Piraeás was still sleeping when I arrived. I wandered around for a few hours before the shops would open. No need to hurry since my appointment with Michalis was at 11:00, and the one with the seller at 15:00. Michalis’ shop, called Classic Motorcycles Ltd is at Kalliroïs Street, south of the Acropolis, where a dozen or so motorbike shops are located. I would have 2 hours to visit them all and peruse all the helmets (see previous article for the why) and finally — hopefully — come out with a fit before my first appointment. The seller was located in Ilion, in the north-east of Athens. If traffic was smooth I would even have more time to peruse more helmets in between the two appointments.
But first I was to go see a shop in Piraeás which was advertising in one of the motorbike magazines that I bought. Easier said than done. I could of course have taken a taxi and have me delivered to the address given, but I’m too cheap for that. At a periptero I had bought a street map of the greater Athens area, which was of the usual low quality, outdated and missing all but the most important streets as I soon discovered. But I decided to walk anyway. Big mistake. Piraeás — and I had completely forgotten about that since the last time I came here some years ago — is loud and chaotic and dirty. It’s completely run down. Most importantly there are no street names to be seen anywhere. One can see the spots were the plates used to be, attached to the corner houses. They probably fell off and nobody bothered to replace them. Anyway, I got completely lost and by the time I found the shop I had walked for more than a hour. A sign on the door indicated that he shop was closed all day.
Back on foot to the port, where I purchased a day pass for the metro. By then I must have covered more than 5 kilometers on foot already… Unlike in other metropolitan areas that I know, you can’t get a map of the metro system in Athens. The system is less complex than in let’s say Paris or London, so that’s maybe why nobody bothers. I only had to change trains once at Omonia. Getting out of the Pygrou-Fix metro station I was surrounded by bike shops immediately. It was close to 9 o’clock and most shops had signs telling that they would open at 10. Fair enough, I had time to have a coffee and a spanakópita, a small pastry filled with spinach, feta cheese and herbs, and give my hot feet a rest.
At 10 I was back on my feet and made the round of the shops. I’ll spare you the details, I tried all the brand names, Arai, Mobo, Nolan, Airoh, AVG, Caberg, even but-ugly Shoei, but to not avail. One obscure brand I had never heard of, by the name of LS2, had a model that almost fitted more or less, maybe a bit too tight, so when asked for me to try the next bigger size in order to compare, they didn’t have that in stock and they wouldn’t replenish on it for this season. I didn’t risk taking the smaller size because I was afraid it would feel uncomfortable and when a helmet feels uncomfortable you don’t wear it. Which is all too easy here because practically nobody wears a helmet. I’d rather avoid that temptation. Bummer again.
Next stop was Michalis’ shop, only a block away. Michalis is a very decent chap who obviously enjoys what he’s doing. Even though he normally closes on Saturday, and it was still closed when I arrived, after a quick phone call he came down to the shop for me and we had a very pleasant time chatting about the pros and cons of the various Enfield models. I got even more convinced that the Electra version was the one for me. We made a ride on one of his showroom models right into the traffic of Athens, first me on the pillion seat, after a few kilometers we switched places. I hadn’t ridden a motorbike in over 25 years and I was terrified with the traffic! But we survived. I want one, no I need one! But I don’t want to spend the €5500 for a new one, just the basic version. It’s not a life necessity for me and we have other more important things to pay for. So I considered myself only too lucky that I would soon be able to buy a slightly used model (2 years, 2400km) for only €3000.
Alas! It was not to be…
After I said goodbye to Michalis I headed back to the metro station, but not without first trying a few more helmets in shops at the opposite side of the street. I grew more desperate with every helmet that I tried. It’s enough to give an otherwise reasonably well balanced guy a serious complex! Good thing that I have extensive psychological assistance at home…
At two thirty, after another ride on the metro and a short taxi drive I was at the sellers place. The Royal Enfield was parked outside on the street. Due to all the highly informational conversations I’d had with Asterix and Michalis I noticed immediately that this was not an Electra! Even before I opened the door of the cab. The seller had seen me arriving and came out on the street. We discussed for a while the mint condition the bike was in (I have to admit that) and how this was a really exceptional deal, nowhere would I find a bike in this condition at this price, etcetera, etcetera, and then I dropped the deadly question.
- Me: Are you sure this is an Electra?
- He: Why yes, of course, it has electronic ignition, it has a five speed gearbox, it has everything.
- Me: But it’s not an Electra
- He: Ah, don’t worry, it’s exactly like an Electra. You will love this bike.
Well, maybe, but I don’t love being treated like an idiot. I was really disappointed but tried not to show it. It’s like having a nice tournedos dangled before your nose and at the end being served a burger. They’re both beef (well, one of them at least is for sure), but that’s where the similarity ends. The point was that I came all the way for an Electra and it wasn’t an Electra. For some reason that concept was difficult to grasp for the seller. In the mean time reinforcement was brought into the field when the rest of the household apparently had noticed that negotiation didn’t go as smooth as expected. First came the mother, with a tray of freshly squeezed orange juice and tiropita (pastry made of layers of phyllo filled with cheese). Then the father followed: “I’m an engineer, are you an engineer?”. But I stood firm, didn’t fall for either the charm offensive nor the intimidation tactics. In the end we all agreed that the deal was not going to happen, we had some more conversation about old-timers, motorbikes in general and more chit-chat, after which I thanked them cordially for their hospitality and bode them farewell.
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, the trip back to the port of Piraeás, where I arrived too early to be admitted on the ferry, the waiting in what once was a rather colorful local cafeteria on the port grounds, now replaced by a dull Starbucks — I don’t even like their coffee, I find it highly overrated, being the first to embark, found a nice place on a double couch in a corner of the bar, where I tried to sleep a bit during the night, not before having my rakí, I arrived home around 7 o’clock this morning and slept well into the mid day. We had a nice lunch at the beach of Karteros, went for a swim afterwards and lingered on the beach until 8 o’clock.
Now the search for a secondhand Royal Enfield Electra will begin in earnest…