Motorcycle Mentor

For early December, the weather was looking good. I had a list of things to do but mostly I just wanted to go ride my motorcycle. So in the early afternoon I put on my gear and took off, not sure of the direction I was headed I mostly wanted to put some miles on. Feeling guilty at first because walls won’t paint themselves, I hesitated but quickly got over that feeling as I rode off.

It felt good to get out. The weather hasn’t been the best but I figured an hour or so on the bike is what I needed to sort my thoughts. I hadn’t been on Humboldt Creek road for a while so I headed East towards Alta Vista to take Humboldt back North towards Junction City. I figured a big loop finding my way back home was a good bet.

It’s funny how the same road can look different based on direction, the time of year and the time of day. How the light casts shadows and the specific colors nature is wearing during any particular season can make a familiar road feel different. This was one of those rides.

How the light casts shadows and the specific colors nature is wearing any particular season can make a familiar road feel different.

After a quick ride on the scenic Humboldt Creek road, I ended up at a park to take a minute and enjoy the afternoon. I pulled up and laughed at myself for hitting the kill switch to shut my bike off. I don’t normally shut the bike down this way, and for some reason I did – even wondering why I would do that. Oh well, I’m getting older and I do weird stuff some times.

While sitting there admiring the side view of my BMW GS from about 30 feet away, a couple of kids rode up on their bikes. As I sat there on the bench I remembered how I was at 10 or 12 years old, riding my bike and dreaming of owning a motorcycle. I noticed one of the boys kept looking at my bike as they were horsing around and I was sure he too had an interest like I did in motorized two-wheel motion. I smiled at the thought.

I noticed one of the boys kept looking at my bike as they were horsing around and I was sure he too had an interest like I did in motorized two-wheel motion. I smiled at the thought.

I’m sure it was only a few moments as all of these thoughts ran through my head. Then, out of nowhere, it appears this boy is coming over to talk to me. At first, I thought what shall I say? Is this my chance to influence a young man who shows some interest in how motorcycles can change your life? Am I up to it? And how cool would it be to bump into him in 10 years on some lonesome highway where he recognizes me and says “hey, you were the one who got me into motorcycling.” How strange, I was just thinking this and now he’s 20 feet away and closing.

12 year old boy; Hey mister, is that your bike?

Me; Yes, it is.

Now keep in mind, my brain is clicking along faster than the conversation. I’m anticipating where this is going and I’m trying to be helpful and attentive to his questions because after all, this is my chance! For the last 20 minutes or so, while I’ve been sitting on this bench, this boy has admired my motorcycle. Now he’s mustered up his courage to come over to ask what it’s like to be wild and free on two wheels. Pay attention Jeff!

12 year old boy; Your headlight is on.

57 year old me; Hey, thanks…

When I pulled up and hit the kill-switch, I forgot to turn the key off. That usually happens to new riders – and guys like me just trying to enjoy a ride in December. For 20 minutes or so my key was on while I admired the profile of my motorcycle in the afternoon light. Thanks kid, for letting me know. As I got up and walked over to my bike, the boys climbed on theirs and took off. I guess they already know what it’s like to be wild and free on two-wheels.

Common Denominator

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It started for me before 1974. An exposure to motorcycles through magazines, I allowed myself to be consumed by an ongoing urge to ride on two wheels. In my early days, it was about horsing around, pulling wheelies and power-slides, climbing hills and getting air-born while honing my skills and learning that hitting the deck can hurt – not enough to keep me off my motorcycles, just enough to teach me a lesson. As time moved on the competition side of me took over and I raced a little motocross only to realize I was just on the verge of being average at it before I broke my leg on the third lap of leading my moto in 1987. A fast, sweeping corner with a nice berm, I tried cutting inside, got cross-rutted and went down. Did it end my enthusiasm? No, it just changed my focus from dirt to street. It was an easy transition, and going places on a bike felt pretty good. Still in the early days, I was riding for the fun of it. Nothing to deep, just getting on and going places just for the sake of going. No rhyme or reason, or a plan in place, just riding to ride.

I can’t remember any time since the early 70’s that motorcycles weren’t a big part of my daily routine. Reading about them, riding when I could or just talking about bikes with others when we weren’t riding. Growing up with friends that ride helps considerably and learning to work on them was a plus as well. But still, at that age it was impossible to understand exactly what kind of effect this would have on me through the years. As constant as the ringing in my ears, the thoughts of motorcycles and everything that surrounds them, I’ve carried with me.

A lot has changed over the years with technology, style, performance and price – but the one common denominator through it all has been how the motorcycle influences me. The people involved within the industry – whether professional racers, moto-journalists, photographers, builders or enthusiasts all have an impact on our perception of this sport, but it’s the motorcycle that pulls it all together and brings it all to life. I ride motorcycles for transportation, recreation and meditation. It isn’t a hobby – it’s a passion, and with passion comes inspiration. That feeling I had the first time I let the clutch out, when motion turned into emotion, was truly a memorable moment. Although the reason I ride has evolved into a more complex explanation, it can always be broken down into passion.

No matter what you ride, remember why you ride. As I get older it has become apparent this is my fountain of youth, because when you’re young you don’t think in those terms. Riding motorcycles allows me to never lose that feeling of letting the clutch out for the first time and it’s also a vehicle from which to reflect on all of the miles and memories I’ve experienced over the years. We all have something we’re passionate about and mine just happens to be motorcycles. I wouldn’t change it for the world and I would do it all over again given the chance. Well, maybe I would change one thing; I would probably have taken a different line in that corner back in 1987.