Saturday, March 3, 2012

Boots and bike rentals

I hadn’t actually planned to take a ride on this trip to the States, thinking I might visit one or two café racer haunts and maybe get some photos of custom and classic bikes for our Mid Life Cycles website ( . However, brother Andrew had rented a bike on a previous trip to San Francisco and recommended I check out the options at Dubbelju Motorcycle Rentals ( in downtown San Francisco. I’m glad I did.

Dubbelju (pronounced double-you) recently celebrated their 20th anniversary, which is a good effort in any motorcycle business and particularly in something like rentals. The business was established by Wolfgang Taft in 1991. Several years earlier, Wolfgang had visited the States and found there was nowhere he could rent a bike to ride the famed Highway 1 on the US west coast. He came back for a second visit, decided to stay and set up a bike rental business.

Today, Dubbelju rents a variety of bikes, from BMW tourers through Harley cruisers, Hondas, Kawasakis, Suzukis and a Royal Enfield, to Triumph Bonneville and Scrambler. The latest addition to the fleet is sure to be a hit: a brand new Ducati Multistrada. Dubbelju rents bikes, stores bikes, and hoists a few precious collectables up into the rafters…

Staff members are friendly and helpful. Enthusiastic riders themselves, they’re happy to suggest good rides on some of California’s great roads, whether for a day or much longer. Dubbelju can supply helmets, jackets, pants and gloves in the rental price, but not boots (and that’s understandable given the myriad of size variations that would be needed).

Rental consultant Cherie was very patient while I tried on helmets and jackets, and was mortified when I stuck my hand into a bike glove only to find that it felt (and smelt) like someone’s wet sock. So, strike the gloves then… I didn’t really have suitable boots with me, but as I wasn’t riding till the next day I decided to look for some at a nearby Cycle Gear outlet ( For 80 bucks all up, I got some reasonable mid-weight gloves, a neck-warmer, thick socks and a pair of lace-up boots that protected the ankles but looked like I’d stolen them from Frankenfurter’s dressing-room. Should be good for several years’ wear, then…

Suitably attired for a six-day trial, I clumped over to the black Triumph Scrambler I’d decided to rent. Was this the same bike that Andrew had rented a year or two ago? Possibly, must check that. Some quick instructions from Cherie on how to make it around the block to the freeway entrance, and I was off. But so were my feet. I couldn’t find the damn pegs, much less the gearlever and tried to upchange using the left footpeg rubber. Aha, there they are, somewhere up near the front wheel compared with the Thruxton I’m used to. OK, now I’ve got it.

The Scrambler is an attractive retro-style bike, with suggestions of Steve McQueen and his Triumph Trophy – very appropriate associations for a San Francisco ride. It rides nicely, but this one was quieter than I’d like, the trademark off-beat burble of the 270-degree parallel twin fitted to this model muffled by the California fun police. On the freeway, the tyres hummed and whined on the rain grooves, but the bike held fairly steady. In the twisties, it was fun and predictable – and flickable, as the encounter with a rambling pick-up truck proved. It was like an old friend, but not like a Thruxton. One gripe though: the high pipes on the right side might look great, but the heat shield dug into my leg and caused a strange, one-leg-akimbo riding position – not from the heat, just from the sharp edge of the shield.

All up, it was an enjoyable day’s ride for less than US$180, T-shirt included. Thanks to Cherie and Dubbelju – a business run by enthusiasts who make it easy to ride great roads.

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