Crotch Rocketeers

It's zero to oblivion in a heartbeat for too many of the risk takers on the new supercharged bikes

You know how they say pride goeth before a fall? It could be the modern motorcyclists' mantra. The newest crop of racing-style bikes possesses outrageous power and intoxicating speed, generating a state of adrenaline-dumping euphoria. Add some cockiness and testosterone, then approach one of these machines without the proper level of respect and it'll whip around and kill you.

Go fast enough -- which is precisely what these bikes are designed to do -- then make the slightest mistake -- and you're a new organ donor. A bug splattered on an SUV's windshield.

Some of the new, high-end Japanese cycles can go 200 mph right out of the box. With a soft, fleshy human as part of the chassis, there's no such thing as a small accident. In this arena, even something as innocent as sneezing can spell disaster. A simple ah-choo at 180 mph means you'll travel more than 350 feet with your eyes shut. Plenty of time for another vehicle to pull out in front of you, which -- unless you're a very, very skilled rider -- means your runny nose makes you a hood ornament.

On a sultry, sauna-esque evening, all the action at the Hooters at Pines and University is in the parking lot. There are about 300 bikes rolling in, Pat Travers' "Snortin' Whiskey, Drinkin' Cocaine" blasting from the outdoor PA, and throngs of Harley dudes and dudettes, along with the younger gang with their Suzuki Hayabusas, Honda GXRs, Kawasaki ZX-12s. Sometimes, boasts Rex, he can make the 16 miles from his house to the Hooters in nine minutes.

If reaching 100 mph on your motorcycle puts you in an elite class, imagine what 140 or 180 will do, 24-year-old Joshua Schwalb says. "They call it a speed limit, and limits are made to be broken," he says. "It's considered an achievement. And when they get a cop behind 'em, it's an even bigger thrill, because they know they're gonna get away." Schwalb works for Peterson Motorcycles in Miami, and he's here displaying product, including a sleek, lemon-yellow 900cc Buell sports bike, a relatively obscure brand. Some of these speed freaks travel in packs, he notes, and will even record and privately market video footage of their road-warrior exploits. "The fear doesn't outweigh the thrill," he explains. "It's all about the adrenaline."

A leather-clad man with a graying ponytail and a saddle-seat Harvey lowrider sputters in and scowls at John and Jesse, typical young malcontents with new monster bikes. Jesse is still amped-up from the ride here, which, he says proudly, rocketed him up to 140 on the Florida Turnpike as he popped wheelies and wove between cars.

"Not just to show off," he insists, his face still tightened in a grimace from the intensity of the butt-clenching ride. "For the sport of it." At almost every red light, Jesse is tempted to let his front wheel lift off the pavement -- not hard to do when the bike can put out 1,000 pounds of thrust in a millisecond.

"Chicks dig it," John guffaws, reciting another age-old truism.

"They love that shit," Schwalb confirms. "You always hear, 'Where have all the good guys gone?' But the truth is that girls really want an asshole, someone who doesn't take any shit from anyone. And a lot of these guys are assholes."

For John and Jesse, courting girls and death takes place on the same turf. On the way up from Miami, Jesse remarks, he opened the throttle, hitting eight grand (8,000 rpm's) -- and then had two cars merge in front of him. Somehow, he screamed past unscathed. John's 1999 Yamaha R-6 is now capable of achieving 160 on the road, but when he adds a nitro-burner, he plans on passing the 200-mph mark, a summit most motorists can't even imagine scaling.

"Hopefully, I'll get to 212, 213, unless I kill myself," he half-laughs.

Jesse has only owned his 2005 Gixxer (a Suzuki GXR 600) since May, and the bike is his very first experience with motorcycling. Before taking the time for a local geography lesson, Bold Captain Jesse is already exploring the outer rim of the galaxy. For practice, he'll hit the Sawgrass Expressway or the area near the junction of 595 and US 27 at around 2 a.m., when there aren't many cars. A lonely strip of pavement in the Everglades known as "Hayabusa Mile" offers another sanctuary for time-trialists, but the law is starting to crack down there.

"Once you get over 200 mph," Jesse says, almost shaking with excitement, "it's crazy! Like you're invincible!"

"And then the next night, you're so excited you can't even sleep," John adds.

Other young riders, like Robert Cortebano, with leathers, helmet, and a new Suzuki, prefer to err on the side of caution. Cortebano still loves to hang out, walk up and down the rows of bikes, and show off. He's had his bike only a month and admits, "I'm still trying to get used to it."

Sgt. Domingo "DJ" Torres received his pilot's license before he even graduated from high school in 1979. He's been with the Florida Highway Patrol for 21 years, spending the last seven of those up in the air. In that time, he estimates, he has been asked almost a dozen times to assist in the pursuit and capture of speeding crotch rocketeers.

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