Sunday, December 30, 2007

On motorcycles...

My very favorite pursuit in life, is riding. I have been riding for many years now and have had an even longer affiliation with riding if I go back to my younger years. Yet riding is something, for the privileged amongst us, that never gets old. It is something I always look forward to doing and and it is also an activity that never disappoints. How many activities can you think of that would fit into these categories?

My ride is a 2004 Honda VTX 1800C. When I bought this bike, new, out-of-the-crate in August 2005, I could have purchased any bike on the planet. I chose this bike among all others, with a great deal of investigating and research beforehand. What do I know about bikes? I have been involved with motorcycles since just after the Earth cooled. I am accredited as a Harley-Davidson Technician by the American Motorcycle Institute (AMI) in Daytona Beach, FL. I graduated on 03 March 1997 with a 3.75 grade average. I worked in the motorcycle industry for 4 years after leaving the Navy (1996) at a shop called Powertrend Cycles in Dartmouth, NS. My boss and mentor was Garnet Hill, who is arguably the best wrench in the Province of Nova Scotia, if not the entire Maritimes. Mike (Toad) Roach was the only person I ever knew that could give Garnet a run for his money. Unfortunately 'Toad' passed away in January of 2007, to the great sorrow of every rider on the East Coast and many others in countries around the world.

We wrenched mainly on Harleys, though we'd fix or customize anything out there. Our specialty was building 'frame-up' custom bikes. These were big-bucks, big-inches custom Harley-clones that outshone anything produced by any other shop. So yes, I am intimately familiar with all products 'Harley-Davidson'. No, I did not buy one when it came to buying a new bike... If I have to explain why I didn't, then it is clear that you know very little about motorcycles. In fact, and I say this without any type of brand-bashing in mind, most people who don't know a goddamn thing about motorcycles or riding, will drop the name: "Harley-Davidson" when asked about motorcycles. To the bike-wise, this does not instill condifence that you know what you're talking about. Figure it out for yourself... I am a proud member of the Canadian VTX Riders, by the way.

What I define as riding, results in a quasi-transcendental state of mind. There is simply nothing that can compare with the feeling I experience when I ride. It is the ultimate serenity vehicle. I believe that riding is meant to be done alone, to derive the maximum pleasure from the experience. While it can be pleasurable to travel with a companion, this only holds true if your passenger enjoys riding to the same degree that you do. There are such people out there who may never graduate to riding their own bike, but who actually love to travel with their mate. These are a rare find. Riding two-up is a totally different type of riding. It's a little more complex, less spontaneous than riding alone, but it can have it's own rewards if you have the right partner. You'll discover what mode of riding suits you best.

I consider riding to be the most selfish of pleasures. I do it for myself only. I'm not big on riding with a group. Too many distractions, which would take my attention away from the number 1 priority: "Cagers". Cars and trucks are enough to look out for, without having to keep tabs on a slew of 'newbies' on bikes. With a pack, the pace is dictated by whoever is leading and good leaders who are able to understand the dynamics and rules of pack riding, are few and far between. Group riding should always be a disciplined method of riding, if it is to be done with any margin of safety. I don't mind riding with three or four more riders whom I trust, but no...I don't do groups...

Close calls with cars and trucks should not ruin a good day's riding. They are accepted as a daily eventuality, for as unfortunate as that may sound. The experience of riding a bike, or even riding as a vulnerable passenger on one, is something every car and truck driver should experience. I fully maintain that in order to get a car license, every individual should have to qualify for their motorcycle endorsement first and spend at least a year on a bike, before being allowed to get behind a steering wheel. You truly have no idea how many absolutely, retardedly-stupid, incompetent drivers there are out there, until you have to face them on two wheels. Anyone, and I do mean anyone, who has ridden for at least a year, will be able to attest to this simple fact.

Riding (amongst other benefits...) takes you away from the negative influences in your day, as well as the everyday stresses and hassles associated with life on this Big Blue Orb of ours... What it provides in turn, is an opportunity to commune with the road, the machine, the wind and my own thoughts. Many times, my own thoughts just go for a walk... and it's just myself, 'Baby' and the road.

There are some up here in Canada who might be a tad jealous of our brothers and sisters to the South, who might get to ride just about all year around. This is certainly understandable on many levels. You know who you are... But Northern Riders such as ourselves, follow different rituals than our 'Murrikan' counterparts, who live in the Southern States. Winter for the Northern Rider, is just another part of the riding season. It is the one where we tend to our beasts, that have given us such wonderful moments and experiences during the warmer months. It is a time for perusing catalogs and travel maps, reminiscing over past travels and planning new ones. It is a time for periodic maintenance, of replacing fluids and parts, of fogging cylinders and hooking up battery tenders. It is a time for removing panels, nursing a coffee while cleaning and detailing areas left untended during the riding season, trying to remember on what trip it might have been that we picked up that dragonfly stuck in the air filter.

For many, winter is a time of metamorphosis for their machines. It is the period from which their rides will emerge, transformed, glistening with new paint, chrome or that long-awaited 240 rear tire kit. It is a time for washing and reconditioning our riding gear, whether they be leathers or ballistic nylon. No, we don't get much riding done...but we do a bunch of bench-racing and tall-tale telling whenever we get together. I believe the winter months keep us from ever taking for granted, how wonderful riding truly is. And come spring, our love of riding is as strong and vibrant as it was the very first time we rested our boots on a set of pegs. Our love never grows old, or jaded. We are a special breed, us Northern lot...and I am ever so thankful to be part of such a crew.

I will leave you with a final thought. In any of my posts here on this site, I WILL NEVER LIE TO YOU. We may not see eye to eye on my view of some things and that's okay. I don't write this prose to have anyone agree with it or to win any popularity contests, but I will never post something that I know or even suspect of being UNTRUE. So...Listen up, here: Learning to ride a motorcycle is the nicest, most generous, most soul-affirming thing you will ever do for yourself. Take this undeniable truth and do whatever you wish with it. But be forewarned. Once you're hooked on it, it's a lifetime affair. You're done... :)

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