Growing up I wasn’t interested in motorcycles outside of pretending my bicycle was one after watching Grease 2. When I turned 38 my father mentioned he was going to take the motorcycle training course offered locally. When I found out that it was relatively cheap (only the cost of a motorcycle permit) and they gave you both a helmet and motorcycle to use I decided to go with him. What I found out after that first day riding around on a 250cc motorcycle in a parking lot was that not only was I pretty good at riding, but I really enjoyed it.
It wasn’t long after that class that I obtained my Class M motorcycle license and purchased my first motorcycle, a 2011 Kawasaki Vulcan 900. After talking to many riders the consensus was to buy a bike big enough that I wouldn’t outgrow it before I left the parking lot of the dealership. The 900 gives me enough power to take it out on the highway when needed and if I ever get my wife to ride along with me the bike won’t mind. I also realized that I needed a bike with enough power that I would continue to respect it without feeling that I could do wheelies or jump cars (which lets be honest is how you feel after riding a 250cc and watching Grease 2).
The first question I got after people got over the shock of me owning a motorcycle was “so when your son wants one what are you going to say” to which I replied “when he turns 38 he can get one too”. It’s not a secret that motorcycles are dangerous, and there is so much that is out of your control when riding, so removing reckless youth from the equation is important.
Early on when you start riding you’re mostly consumed with fear and the constant recall of all the important safety lessons you learned in class. No matter how long you may have been driving a car you suddenly realize that the road is a dangerous place and every driver around you is crazy. Driving a car is very dangerous yet most people do not think of it the same way as riding a motorcycle, perhaps it’s due to the ability of the car to offer leeway. When driving a car not paying attention may lead you to slamming on the breaks and hopefully not hitting anything yet the car allows you to a degree some leeway in slamming on those breaks. You may leave a skid mark on the road and need new tires afterwards but you probably came to safe stop. There is no such thing on a motorcycle. Although we all hope to not get into major accidents in our cars we may at some point have small fender benders or close calls. There are no such things on a motorcycle. The safety that our cars give us to many degrees are simply not there when riding. It’s just you, the motorcycle and hopefully the helmet your wearing.
Yet it’s that same danger that keeps you focused on a motorcycle (or at least it should) and it’s because of that it becomes one of those times where your mind is able to be cleared and your distractions are taken away. I love driving in my car, it’s got lots of cool technology that let’s me turn up my music, get directions and use hands free voice calling to talk to my friends and family; but they are all distractions. When you’re on your motorcycle you’re probably not listening to music or getting directions from your GPS (although I’m sure some bigger bikes have this) and you are most definitely not talking on your cell phone! It’s just you and the open road out there and you should probably be focused on what’s coming up on that open road.
Since you are focused on that road ahead you’re also pretty focused on what your bike is doing as well, unlike driving in a car you really become one with your motorcycle. Sure that probably stems from the fact that there’s not much separating your from the bike, car owners may never even see their engine but on a motorcycle you’re sitting right on top of it! That’s what gives you a connection and a feeling like you’re in this together, relying on each other to stay safe and get home in one piece to ride another day.
Although it really is a personal connection between you and your motorcycle one thing is for sure when you’re out riding; you are immediately part of the biggest and nicest community on the road. The motorcycle wave is one of the unique things you’ll see out on the road. Let’s face it when you’re in your car you don’t drive down the road and wave to everyone you pass, but on a motorcycle you will. It’s one of the best things about riding because it doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are, what your nationality or language is or how long you’ve been riding you are immediately part of the club.
Riding isn’t for everyone and those that don’t ride often question those that do. The danger always seems to outweigh the enjoyment. If you do ride though you know that there really isn’t anything quite like it. That short break (or long break on a long ride) from the hectic life around you, the enjoyment of what’s around you and the company of friends riding in a group or just passing by makes it all worth it. There is no question though that you must be prepared when riding and you must be ready for what’s up ahead at all times.
I tell anyone who asks about riding that if nothing else go take the riding class, it’s fun and often really cheap, and you’ll probably get a few days enjoyment out of it. For those friends that do ride though, an invitation is always ready to get your motor running, and head out on the highway!