Looking for the Apocalypse

- Jan 30, 2016

I returned home from Brooklyn just before Christmas this year and, despite the grey overcast skies that typify an Okanagan winter, I was never happier to be home.  Homecomings are always easier than partings…although, it’s the really hard farewells that make the reunions so rich and gratifying.  Nevertheless, one often finds that on returning home things are never quite the same.  The bonds of family and friendship are not easily broken, but the people and the things we love are always somewhat changed in our absence as, no doubt, we ourselves are changed in our sojourns.

In any event, homecomings are only homecomings because we are reconnecting with our families, our friends…our communities.  And so it was no surprise that I found myself at Motovida shortly after arriving home.  I would, however, find a few surprises as I opened the door to the shop, took my first deep, satisfying breath of exhaust and machine oil and looked around.  

Nikki was now running the front of the store and James has traded in his button down shirt and khakis for denims, a shop apron and tool belt.  I found him laughing and wrenching on bikes in the back with Brent and Stacy while Pearl Jam Radio provided the soundtrack to a Thursday afternoon.  Everyone and everything looked a little different, but only because it was all better than I remembered.

Of course, there were some other changes as well.  The couch, where my kids used to nap under the watchful eye of their uncles while I rode a bike or two, was moved out of its corner and into the middle of the floor.  In its place was a coffee bar where Dave was generously brewing me an Americano as I poked around at the variety of motorcycle offerings around me.  Most of the bikes I recognized.  A few had been shuffled around and after a few minutes I noticed something new smirking smugly at me from the platform across the showroom.

It was an Aprilia Shiver, but…different.  And my curiosity was understandably piqued.

Later that evening, as Brent tipped his home-brewed ale into well-used mugs, the Shiver’s story spilled out.  As it turns out, she’s a custom project for his brother, Mike, whose only instructions when he dropped the bike off last fall were to “do something interesting with it.”  Obviously, for Brent this was an intriguing blank canvas with a wide range of possibilities; but also a particular kind of pressure.  While all of his bikes are a labour of love, most of us can probably sympathize with that special sort of intensity that accompanies something important undertaken for family.

It might be helpful here to have a bit of background on Brent and Mike.  They come from a tight-knit family and their brotherly love is often manifested through animated competition.  In other words, they show their affection by attempting to inflict crushing losses on each other in variety of legitimate and contrived contests.  

I suspect it began shortly after learning to walk…and realizing that by running against each other a winner might be determined in a race to the top (or bottom) of the stairs.  Bicycles, it is quickly discovered, are faster than feet and make for much more glorious victories (and humiliating defeats).  Motorcycles are faster yet and if you get a chance to see the brothers Giesbrecht at the flat track races this season, you might see what I mean. At any rate, I think that the boys can still be found going for a “Sunday ride” at the family farm to the top of the hill.  Sure, someone might cut through the bush to get the upper hand on the trail…or someone else may attempt to take out his opponent’s front wheel to secure the win; but it’s all in good fun and no one usually gets hurt.

Actually, it’s probably more than good fun. I don’t want to read too much into it, but I think that this sort of devoted competition actually creates an unwavering kind of loyalty and fosters a deep sense of trust.  At least, that’s the impression I get when I look at the Shiver.

Because she really is a gift.  Brent’s taken the enduring Italian personality of the Aprilia, with its friendly sportiness that makes it easy to handle and so much fun to ride, and after a few weeks of chin-scratching and muttering followed by a few months of magic, he’s turned it into a bike that’s an adventure  just waiting to happen.  On that bike, a man might attempt…well, anything.

She sits tall and so it’s not a bike just anyone could ride.  Certainly, Brent had Mike’s six-foot-something frame in mind when he designed her.  The suspension is three inches higher and the new bars and the re-sculpted seat contribute another few inches making the whole thing five inches taller. I’m just under six feet and it’s tippy-toe work for me.  Around town I’d be praying for green lights because stopping at red lights could be tricky.  Of course, in the end that might not be a problem because this bike looks like she goes where she wants and doesn’t give a damn about something as trivial as traffic lights.

Although she’s not properly a scrambler, the design borrows from that motif and the result is something that wants to go off-road.  That fact alone is probably enough to put a smile on Mike’s face.  He owns a mountain bike shop in Vernon and you’re speaking his language if your sentences include “outdoors,” “off-road” or “back-country.”   

To that end, the stock tires have been swapped out for TKC80s and she’s prepped to have bash plates installed.  She’s also sporting a Dorsoduro front fender, which, incidentally, Brent thought might have actually been the ideal bike for this project.  Of course, even he didn’t say that out loud in front of the Shiver. Besides, I’m not sure he’s right.  In any event, increasing the ride height increased the rake, which makes it, in Brent’s words: “not wheelie-prone…but a lot easier to get the front tire onto the curb.” You know, in case you don’t want to stop at a red light because your feet won’t touch the ground.  Or if you need to get over a log…or a rock…or anything else one might encounter in the back-country.  Or, for that matter, anything one might encounter in a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by zombies.

 And that’s not hard to imagine when you’re looking at the Shiver.  He named her “Day of Reckoning”.  Her six coats of paint in three different shades of green have been rubbed through to give her a “used and abused” look as if she wasn’t just waiting for the apocalypse, but blatantly went looking for it. While the engine is basically stock, the de-baffled exhaust gives her less of a reassuring purr and more of a threatening snarl. There are no promises that she won’t bite.

But she does promise to be fun.  In fact, I think it’s the kind of bike that makes you want to be an idiot the minute you twist the throttle.  On this bike, anything could happen and you find yourself hoping that it will.  After all, that is sort of the point.  Brent has always said that when you ride, you should smile—and, really, that’s the reason he spends his time building bikes.  

And Mike’s smiling now.

And he’ll still be smiling when he’s riding the Shiver to the end of town—or to the end of the world—and into an adventure.  

To read more about the build and see the full gallery, click here

Photo credit: Darren Hull Photography

David Balfour was born in Regina, Saskatchewan and has since lived in Edmonton, Alberta, as well as British Columbia’s Cariboo and Kootenay regions before settling in the Okanagan. David has had a variety of career tangents through the years: he was a roadie for a rock band in the 1990s, he worked on a mushroom farm, completed a Bachelor of Arts degree, owned a small business and recently completed his Education degree at the University of British Columbia. David lives in Kelowna, BC.
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