mandag den 23. juli 2007

Sunday Oct. 22 - BSA Copies, 'Chicara Art'

A new day of sunshine and no wind greets me in the morning, more stalls are being set up, and a lot more old bikes roll in. Amongst those there’s a group of 10-12 Kawasaki W650 twins, the BSA copies, where here I can see the whole development throughout the years: From an early one with a solo saddle and its speedometer in the headlight shell, to the final version with double front brake discs and Z1-like clocks. It begins to look a bit more like a classic bike rally. Though on the parade around the small island I end up riding with a bunch of young yahoos on scooters and tuned Honda Cubs, as practically everybody else rides modern machinery. Half the distance somebody videotapes the whole thing, so everybody is forced to do 25 kph, now that 12-13 cars are leading us.

One of yesterdays hangovers lead me to a rider – Keji Turuta – with a new Triumph 900 Sprint, knowing that he is heading for Saga, where the chopper builder Chicara Nagata also lives. I show him the CN phone number, as I want him to check for me, if the man is home sometime during the week. When the long telephone conversation with CN is over, a translator tells me that he’ll lead me all the way to CN, and that he has arranged that I can sleep at a friend of his. Actually my plan was to drive south to Nagasaki, but this sounds a lot better. I also know my theoretical chances for finding CN’s workshop on my own.

Before we leave I tell him that riding on the shoulder or between cars is fine with me, and that up to 70 kph is fine with the Nimbus. He signals an ‘ok’, and than proceeds to ride all the way at about 50 kph. The weather looks like there is thunder on the way, so how he and his friend on yet another large sports bike can ride at this speed, fully dressed up in Gore-Tex clothing, remains a mystery to me. Maybe they know something about speeding fines, that I do not want to know about. After an hour along the coast we reach a large flat area, which turns uglier and uglier as we get closer to Saga. The industrial areas stink, and here farmers still believe in burning their fields, a practice long abandoned in Denmark.

Just as unpleasant the landscape and the city looks, just as good the rest of the evening turns out. After a brief visit to Keji’s motorcycle workshop, we find ‘Chicara Motorcycles’ a bit outside of Saga, where a smallish man with spiky hair greets us. Unlike Shinya Kimura from Zero Engineering, he speaks no English, but has arranged for a woman friend to show up for translating. It isn’t easy, but I do manage to make CN understand that amongst the major targets on this trip of mine, Tokyo, Mt. Fuji and he are amongst the most important ones.

The custom motorcycle ‘Chicara Art’ is his latest creation, and it has earned him the official title as the world’s premier chopper builder. He rolls the thing out of his van, so I can take pictures, when I am not just standing the spell-bound by this two-wheeled sculpture. Over the years I have seen many outstandingly beautiful bikes, but this one tops them all. It took him an astonishing 7,500 hours to build, but you can see every minute of them. There’s a myriad of details, almost beyond belief, a wealth of curious small technical solutions, and the final touch is an ultra-thin layer of chrome, so you can see the a hint of the golden glow of the brazing, where all frame tubes enter the innumerable fittings.

The sculpture is not for sale, CN says, and since I can see several of his other well known Harleys stand in the room, I assume he must make his income from his architect or graphic design business, instead of from selling custom bikes. Asked about it, I tell him how much I paid to have my bobber flown over to Japan. Turns out he paid five times that price for shipping his creation to the USA, which may explain why his hair is still standing straight up.

After 3-4 hours, where he signs the Zero book and gives me so many t-shirts and other small gifts, that I get downright embarrassed. I hardly dare mention that I think his shirt looks really cool, fearing that he may give me that one as well.

As an end to the gift giving – after me handing over a package of special Danish chocolate – I invite everyone out for dinner. Outside the rain has started, so suddenly I have the # 1 chopper builder on this planet wiping water off the Nimbus, and then manhandling it into his van. Fine with me, I have not yet had to ride in the rain over here, and think that should I encounter 2-3 days of the wet stuff, I’ll do indoor activities in the nearest large city. It is already a bit tricky finding my way on the Japanese maps when I have to a) put on my reading glasses every time and 2) use an English language map for reference and c) not have to do this through a clear plastic cover on the tank bag.

Of course it is a very good restaurant the locals have chosen, and we stay there for three hours, where Karo The Translator handles both her two dictionaries, and takes care that all we men get servings when the food arrives. She always gets food last, so no wonder she is so small and slim. And now guess if they allow me to pay for us all when the check arrives….

As it probably never read on the tombstone of the famous old actor Erroll Flynn: “He was lucky, and he knew it”.

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