The apocalypse. End of days. All of the world’s might has mixed and tumbled in political winds to create a nuclear sharknado of destruction and a biblical, Brillo-pad cleansing.
The sky burned and the oceans turned black. Now it’s overcast almost every day. I survived, probably because I was wearing an armadillo vest that protected me from all harm. Plus, I had a mohawk on my helmet, which killed all of the brain cells that control common sense but left me with 20/15 vision.
And all I need is a motorcycle. Something faster than a zombie can run (just in case) and loud enough to scare away the mutant mackerel that are making their way up from the toxic beaches and into the ruins of the city. I need knobby tires for rubble, lots of fuel, and preferably no fenders in case I meet a fair maiden who has also survived—I don’t want her to think I’m a dweeb.
I kick down the door of Beach Moto on the west side of Los Angeles and wait for the dust to settle. Through the smell of expensive leather, I see what I’m looking for under a pile of broken HVAC vents: the Rev’It 95. Nine hundred forty-two cubic centimeters of Austrian-made volume, in two cylinders splayed at 75 degrees, with a custom exhaust that looks like it was made to start an avalanche or stop a conversation. It’s got a smartphone for a dash, but one of the vents must have smashed it.
On the left side of the KTM 950 mill, I see the cherry on top: auxiliary chains running up from the countershaft sprocket, under the fuel tank, to just behind the steering head. A Christini two-wheel-drive system uses two counter-rotating shafts that drive the front wheel when the rear starts to spin. Perfect for piles of rebar and wreckage, I think. I pick it up off its side, surprised to feel only the weight of a jacked-up FZ-07. A tall 400 pounds.
Popping the cap off the tank, I can’t hear or see any gas inside. Drained. In the shop I find a half-dozen 4-gallon fuel jugs, three empty and three full. The 95 takes a full 12 gallons of 91 octane before the gas fills up the neck of the tank. I heard that the engineers were aiming for 7 gallons when they built it but missed the mark and went over. If only I could thank them for that mistake.
There are carburetors but no choke, so it takes the bike a minute to warm up. It thunders in a tone somewhere between a Ducati racebike and an obnoxious neighbor’s Sportster, shaking dust off the miniature front fender and everything else in the shop. The tires have air and the headlight works. I’m on my way.
Interstate 10 is surprisingly intact, but I cruise slowly. One-wheel drive is fine for now. At random intervals there are huge faults in the freeway, rising or dropping a foot or two with ramps of jagged concrete and steel. The beefy, long-travel fork and shock don’t seem to have a problem with it, but I let the front get away from me on a big drop and crack my delicate bits on 12 gallons of high-test wrapped in aluminum. I won’t need them anyway: No fair maidens in sight through San Bernardino. It’s windy and dusty as I start my climb into the hills and away from Hell-A.
I’m in adventure-bike territory now, blasting up dirt roads and through forests of shrubs. Around 100 hp means spinning the rear wheel whenever I please, and after a few huge slides that leave my feet off the pegs I slow down to walking speed and pull in the clutch. The lever near the headstock shifts with a satisfying, mechanical clunk and the deed is done. Still rolling, I feed the clutch out and continue on, two-wheel drive engaged.
On the dusty, loose fire roads the front-wheel torque steers and pulls the rear out of slides in a way that makes it feel like the bike is haunted and won’t let me crash. I’m not sure it’s more fun, but my feet are still on the pegs. Up a long, steep climb the rear tire claws through sand and rocks—when it starts spinning 30 percent faster than the ground is moving, the front wheel kicks in and helps out. It is equal parts unnerving and awesome.
Then the trail hits a clear and crisp creek. The water could be fine, but all of the chemical plants burning has contaminated much of the ground water so badly that it burns the skin. I hope aloud that the boots I found in a dumpster are waterproof and then barge across the stream. The rear wheel spins and the front scrambles to help, pulling me through the slimy rocks and twisting the handlebar in my hands.
No rear fender means water splashes up on the back of my neck and stings like a yellow jacket. I am optimistic that a fair maiden is watching. After a quick bottom out on the skid plate, the 95 and I make it to the other side, the bike idling calmly and drip-drying slowly. An undignified dab through a swath of softball-size rocks on the other side of the creek, and I rejoin the trail.
Roaring up to a precipice, I can see over the Los Angeles basin. I wonder what time it is as I reach for my backpack full of water, beef jerky, and the machete I found in the trunk of a cop car. Shit. Forgot my backpack—I guess I’ll have to go back. Mackerel be damned.
This article was originally published on Motorcyclist