These speedsters are not exactly rocket scientists

July 13, 2006|By KEVIN COWHERD | KEVIN COWHERD,SUN COLUMNIST

One of the joys of driving on the Jones Falls Expressway is having some lunatic on a sportbike go screaming past you at 110 mph, after which it generally takes several seconds for your heart to restart.

Sportbikes, if you don't know, are those high-performance motorcycles tastefully nicknamed "crotch-rockets" that go very fast and are very loud.

They'll also make you very dead if you're riding on one that happens to, oh, smack a Jersey wall and go flying in the general direction of the Pepsi sign.

But the nuts who zoom past me on the JFX don't seem to worry too much about having a serious accident.

Are you kidding? You never even see a Band-Aid on these guys.

Nope, as crazy as they ride, it's as if they're in this little protective bubble or something.

Every time one of them goes rocketing in and out of traffic, I think: OK, this is it. I'm going to come around the next curve, and that guy's going to be splattered all over the road.

Luckily, it never happens.

You talk about having a guardian angel -- these guys must have the Navy SEALs of all guardian angels.

The other thing I always think when a sportbike goes flying by is: How come the police never stop these guys?

Me, I get pulled over the minute a brake light goes out.

And here's a guy doing 110 and cutting across three lanes to zoom down the Northern Parkway East exit.

A hundred and ten mph? Isn't that slightly over the posted speed limit on the JFX?

On the other hand, I guess you have to ask yourself this: How would the police catch these guys, anyway?

How do you catch someone doing 110 on a sleek Japanese motorcycle when you're driving a big ol' police cruiser that looks like something out of Kojak?

(Note to younger readers, if there are any left: Kojak was this 1970s TV show about a gruff, lollipop-sucking detective of Greek ancestry who ... ah, never mind. It's too depressing having to explain references like that.)

The point is, I'm guessing that flashing lights and sirens aren't exactly enough to get most sportbikes to pull over.

Not when they can zip down an alley or through a park and get away.

But the fact is, these sportbike riders don't seem any more concerned about the cops than they do of wiping out.

The other night, for example, three of them decided to put on a little show for the rest of us on the northbound JFX.

It was about 9:30 when I first heard the telltale whine of their devil-bikes in the distance.

Sure enough, a glance in the rearview mirror confirmed that three of the knuckleheads were coming up behind me and closing fast.

After two of them shot past in the left lane and the other passed on the right, the rest of the traffic was treated to an amazing sight.

The sportbike guys started doing wheelies!

Look, I'd be afraid to do wheelies on a Schwinn 10-speed, OK?

In broad daylight.

In my driveway.

Doing 5 mph.

And here these guys were popping wheelies on high-performance motorcycles.

At night.

On a busy major highway.

Doing, I don't know, 80, 85, 90 mph.

This is why you have to love the JFX. Because you never know what you're going to see out there.

Sometimes I think they ought to set up bleachers on the side of the expressway so people could watch some of the stuff that goes on.

Look, the city could even charge admission and make a few bucks on the deal.

Instead of raising taxes, make it five bucks a head to watch the nightly entertainment when the sportbikers take to the streets.

Maybe you'd even make enough to cover the funeral costs when one of these idiots does flip his bike and fly into the Pepsi sign.

I hope I'm not on the road when that happens.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

To hear podcasts featuring Kevin Cowherd, go to baltimoresun.com/cowherd.

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