I can remember most of my life saying “I’d kill myself on one of those” as I’d look at a Ducati thunder past. But I’d still stare, longingly as one would pass because of the allure, the perfectly sculpted of the red panels, the throaty rhythmic melody of a glorious V-Twin. Hell, even the ability to pin the throttle and outrun anything made those motorcycles as much form as they were function. The problem was I didn’t think that way about just Ducati’s. Older cafe racers elicited the same reaction from me. Even a sport bike, with the rider dangling precariously off to the side would make me smile and stare. But, I never once twisted the throttle until I was well into my 20’s.
Sure some of you may say that’s still young, and others may have been riding since they were 5. But for me, it wasn’t about the thrill or romance of a motorcycle, it was about the cost. At this point in my life I had sacrificed a fair amount to go racing. My bedroom and garage were the only rooms in the house that showed any signs of life. I worked 2 sometimes 3 jobs to make sure I could afford used tires. My fridge was constantly filled with little more than condiments and the odd beer or two. The living room would sit untouched for days, and the cable was barely used. However, the garage was teaming with life, from suspension swaps, to brake bleeding, I was constantly working on whatever my race car was. The driveway changed very little over those years with a truck and a trailer taking up most of the space. I had everything I needed for weekend fun.
But that was exactly the problem, I could only have fun on the weekends at the track. My pickups would shuttle me to and from work without a problem. The good trucks would even provide me the thrill of taking up 2 lanes of traffic when the roads were wet and my foot got heavy. But those were the only smiles my trucks gave me. I don’t remember how long it took me to figure it out. But I was dying on the inside a little every day that I drove my truck. I needed something I could smile about. I needed something FUN!
While that may seem all well and good, I was poor. Not the “I live on the mean streets” poor, but the “I own a legit race car” poor (although the more I think about it the more those situations seem very similar). I couldn’t spend money on a car, I’d have to stop racing to afford one. This is when my neighbor stopped by on his sport bike and asked me why I didn’t have a motorcycle. I liked to go fast, I liked to work on things, and I wanted something that was fun and cheap. “I’d kill myself on one of those” I replied. We spoke for a little while and he said I was silly for not considering it. Needless to say the seed was planted.
I eventually signed up for the MSF class, obtained my license and acquired a bike. I bought a lightly loved 2000 SV650 from a friend (who graciously rode it to my house since he didn’t trust me on the bike, lol). I’d love to tell you it was all smooth sailing from there, but honestly the first few months sucked. I was ALWAYS afraid... What was that sound? Is that driver even paying attention? Do I lean and turn the bars in a tight turn? There is so much to think about on a motorcycle, and 90% of it is simple... Don’t Die!
The more miles I put on, the more my riding style changed to suit the conditions. I became much more confident that I wasn’t going to kill myself but I also grew less confident the mother of two doing her makeup while sipping her latte on a conference call beside me in her HUGE SUV, wouldn’t either. I eventually started going on weekend rides with a group and saw some amazing places in western Virginia. Whenever I had a bad day I’d jump on the bike and hit some back roads before dinner. Sometimes I’d just park the bike by the side of the road and sit on a fence enjoying the view. I ended up growing to love being on two wheels because of how it made me feel.
That being said, perching yourself on top of an unstable object is not all fun and games. In my time on two wheels I’ve only had 3 unsavory experiences. My first was on the last ride I took on my SV. Not because it was totaled, but it was because I had just taken a deposit on it (which leads me to the don’t drive/ride it once its “sold”). I was in a turn and hit some new pavement, complete with all the pebbles from the patch. I’m not exactly sure of the details, but I ended up sliding face down with my hand trapped under my body. Luckily my helmet did its job, but the “glove” didn’t (I still have small scars on my left hand). I rode the bike home, and sold it the next day (for substantially less than planed). The second was, what I would assume looked like, a spectacular high side in a parking lot due to a little too much throttle on a supermoto. Three cars passed by and no one stopped, but the bike was fine. I was also fine other than a bruised rib and blow to my pride. The last caused me to stop ridding for 2 years, not that I missed DC traffic. I was still on that supermoto near a construction zone and traffic was sucking so I decided to make a lane change. Ordinarily its an innocent maneuver... until a school bus driver decides to do the same thing into the lane you are in. I made it almost past the oblivious bus but I manged to clip the STOP sign with my shoulder and it knocked me into the jersey wall. I ended up being apologized to when we both stopped at the stop light. But without a scratch, I was on my way.
I bring those stories up because they also impact how I ride, since I ride a lot now. I ended up stopping racing (school, marriage, and moving all made that nearly impossible to sustain) and selling every car I own (save for a project car that doesn’t run). I now commute 100% by motorcycle. I do have access to my wife’s car, but its scheduled in advance and isn’t used much. As I look back on it all its funny to see how my view on motorcycles has changed. I believe its for the better, but I’m probably biased. The one thing I can say is that I still enjoy twisting the throttle and taking off to beautiful and scenic places.