The Half Egan: Defined and Performed

www.vft.org, the vintage dirt-track site. The ads went up at 10:15 a.m. At 10:45, I got a call from up north. The guy said he'd pay the asking price and would I hold the bike until he could mail me half the total? Yes, I said.

As in, wow, never in my life have I sold anything that easily.

I wondered if I'd left money on the table, but engine guru Bruce Fischer says no, there's a buyer psychology at work here: Buyers will pay six thou for a good example but will balk at nine for a perfect specimen. That works out 'cause I know two racers with vintage Harleys just like mine, but better, and they can't come close to the book value.

Here begins the Half Egan.

Back when the earth had cooled enough for us to ride on the brand-new dirt, my late friend, Henry Manney III, let me ride his Triumph Trophy Trail, one of the very machines used by the Triumph team in the 1973 ISDT. It was a treat, big enough to be stable, small enough to be agile and the engine—a unit 500cc Twin—was wonderful; to this day, I think the Triumph Twin was best at that size.

A couple years ago, I went on the scout, checking the ads and looking up price—you know about that, too, I bet—just in case one turned up by happy accident. This wasn't something I'd wanted when I was a kid, mind you, nor was it something I needed. Instead, it was a bike I liked and would like to own, but hadn't yet, hence the Half Egan.

Presto. I went on eBay and did the weekly scan and there it was: 8500 miles on the odo, listed at well under book and no bids. None. An omen, surely. I waited until the final hour, bid the minimum and won the auction.

"The bike's in Tennessee," I said.

"I've never been to Tennessee," she said.

Clearly this was her chance. We pinned the carrier to the Durango's hitch and headed east. We hit snow the first day, blinding fog the second day and rain the third day. Morning of the fourth, we loaded the bike in a snow flurry and, thank goodness, the seller was ex-navy and knew about knots.

Good man, typical vintage-motorcycle type, in that here's the modest house with a two-car garage filled with parts and engines. Behind that is another two-car garage packed with old bikes—25 or 30 at least. Mine was in front. What with the snow, I settled for starting it in the garage.

The original owner was a priest in Memphis, I was told, and must have had a small parish 'cause the mileage was so low. He—the seller, that is—bought the Triumph in '92 and never rode it, just ran it enough to keep the gas fresh and the battery charged; no leaks, just layers of grunge.

We took the southern route home and did it in an afternoon, a full day and a slog—1219 miles in one long session. Too much, and I won't do that again. Soon as we got home, I went on eBay looking for a shop/parts/owners manual. Ain't it always the way!?

First item up was—you guessed—a Triumph Trophy Trail: '73, 20 bids so far topped at less than I paid, but this one had only 3000 miles and was registered, insured and an hour's drive from my house. But wait! There's more bidding. At the finish, there'd been 34 bids, topped at $4600 and still less than the reserve, proving I didn't miss my best chance.

And anyway, as Peter Egan himself said, if I'd bought the pristine bike just up the road, I wouldn't have...had a week with just the two of us...seen country we'd never seen...survived dark, stormy and skiddy nights...got to use the Durango's four-wheel drive...found backroad barbeque in Tennessee and Cajun cuisine in downtown Ruston, Louisiana...or brought home a bike that needs me.

What fun would that have been?

—Allan Girdler

*Note: Forget the term as used in freestyling stunting, when you are facing the direction of travel and rotate backward, that's a gainer. A back flip is when you rotate backward while facing away from the direction of travel. Just thought you'd like to know.