Last fall my good friend Will was riding a motorcycle just like the one in this photo, down this very road when something went terribly wrong.
I don’t know what actually happened; I only know my bright, immediately likeable, 28 year old cohort lost his life while embracing his new passion. At his memorial service I was concerned about how I would introduce myself to his mother. I was the guy who shared his two-wheeled passion. I was the guy who owned his bike’s identical twin. I was the guy who had loaned him a helmet so he could take his mother for a ride. I finally got up the courage and told her who I was. Rather than being angry and blaming the bike, me or Will’s decision to become a rider, she told me how much Will loved that bike and how he enjoyed riding. She recognized his passion and knew the bike had become part of who he was.
I’m nearly 52 years old. I began riding at age 7. I rode motocross and woods bikes until I reached my early twenties. I crashed those bikes hundreds of times. Never anything serious, but plenty of bruises. My father purchased my first street bike for me when I was 16. It was a Suzuki 250 Dual Sport bike. It was mostly junk, but I learned to ride on the road on that bike. That machine opened up a new world of riding for me. I began gravitating from off-road riding to road travel. Over the years I have owned dozens of street bike and ridden all over the Midwest, the East and the South. I crashed once and had countless close calls.
My life can be defined by a few simple parameters; one of the more significant ones being that I am “a rider.” My parents started me on the road to riding, even though neither of them ever owned a bike. My mother has worried and fretting over my riding for 45 years; however, she has accepted that without a bike in the garage my life would be like a puzzle missing a final piece.
My wife does not ride and neither do my grown children…and I am fine with that. One less thing for a parent to worry about. Sounds hypocritical, but I understand the fear completely. So, how can I justify the risk of riding myself? I can’t really explain it, and to those of you who also ride, I don’t even have to. You know there is something unexplainable about traveling down a twisty piece of asphalt, with the sun poking through the trees, the aroma of fresh cut grass in the air and a crisp breeze in your face that makes you feel so alive. There is something unexplainable about leaning that machine on its side, first left, then back right in quick succession as you traverse a winding mountain road. It’s like an elegant dance, only the bike is not your partner…you are one and the same. There is something unexplainable about twisting the throttle on a 107 hp, 400 pound rocket, looking over the bars at the yellow line racing under your feet and feeling the adrenaline rush of motion. It’s like being in the front car of the world’s fastest roller coaster, only you hold the controls. Riding is, for me, one of life’s simple pleasures. Pull my bike out of the garage and onto the road and I am transformed into a new person. The road becomes my physician, my psychiatrist, my minister, my friend. I can’t explain why I take the risk and more than I can explain why a dog sticks his head out of the car window as you drive down the road…but I understand it completely. Time to go for a ride.