In 2005, while surfing the ‘net, I stumbled upon an upcoming movie called, The World’s Fastest Indian. I mentioned the movie to my husband, an inveterate motorcyclist, and suggested we see it. This was intended to be one of those Grand Gestures, one of those things wives do to be nice, not because we actually want to do the thing. So much for Karmic Brownie Points…The World’s Fastest Indian is one of my all time favorite movies.
With the same intentions, after reading about Big Sid’s Vincati, I managed to snag an early copy for myself. I really intended it to be a book for my husband, although I knew I’d need to read it as well. Once again, I thought I was doing something nice for my husband. And once again, so much for Karmic Brownie Points…
Big Sid’s Vincati, The Story of a Father, a Son, and the Motorcycle of a Lifetime is the story of a renowned motorcycle mechanic and his son. Big Sid suffers a heart attack, and like many heart patients, loses his interest in life. His son, Matthew, impulsively suggest they build a motorcycle together. A hybrid, made up of an old Vincent and a Ducati. Vincent motorcycles were produced in Britain from 1928 to 1955. For decades Big Sid was the guy to see for anything Vincent in the United States. Matthew had taken an entirely different path in life and is a Shakespearean professor.
Authenticity is added to the story by the author as he explores the younger years of Big Sid. He is unsparing in the descriptions of Sid’s father, the conflicts of Sid’s life and how these shaped his own life. While ostensibly the story of motorcycles, the book speaks more to the relationships between fathers and sons. At times it was as if I was reading about my own husband and his father. Through it all runs the thread of the rides. Motorcycles have an almost mystic pull on the people that ride them.
“The rides out in the midday sun, taking graceful sweepers along Skyline Drive, from Front Royal down to Asheville. All those times, all of it merging into this one road, under this one sun, burning hard in the sublime blue sky, while on either side of this ribbon of road, the trees flashed by, my father in my mirror, behind me.”
From the practical standpoint, it was helpful to me that I’ve spent over thirty years hanging around a man who loves bikes. The vernacular wasn’t completely foreign to me, and I had my handy reference guide sitting right next to me. And I’ll admit to sort of skimming some of the technical passages about the construction of the bike. In spite of that, read this book. It’s a good story. And if you find yourself a bit confused about some terminology, it really doesn’t matter. The heart of the book might be the Vincati, but it’s the soul you’ll focus on. And the soul of the book is Big Sid and Matthew.