THE ES­CAPE

Motorcyclist - - Shift - BY ZACK COURTS PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY DREW RUIZ

The apoc­a­lypse. End of days. All of the world’s might has mixed and tum­bled in po­lit­i­cal winds to cre­ate a nu­clear shark­nado of de­struc­tion and a bib­li­cal, Brillo-pad cleans­ing.

The sky burned and the oceans turned black. Now it’s over­cast al­most ev­ery day. I sur­vived, prob­a­bly be­cause I was wear­ing an ar­madillo vest that pro­tected me from all harm. Plus, I had a mo­hawk on my hel­met, which killed all of the brain cells that con­trol com­mon sense but left me with 20/15 vi­sion.

And all I need is a mo­tor­cy­cle. Some­thing faster than a zom­bie can run ( just in case) and loud enough to scare away the mu­tant mack­erel that are mak­ing their way up from the toxic beaches and into the ru­ins of the city. I need knobby tires for rub­ble, lots of fuel, and prefer­ably no fend­ers in case I meet a fair maiden who has also sur­vived—i don’t want her to think I’m a dweeb.

I kick down the door of Beach Moto on the west side of Los Angeles and wait for the dust to set­tle. Through the smell of ex­pen­sive leather, I see what I’m look­ing for un­der a pile of bro­ken HVAC vents: the Rev’it 95. Nine hun­dred forty-two cu­bic cen­time­ters of Aus­trian-made vol­ume, in two cylin­ders splayed at 75 de­grees, with a cus­tom ex­haust that looks like it was made to start an avalanche or stop a con­ver­sa­tion. It’s got a smart­phone for a dash, but one of the vents must have smashed it.

On the left side of the KTM 950 mill, I see the cherry on top: aux­il­iary chains run­ning up from the coun­ter­shaft sprocket, un­der the fuel tank, to just be­hind the steer­ing head. A Chris­tini two-wheel-drive sys­tem uses two counter-ro­tat­ing

The lever near the head­stock shifts with a sat­is­fy­ing, me­chan­i­cal clunk and the deed is done. Still rolling, I feed the clutch out and con­tinue on, two-wheel drive en­gaged.

shafts that drive the front wheel when the rear starts to spin. Per­fect for piles of re­bar and wreck­age, I think. I pick it up off its side, sur­prised to feel only the weight of a jacked-up FZ-07. A tall 400 pounds.

Pop­ping the cap off the tank, I can’t hear or see any gas in­side. Drained. In the shop I find a half-dozen 4-gal­lon fuel jugs, three empty and three full. The 95 takes a full 12 gal­lons of 91 oc­tane be­fore the gas fills up the neck of the tank. I heard that the en­gi­neers were aim­ing for 7 gal­lons when they built it but missed the mark and went over. If only I could thank them for that mis­take.

There are car­bu­re­tors but no choke, so it takes the bike a minute to warm up. It thun­ders in a tone some­where be­tween a Du­cati race­bike and an ob­nox­ious neigh­bor’s Sport­ster, shak­ing dust off the minia­ture front fender and ev­ery­thing else in the shop. The tires have air and the head­light works. I’m on my way.

In­ter­state 10 is sur­pris­ingly in­tact, but I cruise slowly. One-wheel drive is fine for now. At ran­dom in­ter­vals there are huge faults in the free­way, ris­ing or drop­ping a foot or two with ramps of jagged con­crete and steel. The beefy, long-travel fork and shock don’t seem to have a prob­lem with it, but I let the front get away from me on a big drop and crack my del­i­cate bits on 12 gal­lons of high­t­est wrapped in alu­minum. I won’t need them any­way: No fair maid­ens in sight through San Bernardino. It’s windy and dusty as I start my climb into the hills and away from Hell-a.

I’m in ad­ven­ture-bike territory now, blast­ing up dirt roads and through forests of shrubs. Around 100 hp means spin­ning the rear wheel when­ever I please, and af­ter a few huge slides that leave my feet off the pegs I slow down to walk­ing speed and pull in the clutch. The lever near the head­stock shifts with a sat­is­fy­ing, me­chan­i­cal clunk and the deed is done. Still rolling, I feed the clutch out and con­tinue on, two-wheel drive en­gaged.

On the dusty, loose fire roads the fron­twheel torque steers and pulls the rear out of slides in a way that makes it feel like the bike is haunted and won’t let me crash. I’m not sure it’s more fun, but my feet are still on the pegs. Up a long, steep climb the rear tire claws through sand and rocks— when it starts spin­ning 30 per­cent faster than the ground is mov­ing, the front wheel kicks in and helps out. It is equal parts un­nerv­ing and awe­some.

Then the trail hits a clear and crisp creek. The wa­ter could be fine, but all of the chem­i­cal plants burn­ing has con­tam­i­nated much of the ground wa­ter so badly that it burns the skin. I hope aloud that the boots I found in a dump­ster are wa­ter­proof and then barge across the stream. The rear wheel spins and the front scram­bles to help, pulling me through the slimy rocks and twist­ing the han­dle­bar in my hands.

No rear fender means wa­ter splashes up on the back of my neck and stings like a yel­low jacket. I am op­ti­mistic that a fair maiden is watch­ing. Af­ter a quick bot­tom out on the skid plate, the 95 and I make it to the other side, the bike idling calmly and drip-dry­ing slowly. An undig­ni­fied dab through a swath of soft­ball­size rocks on the other side of the creek, and I re­join the trail.

Roar­ing up to a precipice, I can see over the Los Angeles basin. I won­der what time it is as I reach for my back­pack full of wa­ter, beef jerky, and the ma­chete I found in the trunk of a cop car. Shit. For­got my back­pack—i guess I’ll have to go back. Mack­erel be damned.

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