My son Brandon sitting on his Honda Shadow at his home in Fort Worth.
You know something is not a good idea when everyone stops what they’re doing and gathers around to watch. Suddenly being the center of that much attention rarely leads to something good.
We were taking my son’s bike to the shop, and needed to get it in the back of the pickup. I was visiting him in Fort Worth at the time and didn’t have the ramps I’d normally have used if we’d been at my house. The bike in question is a Honda Shadow, VLX 600. This little bike weighs about 425 pounds.
“We’ll get this done pretty quickly,” I remember thinking. “We can just lift it one end at a time into the bed.”
My son’s drive way has an extensive slope. It seemed that if the bike was uphill, we wouldn’t have to lift it very far. I pulled the truck into the driveway and he pulled that bike up behind it. My son and I stepped around and grabbed the front of the bike with the intention of setting the front wheel up on the tailgate. But with the bike in such a severe nose down position, almost the full 425lbs was on the front wheel.
We grunted and strained for a while, almost throwing the bike over on it’s side a couple of times, and even got the wheel tantalizingly close to the tailgate. But eventually our strength gave out and the bike remained on the ground. Time for Plan B.
With the bike and pickup both on level ground, we had no trouble setting the front wheel up on the tailgate. Now, however, we had 425 pounds of motorcycle sitting on the back wheel. Now you would think that two grown men could lift 425 pounds to a height of just under 3 feet. And in truth, we could. But as we got the back tire close to the tailgate, the bike now towering over our heads would start to fall over. We couldn’t balance it from the ground. If one of us got in the truck to hold the bike up, that left the other trying to lift the bike from the ground by himself. Trembling with fatigue and anger, we finally realized that this wasn’t going to work either. Time for Plan C.
“There’s a church just up the road that has a loading dock.” my son tells me.
I take the truck and he rides the bike. Now in addition to lifting a heavy motorcycle we have to be careful of hot pipes.
I back the pickup up to the loading dock, and Brandon takes the bike to the top. I join him and we both glare at the two foot drop from the loading dock, designed for tractor trailers, to the bed of the truck. We both stand there a while, neither willing to make the first move.
“Do you think you can …” I start to ask.
“Nope!” he says before I finish. Time for Plan D.
The loading dock is built on a steep hill. I see one place beside the dock where the tailgate of my truck might actually dig into the ground as I back up to it. I get in the truck and drive off of the parking lot, between two trees, and onto the grass at the back of the church. Brandon follows me on the road at the top of the hill. I find a likely looking spot and back up to the hill. As my tailgate comes within a foot and a-half of the hill, My back tires begin to climb and the gap increases.
By now, locals are starting to watch. One supposes a pickup and motorcycle driving over the lawn of the local church is not something they see every day.
I find the optimal spot with a gap of roughly 1-1/2 feet and we try to load the bike. Our old nemesis gravity foils us again. Nose down once again, the front tire is wedged into the gap between the tailgate and the hill with 425 pounds of force. It’s so close, but grunt and strain as we may, we just can’t lift it onto the tailgate. Plan E
I survey the hill looking for a spot with more slope, hoping to find a place where I can get the tailgate close enough to the hill to just roll the bike in. There is one spot, but unfortunately there is a tree right in front of it. I’m not sure there’s enough room for my truck between the hill and the tree, but I’m going to find out.
Forward, reverse, forward, reverse, I eventually crab the truck into position with its front bumper touching the tree, and a 10-inch gap between the hill and tailgate. Fortunately, the hill wasn’t as tall here, and the bike won’t be approaching the truck at such a severe nose down attitude. But it is still going downhill. We’ll never be able to roll the bike backwards if this doesn’t work, so this is a one-shot proposition. I look at the 24-inch diameter of the front tire and try to imagine how much of it will drop into the 10-inch gap between us and success. I decide to use the engine to help us power the front tire through the gap. I debate the virtue of standing to one side, but eventually come to the conclusion I’ll have more control straddling the the machine. In other words, I decided to ride it in.
There are now cars stopped along the street with people watching. I’m sure somebody is catching cell phone video. I may well soon be the next youtube viral sensation. I ease down the slope, approaching the truck. As the front wheel nears what now appears to be a cavernous gulf between the land and the bed of my truck, I gun the engine hoping to lift the front wheel. All I do is hit the hole harder. But I manage to keep the bars straight so that the wheel doesn’t slip sideways down under the truck. It’s a hard jolt, but as the front forks recoil, I again gun the engine and the little bike pushes it’s front tire up into the bed.
I’m saved from slamming into the cab as the back tire falls into the gap bringing me to an abrupt halt. Brandon is standing on the tailgate to help me stay balanced. He steadies me, and once I’ve got the bike under control, I ease onto the throttle. The back tire climbs out of the gap and suddenly we’ve done it.
We start tying the bike down and the crowd, deprived of the anticipated entertainment, drifts away. Now we just need to haul it across town to the dealer and unload it.
“We’ll get this done pretty quickly,” I think. “We can just lift it one end at a time out of the bed.”
－ Guy Wheatley