess of the ‘allowable’ maximum. It seems to do this noisily but without effort, whether in a straight line or sweeping swiftly through carefully sign-posted corners.

It is still ‘only’ a small car, but it remains a victim of traffic snarls and other odious situations which we are forced to face on a daily basis if we shuffle about the city and suburbs on four wheels instead of the much more acceptable two.

Such a situation occurred a few weeks ago when Lyn and I were sitting in the Yaris in traffic on a bright and sunny day, but with heavy rain clouds just beginning to roil ominously overhead, carrying with them the threat of some heavy weather as the horizon around us in several directions grew ever darker.

As we sat there, bored stiff while waiting for something exciting to occur, I could hear what I thought was the rumble of approaching thunder, which grew ever louder as we crouched helplessly in the immovable traffic. It grew louder still as I glanced in the rear view mirror to behold a large American motorcycle rolling along several metres behind us.

From what I could see of the rider as he moved slowly through Honda Highway between the two lines of traffic, he was quite a mature man, who was so large he draped himself all over the Harley-Davidson – for such it was – making that large motorcycle appear to be no bigger than, say, a 175cc machine.

Mature though he clearly was it seemed clear to me that he was new to motorcycling, for he paddled his feet along the road as he slipped between the cars down ‘Honda Highway’ while nudging more than a few rear vision mirrors out of focus as he simply shoved them out of his way with his fat elbows. But his wardrobe also indicated – again to me – that he had not been a motorcyclist for long or had ridden one for any great distance.

It was obvious that he wore no protective clothing at all, which indicated to me that he had never been pelted bike-less down the road, but instead was dressed in a pair of pale blue shorts which he might have dredged out of a Vinnies basket in the female section, because they were clearly many, many sizes too small for him. He wore a yellow Day Glow sleeveless tee-shirt, from which protruded an enormous pot-belly which draped itself over the top of the restricting waistband of the skin-tight shorts and flopped, jelly-like, onto the top of the bike’s peanut-sized tank while being loosely contained upon his bobbing thighs, which were as thick as tree trunks.

As a half-fast attempt at a form of minimal protection, he wore a short, black Bolero jacket which was heavily fringed and studded with a number of large chromed adornments. I reckon that his jacket was probably made by chopping the head off one end and the tail off the other end of some hapless bovine, then altering the resultant leather material into the shape of a large vest. Had I been wearing the thing, I reckon I would have entirely disappeared within the voluminous folds of that huge jacket. It would assuredly have been all-enveloping had I slipped it on, and would probably have reached the ground in several places as well. In his case, however, the vest-like jacket merely covered his back to just below the waist but was a bull’s roar away (sorry about that!) from meeting anywhere across his huge, intimidating midriff.

There was a narrow band of matching leather stretched across his belly,which looked to me as though it was stretched almost to snapping point.


He wore a pair of heavy-duty work boots – steel-capped I assumed – in a gleaming yellow, which almost matched his huge tee-shirt, attended by knee-high black-and-white football socks, while he also wore an over-large black-matt WW2 Nazi-type helmet which perched upon his surprisingly small head. The helmet was clearly several sizes too large, while being held just above his be-spectacled eyes only by the strength of his enormous ears.

The slim, neatly-fitting leather gloves he wore were a bit like Grannie’s finger-less mittens, which would have allowed the palms of his hands to have a degree of protection when – not if, but when – he was finally to find himself sliding down the road on his own at some speed, while his exposed, unprotected fingers would then be left to look after their own destiny.

To make matters worse, his hands were held at (his) eye-level in an attitude of surrender, for the bike was equipped with the highest ape-hanger handlebars I have ever seen, and I have sold more than a few ape-hanger bars in times long gone which were some 24’’ high! At least the two control levers (assuming they could exert some control from their lofty positions) were pointed entirely skywards, which meant that they could be a little more easily operated than they might be were they to be pointed straight ahead as in their more normal position.

The noise was frightful and becoming more so as the man ‘walked’ his Harley through the traffic behind us, leaving in his wake a number of mal adjusted rear-view mirrors, along with the occasional black streak or slight indentation on car side-panels from contact with the bike’s large, forward mounted footrest rubbers. Or perhaps his over-sized, clod-hopper boots?

For some reason he stopped right alongside my driver’s door, blipping the throttle continuously as he sat there, grimacing about him, the corners of his mouth turned downwards.

“Brrraccckkk! Uuummm!” “Brrrrraccckkk! Uuummm!” “Brrrrraaaccckkk! Uuummmm!” “Burp! Groan! Backfire! Rattle! Rattle!” went the frightful din from the bike, which rent the air around us as nearby shop-front window panes rattled and grimacing pedestrians shoved their index fingers into their ears. Trapped within the car was like being firmly ensconced within a large bass drum which some merciless musician was enthusiastically pounding with a large drumstick or – more likely – a baseball bat! The Harley was fitted with two large mirrors in the shape of Maltese (or Iron?) Crosses, but in which, by what I could see of them, nothing of any consequence could possibly have ever been seen.

The exhaust gas rasped out of a pair of gleaming, entirely unsilenced, straight-through, three-inch drainpipes with which the machine had been equipped – possibly by an after-market purveyor of these items.

That unfortunate motorcycle’s engine alternatively climbed to almost peak engine revs before sobbing back to a much more acceptable idling speed as the throttle was swiftly opened almost to the stop before swiftly being shut off again.

The rider’s close proximity allowed me to try and see what he looked like, which was difficult because the bike, the rider, our car and its incumbents were vibrating in concert, which resulted in a sick-making, severe double-vision. But I could vaguely see that side-on his grossly undersized head seemed to be dominated by a large, hooked nose the colour of a boiled beetroot, his thick, rubber like lips the hue of under-cooked calf’s liver. He had what looked to be about a four days’ growth of a salt and pepper stubble beneath a large, moth-eaten, splayed moustache which was noticeably quite a bit longer on one side than it was on the other. The startlingly out-of proportion head was thrust forward at ninety degrees but seemed to be unsupported, for it bobbed about alarmingly as it sat, apparently neckless, perched directly between his gigantic, hunched shoulders as though it had been placed haphazardly in its position as an after-thought.

I always thought I looked odd, which may be true because people keep telling me so, but this bloke’s fearsome visage put me to shame, especially when he unexpectedly looked directly at me.

He appeared to have been issued with a beetled brow like a large, boney awning, but which seemed to have no eyebrows attached thereto, his eyes protected by over-large amber spectacles with shimmering lenses; but the greatest shock was the size of the man’s eyes!

We have all seen people wearing those Coke-bottle lenses in which the wearers’ eyes are so tiny as to be almost invisible: this man’s eyes were exactly the opposite!

All I could see when he stared straight at me was a thin, blue rim of cornea round a pair of monstrous pupils which almost filled the frames of those huge spectacles. And when he blinked rapidly at me several times it was not unlike someone flicking the irises of a pair of amber spotlights open and closed. It was a most frightful thing to behold. If he looked a bit goggle-eyed (sorry again!) then so did I, for I must have sat there staring at the man like a gaping-mouthed idiot. I suggest that some of my dearest friends would say there is nothing new about that.

Suddenly the lights changed to

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