Thursday Dec 23, 2010

All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth

It would have been a shame to spend almost a week at JavaOne in Sao Paulo and not visit the local Harley Davidson dealer.

Turns out they have a whole bunch of them. As nice as this chopper looks, I wouldn't ride it on the streets of Sao Paulo longer than 5 minutes. The streets of Sao Paulo are owned by the "moto boys" riding 125 cc bikes.

The term "moto boy" would make a big, bad, leather-n-conchos clad American biker scoff, but these guys are the real deal. In fact, trying to keep up with one would make the average American biker wet his chaps. They're amazing riders. With a high casualty rate, unfortunately. Different Paulistas gave me different numbers, but I heard claims that between one and three moto boys die each day in Sao Paulo. They ride without restraint. No safety margin. Any open space is their road. I've seen more than one of them launch themselves into a collapsing space between trucks, buses, and cars, heard the tires screech, saw a puff of smoke, and a couple of seconds later, saw them pop out two lanes over. It was not an unusual move.

I made a rough count, and about one of eight vehicles on Sao Paulo's freeways is a motorcycle. Ratio might be higher on the side streets, where the lanes between the cars belong to the moto boys. Not more than a few seconds goes by without a small motorcycle wizzing past your car window.

In fact, the moto boys may be the reason Sao Paulo's traffic is better organized than Lima's, whose drivers consider traffic lanes fascist. They spit on them when stopped. Their hatred for them is visceral. And woe to any collaborator who tries to stay within them. I learned to drive in Lima. Everything since has been a cake walk.

The other reason not to ride a Harley in Sao Paulo is the cost. They cost about three times what they cost in the US. Ouch! I did hear (and then see) a Softail Standard roar past me while I was walking around. (Musta been Donald Trump.) I also saw a guy riding a Sportster in a business suit. (Probably the CEO of PetroBras, the Brazilian Oil Company.)

In Sao Paulo, everybody wears helmets, but nobody wears protective gear. Not even gloves or boots. Only the guys on sportbikes wear full leathers. Probably because once they're outside the city limits they page homage to Valentino Rossi's MotoGP career.

Well, it was nice to talk about motorcycles for Christmas. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Feliz Navidad, or just a Happy Hanging Out during the Holidays.

See you next year!

- Rick
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Kemer Thomson
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