By Tom Beaujour
It’s a broiling late-summer afternoon when I pick up the Triumph Street Triple R that will convey me to the various guitar stores I’ll visit for this year’s Guitar Safari Series. Traffic is snarled everywhere, as if the blacktop itself were causing cars and trucks to become stuck to the road.
Luckily, the Street Triple proves itself to be a rider-friendly and eminently maneuverable bike right out of the box. As I wind my way across town from Triumph’s gorgeous SoHo dealership to the Lower East Side, I find that this is a motorcycle that excels in the most challenging city riding conditions. It may not be the wisest (or strictly legal) activity to weave in between blocks' worth of snarled cars, but if you chose to do so, the Triple’s tight turn radius, lean profile, and heart-stopping acceleration will get you through the tightest spots.
Our destination today is Ludlow Street’s aptly named Ludlow Guitars, a shop on the same strip as the Lower East Side’s best-known rock club, Pianos, as well as equally hipster-friendly venues like the Living Room and Cake Shop. Ludlow Street is positively bustling at night, but on this weekday afternoon, the street is almost empty, and it’s easy enough to ride the Street Triple up onto the sidewalk, through the store’s double doors, and right onto the shop floor.
The bike’s Crystal White–and-red color scheme fits right in with the store’s black floors and dark walls — so well, in fact, that customers don’t seem surprised by the Street Triple's presence. Guitars and motorcycles are a perfect aesthetic match, and the patrons probably figure the shop is simply expanding its inventory to encompass even more cool gear than it did before.
In its decade-plus of operation, Ludlow Guitars has built a reputation as one of the best places in New York to shop for instruments by boutique builders like Fano, LSL, and James Trussart, as well as more ubiquitous brands like Paul Reed Smith, Fender, Fender Custom shop, and Gretsch. There are dozens of examples from each brand in stock at any given moment, and Ludlow Guitars co-owner Kaan Howell feels that this is central to the store’s appeal.
“People come in here and are blown away by how much selection we have,” he says. “I think that when it comes to musicians, they like choice. So long as there are enough options on hand, they can try things and get a feel for what they like.” Ludlow also features what Kaan describes as “easily the city’s biggest selection of effects pedals, including lines from Spain, England, and South Korea.” Taking a cue from a time-honored wine shop tradition, Ludlow highlights noteworthy devices with detailed staff recommendations.
It’s an impressive inventory for sure, and one that I have only scratched the surface of as I roll the Street Triple out of the store and back into the pounding afternoon sun. As the engine springs to life with its trademark Triumph whir, I am confident that my Triple and I will tackle whatever the city holds in store for us with grace, power, and style.