I am a biker,
living my life on the edge, but it isn’t the edge you
think. I am not unique and I am not a rebel. My
motorcycle story is the same as so many others who are
on the edge between family life and our consuming desire
to spend every available minute riding. Here it is:
The dangers of
motorcycles are obvious and unforgiving. Bikers are bad
people made famous by the likes of Mongols, Hell’s
Angels, Banditos and other 1%-ers. Crotch rockets are
for insane youth who are lucky to outlive the paper
license plate. Even through the early 1990’s
sport-touring was mostly an underground movement in the
My dad was a doctor
and thought tackle football was too risky. At 16, I
thought a motorcycle would be cheap transportation and
that conversation lasted about three minutes.
I was young and
cocky and knew I’d never crash or anything “lame” like
that. I just wanted to go fast and be in the wind.
It looked so fun and so free. (I also wasn’t paying for
my insurance!) I could fly an airplane by myself—but a
motorcycle, that was just too dangerous.
Luck would have it
that my college roommate owned a Suzuki GS750 and a VW
Bus. Every weekend he’d take the VW down to the beach
where he worked as a lifeguard. He’d leave his helmet,
keys and gloves on my bed and I’d make sure it was clean
and full of gas on Sunday night. I started riding
around the neighborhood and progressed to longer cruises
through rural Riverside County in southern California.
I didn’t know it at the time but I was infected with
riding. (And now I know why he left the keys and
seemed to take particular pleasure in creating another
marriage and a couple kids happened in a heartbeat. I
was old enough now to know the intrinsic danger with
motorcycles. But despite this knowledge and the social
bias against them, so many riders were on the road. I
thought, “It must be more than just a simple thrill that
drives these riders,”
I wish I could say
I was unique in how I came to own my first bike at 43.
Heart surgery and a midlife “crisis”—I say
“correction”—motivated me to stop waiting for life to
get here. My wife signed me up for the MSF basic class
as a birthday gift. She figured I’d rent a Harley once
and while. Three days on that little 250 and I had to
get me one and break free of that parking lot, fast.
With my shiny new
“M” on my license, I drove down to EagleRider rentals
and got me a FatBoy for 24 hours. I rode up and down
Hwy 105 until I had the courage to try some
“twisties.” Called my buddy and he got one too and we
rode around another entire, glorious day.
Pretty soon I
realized that $165 per day was a bad habit to feed. So
began the big search. “A 750 is all the bike you’ll
ever need.” “Get an old Harley. You’re owning history
and you’ll learn how to work on it.” “It’s not like you
want to ride the thing to the other side of the
country.” Friends are full of advice.
Craig Miller won
the advice contest. He convinced me I had to have a
Honda. “The Shadow can’t get out of its own way, and
Honda has this new 1800cc cruiser.” I think to myself,
“I can’t ride something that big.” Same day at the
office, “Mr. Harley,”—as evidenced by his shirt, coffee
mug and pen—tells me his first bike was a Road King.
After 10 days with the Denver Post classifieds I rode
home on my 02 VTX1800C.
I tell my family
the cost and insurance is a good deal for
entertainment. I just need a helmet and a jacket. Are
you bikers done laughing yet? Because it doesn’t end
there. Boots, some chrome, tires, tailpack. More…
New seat—my butt still hurts when I recall my first
3-day ride on the stock seat. More than a couple new
black shirts in the closet.
As if all this
wasn’t enough for my family to absorb, my new,
very-short, helmet-friendly haircut was the signal I had
completely changed my life. I wanted to be ready to go
at a moment’s notice. Ride my bike every day
everywhere there wasn’t snow on the ground. “Sneak” in
a ride over lunch or early on Saturday
In trying to
minimize the impact to my family, I’d left them out of
my excitement. I golfed, they could understand that.
Now they wonder “Why does Dad want to leave for 3 days
and not get anywhere or do anything. The trip itself
is the purpose? Weird.”
The fear of
motorcycling is becoming less of an issue for “wife of
biker” or “friend of biker” these days. Rider safety is
more prevalent. American Chopper and Miami
Ink have demystified much of the biker culture.
Recent increases in fuel costs are driving record sales
of motorcycles and scooters as well as resurrecting
“that old bike” from garages everywhere. There are
motorcycles in front of office buildings and in your
But even with
motorcycling now more mainstream, I live in that gap
between family and freedom. Someday I’ll live the dream
of taking a month off and riding the four corners of the
US. But for now I relish every sunny fall day and my
three-mile ride to work. I’ve got to go now and take
my son to the orthodontist—as soon as I grab my Rider
magazine for the waiting room.