Motorcycles

My interest in motorcycles goes back to my childhood.....a long way back.

When I was a teenager, two of my good friends (WT & TT) had James motorbikes.  We had a lot of fun riding them, both on the streets and out in the country.  One friend (TT) had a snow sled with steel runners.  It was summertime in Texas, and the pastures were covered with dry heat parched grass.  We tied the sled to the motorbike and pulled each other around the pasture.  It is a wonder we did not get hurt!

I tried to engage my father in a discussion about how I needed my own bike, but he would not discuss it with me.  Our across the street neighbor (Owen George) who practically raised me, was vehemently against motorcycles, as his best friend in college was killed on a motorcycle.  End of story.

In the spring of 2000, my friend (JBH) bought his son-in-law's hand me down Harley.  The new Indian fever attacked him.  JBH owned and rode a motorcycle as a youngster, including a crash that resulted in a broken ankle.

JBH took delivery of the Harley and prepared to ride it home.  It was raining cats and dogs and he took off on Central Expressway.  After nearly getting drowned by splashing water from other cars, he quickly took to the side streets and made it home safely.  He began a cautious riding program.  I began a noisy tirade against the evils of motorcycles and frequently reminded him of his age.

Soon after JBH starting riding the Harley, my wonderful wife suggested to me she thought I should consider getting a motorcycle, as it would be fun to ride with JBH.  I did not take to the idea readily.

The summer of 2001 found JBH with two touring trips lined up.  Both would take place between Santa Fe and Gunnison.  We met with one common friend (RG) who is a world traveler on his motorcycle, having just recently gone to Nova Scotia and back camping along the way.  During our visit and dinner, JH and RG planned their trip.  JBH spend some time deciding what to take and packing it on the Harley.  He rode over to my house after getting everything packed to check out the balance.  He seemed ready to go.

The touring trips went fine.  They did not camp out even one night!  All that packing and gathering of camping gear went for naught.  They had fun, and JBH put over 700 miles on his Harley.

I could stand it no longer.  I began my plan to learn to ride and then to acquire a motorcycle.

JBH at GR's recommendation I took a course offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) and found it very helpful.  They both suggested the course would help me learn to ride and decide if I wanted to start on this path at my tender stage in life.

I signed up and took the two and one-half day course on probably the hottest weekend in August.  I nearly croaked from the heat.  Standing around on a concrete parking lot wearing a helmet, gloves, long sleeve shirt and jeans was not much fun.  I noticed while I was standing listening to the instructor, sweat was dripping off in a circle around me and looked like a line of drips off the side of a roof when it was raining.

By some stroke of luck, I passed the riding test.  I thought I had failed miserably. I was simply not able to navigate around 6 cones spaced about 10 feet apart and then turn a sharp corner.  I did OK on the rest of the five part riding test.  The written test was a breeze.  The instruction was excellent and I highly recommend this course to anyone who rides a motorcycle, newcomer or old timer.  There is an advanced course, but one of the instructors said he took the advanced course without first taking the beginning course only to learn he did not know as much about riding as he thought.  You must have 1000 miles and six months experience riding before taking the advanced course.

On Monday morning after completing the course on Sunday afternoon, I went to the motor vehicle agency and got my motorcycle driver's license.  Taking the MSF course eliminated the need to take a riding test.  The written test was easy.

I had been looking in the paper and on the web for several weeks at motorcycle ads.  I thought I wanted a big touring bike, either a BMW or Honda.  I located several interesting bikes to consider when the time came.  My friend RG, a retired motorcycle cop admitted having owned thirty-three (33) motorcycles in addition to the ones he was furnished as a Dallas cop.  RG is convinced that a BMW is the way to go.  The problem is that BMW does not make an inexpensive "learner's" model.

I looked at Hondas and liked the Yamaha small cruiser.  I was determined to not buy a bike that I would outgrow too quickly.  I was very un-decided and did not know where to turn.

I looked in the newspaper on the Saturday I was taking the MSF course and called about a BMW.  I talked to the owner.  I made the decision to delay looking at any bike until I finished the MSF course and got my driver's license.

The Monday afternoon after getting my license, I looked in the paper again, and only one BMW was there.  I made a call and the owner turned out to be a used car lot.  He said he had an offer on the machine, but the prospective buyer was to deliver a cashier's check by 5:00 PM.  It was then about 1:30 PM.  He said if I wanted to look at the bike to come over.  I looked, liked what I saw and called my friend JBH to look at it and give it a test ride.  I did not trust myself to ride the bike with the ink still wet on my new license!  JBH liked the way the bike looked and rode and I left a check and told the salesman I would call back in the morning to see what happened.  About 4:30 PM the salesman called and said I was the owner of a 2000 BMW R1200 C.  I called JBH and we went over with his trailer and picked it up that evening.  It happened so quick I did not have time to think about what I had done.                    

Over the next few days I gathered the equipment I needed to be a "compete" rider.  I upgraded my helmet to a full face Shoei Syncrotec.  I bought a Joe Rocket Phoenix ballistic jacket.  I had previously bought some leather motorcycle gloves before taking the MSF course.  I bought a Cool Max skull cap, some new sunglasses with straight temples and was set.  My advisors (JBH & RG) said it was too hot in Texas to consider riding in leather pants, and my Wrangler's would have to do.

Over the next few days I rode each morning and took a trips to the bank and post office.  Each day I gained more confidence.  I was still scared stiff.

I surfed the net and looked at BMW chat boards and saw a book advertised that sounded OK.  I bought and read "Proficient Motorcycling" by David L. Hough.  I started reading "Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" recommended by another friend (GW).

I think this adventure will be a successful one.  I understand the risks.  I am trying to learn as much as I can from reading and talking to others, as I don't want to learn by the school of hard knocks, as the first might be the last.  David Hough's candid remarks in his book are wonderful and very true.  You must be prepared to face almost every obstacle you can imagine.

I took my first highway ride this last Saturday. My wife promised her friend GMcD she would help her arrange the shelves in her den prior to a photographic session to feature their new house in a publication for the builder.  We trailered the bike out of the city traffic, and I rode nearly 150 miles to Longview and back.  It was great fun, and the easiest part of the riding adventure yet.  The bike nearly drives itself on the highway.  You must just be alert and avoid potential hazards.  Learning to look 12 seconds ahead for trouble has helped my automobile driving as well.

Return home