Updated: Feb 8, 2022
The concept of restoration is a bit lost on the population of Tbilisi. This isn't to say that they don't repair things, but the repairs are only for keeping something alive and going. It's rarely done for any aesthetic purpose.
I drive an old Ducati. Well, it's not that old, but it's certainly seen a rough life, as most things in this part of the world do. It hasn't been easy to restore it here, as few people really get it.
There's a motorcycle shop that I go to when I need something more serious done that I can’t tackle in my alley with a toolbox. The guy who owns it is named Dima. He's a Russian man with a lazy eye and a good sense of humor. The workers at the shop are hit or miss with their quality, but I still go to his shop because he's a good guy.
It was a hot day out, and there was a crowd of bikes in the driveway. The weather was prime for motorcycle travelers, and everyone was trying to get their bikes prepped so they could jet off into the mountains and leave the sweltering city and their daily lives behind for a moment.
I knew from the scene that I would be there all day.
I milled about and struck up casual conversations with other riders. Eventually, the workers rolled my bike into the shop. Dima walked over to confirm the list of things I wanted to have done.
While we were standing there, an older and incredibly battered Kawasaki Ninja with two passengers came screaming up the winding driveway. The man on the front appeared to have one of his arms in a sling. Just as I noticed his arm, he locked the rear tire and drifted the bike sideways into a parking spot.
That feat alone would have been enough to impress anyone standing around, but the fact that this guy had pulled it off with one hand and a passenger on the back sent the moment into legendary status.
I turned to Dima in disbelief, and I saw his mouth crack a small, knowing smile as the man on the back of the bike dismounted. To my further surprise, the man had not one, but two prosthetic arms.
As I stood there taking in the situation, Dima turned to me and said,
"Between the two of them, they only have one working hand. And yes, they both ride."
"How on earth does the other dude manage?" I asked.
"I'll show you his bike."
We started walking towards the line of motorcycles that were ready to be picked up.
"This one right here," he said, pointing at a brand-new Harley Davidson Electra Glide fitted with a massive sound system. "It's his new bike. We just got done fitting it with everything he needs to get around. It's all custom."
"How does it work? Is it automatic?"
"Nope, everything is designed to be done with the legs. The relocated clutch is pressed with his left knee, and both brakes are linked together to one pedal."
"How does he accelerate?"
"That's what the other pedal is for. All he has to do is sit on it."
"So, what happened to them?" I asked as we started walking back.
"Completely separate circumstances," Dima started. "The guy with the Kawasaki was born with a gimp hand. It's completely useless, so he keeps it in the sling, so it doesn't get in the way."
"And the other?"
"I'm not sure, to be honest, but you can ask him. I have some paperwork I need to get back to."
Dima stubbed out his cigarette and walked in the open office door.
I walked over to find the man texting, which he did by balancing the phone on one hand while he typed out the message with the other.
"Man, that's a nice Harley you got."
"Sure is," he said with a smile." I have not had it very long, but I'm excited to get on it today.
"Do you mind if I ask what happened?"
"Not at all. I lost my hands at age 3 when I tried to pick up a live wire on the ground. I've had plenty of time to get used to these," he said, making a fist with his semi-robotic hands. "Can't even remember what it was like before."
The man told me about his constant fight to keep his rider's license.
"I just show up to the courthouse on the bike, and well... you can't argue with that."
"Got any good trips planned?" I asked.
"Nothing in particular, just gonna hit the mountain roads. It's great riding up north if you haven't been."
"I'll have to check it out."
The crew brought his bike to him, and he looked at it admiringly before he swung his leg over it.
"Nice talking to you," He said, firing up the engine with a roar.
His friend mounted his Kawasaki and started it up.
The Harley’s sound system came to life and The House of the Rising Sun by The Animals blared throughout the crowd of people and bikes.
The engines revved, and the Harley took the lead out of the parking lot, followed by the Kawasaki. With an air of swagger, the Kawasaki revved high and did a perfect sideways burnout down the driveway, like a scene out of an action movie.
I stood in silence for several minutes following that farewell. I remembered my grandfather, also an amputee. I wished with all my might that I could have shown this to him.
Dima walked back out.
"Pretty cool, right?" He said, pulling a smoke out of his pack.
"Incredible. You ever ride with those guys?"
"Oh yeah, a couple of times. I can't keep up with them on the twisty roads, though. They are two of the best riders I have ever known."