Tag Archives: motorcycle

This thing which happened, part 4


So anyway, at last the day arrived.  Dad and I had spent Friday afternoon (before shopping for helmets etc) frantically cleaning out the adorable miniature garage.  This used to be a normal two-car garage, provided the cars were small and didn’t mind being very close to one another, but we had built a bedroom out of half of it.  The back half.  So you open the big rolling overhead garage door and are met with a space that only goes back half as far as it used to.

Coincidentally, this depth exactly accommodates a motorcycle front to back.  Or two, if it comes to that.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish in an hour and a half given a bit of assistance and a great deal of motivation.  I’ve been moaning about that filthy garage for months but BAM!  It was reasonably tidy by dinnertime.  Dad even installed a rubber flange-thing across the bottom to keep the worst of the leaves and dirt from blowing in as they have for all the years we’ve lived here.  One cannot subject one’s brand-new motorcycles to such tawdry conditions.

Finally after breakfast when we were just starting to wonder if we’d dreamt the whole thing up, the man with the trailer phoned ahead to make sure we were home to take delivery.  And half an hour later, here came a truck with a big enclosed trailer behind it, and then a very nice fellow unloaded two of the shiniest, most ridiculously clean and bright motorcycles to the curb.  IMG_0488

We ooh’ed and aah’ed and took photos, and then Dad and the delivery guy stood around and swapped stories and lies for a little while.  Finally off the guy went and we were left in the street with two shiny, perfect motorcycles.  Two shiny, perfect motorcycles that I was terrified to touch.  They looked bigger than I remembered.  Also?  They were completely unspoiled.  Who was I to smudge them all up and very possibly damage them in some way?

Luckily Dad was perfectly willing to garage them for us, because not long after delivery we had to run off to some errand or another.  When we returned, we prevailed upon the neighbor lady to watch the kids for a short while so that we could go on a ride.  Dad rides a Gold Wing so he took The Lovely Rhonda with him while I rode my own bike.  The one with twelve miles on it, eight of which I had put there myself on the test ride.

I managed not to embarrass myself too much, and re-learned an important lesson.  We hadn’t gotten the mesh jackets yet and it was just as hot as hell, so I rode in a t-shirt.  (Yes, after all that discussion about safety gear, I rode in a t-shirt.  It really was hot as blazes and it was a short ride.  Don’t judge.)

At around forty miles per hour, a t-shirt will ride up in the back.  Like, all the way up.  Like, Hi there fellow highway travelers, please check out my foundation undergarments.  I rode most of the way back with my left hand on my hip, holding my t-shirt in a death grip.

This thing which happened, part 3


So it was that we signed papers on two brand-new motorcycles.  It turns out that if  you buy two brand-new motorcycles, the dealership will trailer them right to you even if you live across the river in another state.  We eagerly awaited the delivery day, which was Saturday.  We signed on Wednesday.  We had to wait Three. Whole. Days. for delivery.

I am of the opinion that they were perhaps the three longest days in recorded history.

My dad happened to call on Thursday night.  He was in town and unexpectedly free and wondered if this was a good time to visit maybe?  He lives about five hours away.  It is of note that he has ridden motorcycles pretty much all his life and once toured parts of Europe on — wait for it — a Triumph Bonneville, in about 1970 or so.  My mother rode on the back, having stashed us wee children in the care of total strangers another Navy family for a MONTH in Rota, Spain, where we were stationed at the time.

I kid.  I’m a kidder.  I have no memory of this because I was a tiny tot but we probably stayed with their best friends who had kids a little older than us.  Probably I should ask her.

So I told him, “You know, it’s funny you should call just now.  I have to work tomorrow but then the next morning a trailer is going to pull up to my house and deliver two shiny new motorcycles!”  Not surprisingly, he opted to stay and enjoy the show.

We went out to a shop on Friday night and bought new helmets and jackets, and also gloves for The Lovely Rhonda. Gloves are important.  I knew this already, but it was really made clear when I had patient during clinicals for nursing school who had dumped a bike while wearing no gloves.  I think he was wearing a helmet but little else in the way of protective gear.  Anyway the skin on his palms was essentially torn off, like to the dermis.  Wear your gloves, people!  This kid was facing months of extremely limited use of his hands, if not skin grafts or some other kind of reconstructive surgery.  Ugh.

Helmets have come a long way in ten years.  My first helmet was an open-faced half lid, which I had to augment with a face shield.  I was riding first a crusty old Honda with no fairing and then later a BMW that had a little cafe-style fairing on it, but because the rest of the bike didn’t really put me in a cafe-style riding position, the mini-fairing served only to funnel the wind directly between my eyeballs, necessitating supernatural neck strength to prevent my head from being torn straight off.  This is probably what led to the degenerating disks in my neck, come to think of it.

Then I had this one girlfriend who insisted that I get a full-face helmet, which made my head feel like it was in a packing crate.  This definitely kept the wind out of my eyes but was hot in summer, fogged up if it was damp, and prevented verbal communication.  Nowadays they have these modular helmets where the front part can be flipped up so you can expose your face, say when stopped at a light so other riders can hear you, or if it’s really effing hot out like is now and you’re riding at low speeds.  And!  They have a little flip-down tinted sun visor inside the helmet, like a little pair of sunglasses, so you don’t have to try to cram your sunglasses into the helmet — especially useful for people like me who wear glasses.  I do have prescription sunglasses but it’s nice not to have to wrestle with them or even carry them around.  Plus as a bonus you look like you’re going to pilot an F-15.  Srsly.

We got jackets as well, three-quarter length ones with zip-out linings and armor in the sleeves and shoulders.  It’s been so hot that we then had to go get mesh jackets, similarly armored but made of a heavy mesh that allows the breeze to filter through admirably.  The thought of putting the heavy jackets on and riding around in the ninety-degree sun was unbearable.  The mesh jackets are still pretty warm in the sun if you’re not moving, but it’s the price you pay for protection.  Motorcycling in the summer is a sweaty affair.

TLR felt it was important to also order a communication system, which arrived today.  I have spent the past hour installing half of it into my helmet, and presumably the next hour will be spent similarly installing the other half into hers.  This thing is crazy — you can play music, talk on the phone, communicate with other riders in your party.   I’m not sure I need most of this but it will be nice to have a better way of signalling that I need to pee, which happens rather more than I’d like to admit.  Generally you ride up alongside your fellow motorcyclist on the freeway and tap your tank to indicate that you need gas, rub your belly to let them know you are hungry, or just make a broad sweeping gesture toward the right with your left hand to say, “Hey, let’s take a little break at that truck stop, I need to drink some spectacularly shitty coffee,” — but if you have to pee, it’s expected that you humiliate yourself by pointing at your junk.  Oddly enough, all my “let’s go drink coffee” stops include a stop at the restroom, sometimes a stop at each end of the break just to be safe.  I am fairly convinced that many of your more antiquated motorcycle enthusiasts take up smoking just to have an excuse to get off the road and pee every hour.

This thing which happened, part two


So we arrived at the dealership.  It was a Harley and Triumph dealership.

Let’s just get this out of the way.  I’m not really a Harley person.  No offense, they are fine motorcycles, but just like some people are cat people and some people are dog people, some people are Harley People and some people are Not Harley People.  It’s just not my thing.

Also, I’m not really a cruiser style bike person.  Cruiser style bikes are all leany-backy and stuff.  Your feet are in front of you.  No me gusta.

Nor am I a street bike type person.  Street bikes tip you up so your behind is in the air.  It’s not comfortable and makes me feel like I’m going to fall on my face.   (Also, what if the wind hits me just right and I really do have a buttsong?)

I’m not an off-road type, even occasionally.  Me likey the pavement.  So no “adventure” or “enduro” bike for me.

I want something small enough to ride in town, which leaves out the big old touring bikes with all kinds of niceties like fairings and luggage and cruise control and reverse and stereo and cup holders.  My dad rides one of these.  I affectionately refer to it as a Hondabago.

So that pretty much leaves what is called a standard bike.  Your feet are below you, you aren’t leaned forward or back, it’s pretty comfy.  The engine can be biggish but it’s still nimble enough to muscle around in town and you can get a ways out on the highway without feeling like you’re riding a skateboard.

At any rate, we were met at the door by a tall, slender guy whose shirt patch declared him to be — I am not making this up — “Slim Dave.”  Apparently there is another Dave and rather than call that guy “Chunky Dave” or “Tubby Dave,” they decided to call this guy “Slim Dave” for purposes of differentiation.

Anyway I told Slim Dave, “So if anybody had ever told me I’d be walking into a Harley dealership…” and he looked at me very seriously and said, “AND Triumph.”  And I said, “Which brings us to why we are here.”

We admired the various models of Triumph and Slim Dave inquired about whether I might like a test drive.  The Lovely Rhonda mentioned that if there was, perhaps, an orange Bonneville lying around the shop, well, I might like to see that one.  Possibly.

So we moseyed up the elevator to the warehouse, which is this big room stuffed full of shiny new motorcycles, and there it was: the orange one.  That one orange one.  I was nearly struck dumb, which if you know me at all you know that this is almost an impossible state for me to be in.

They lent me a helmet and gloves, I let them photocopy my license and signed an impressive looking paper saying I wouldn’t steal the bike or sue anybody if I got hurt, and would be a good girl and follow the rules of the road and not break any laws or anything.  Evidently when you test drive a brand new motorcycle you are not allowed to be Sick of the Man Keeping You Down.

I had not ridden in ten years and did I mention I have anxiety issues?   So the butterflies were thick and fast, but Slim Dave was comfortingly trusting so I figured I’d go with it.  He rode alongside me on … some kind of motorcycle.  No idea what.  We rode around for a little while, and I learned some stuff:

If you rode a motorcycle for around ten years, and then you didn’t for another ten years or so, you will not have forgotten how to ride.  You will be a little rusty, but you will still know how to ride.

A brand-new motorcycle with four miles on the odometer is delightful to ride, but you’ll be terrified to drop it like a noob.

Everything works on a brand-new motorcycle, including the throttle.  I was so used to crusty old bikes with sluggish throttles that I felt like a jet pilot on that thing.

If you loved to ride ten years ago, you will still love to ride.

When I got home I learned another new thing:  you will still fit into your old gloves, which are coincidentally the only thing you kept from ten years ago when you gave up riding.   They are nice lined gauntlet gloves that I got at Langlitz Leathers back in the day, and they are nicely broken in and comfy.  They are old friends in glove form.  I’m so glad I kept them.

This thing which happened, part one


So about ten years ago this thing happened which was that I got pregnant with Elder Spawn.   She is now nine years old.

At that time I owned a BMW motorcycle and a little Honda Scrambler, both “vintage.”

In motorcycling terms “vintage” can mean “really old and cool” or it can also mean “kind of old and a huge pain in the ass because you have to repair it constantly.”  I’d say these bikes could fit both of these meanings comfortably.  But I digress.

I also owned a certain amount of cycling gear like a full set of custom Langlitz leathers and such.

I dislike loose ends, and I didn’t want to maintain — expensively, probably — motorcycles that I would not have time to ride, so I sold the whole lot.  It was painful, but my life was moving in a different direction and it just didn’t make sense to keep any of it.

So for ten years I’ve been waiting.  And when I met The Lovely Rhonda I told her of my motorcycling history, and she was interested in getting motorcycles one day.

And that day has come.

garaged bikes

One day recently I found myself driving home and having a conversation with TLR via cellphone about how Gary gets to get a motorcycle and I want a motorcycle and I know it’s still a ways off but I want one now.  Whine whine whine.

I didn’t really mean anything by it except that I had a yearning and it was uncomfortable.  Like an itch in an embarrassing place, but in my brain.

Gary is a coworker whose wife has given him the green light to buy a motorcycle.  They moved here from the East coast and he sold his motorcycle before they moved and now he gets to get a new one.  He told me this a couple of weeks ago.  And it planted a seed.

So as I wheedled and whined my way home that afternoon TLR said this thing which figuratively speaking stopped me in my tracks:  Come home and change clothes and let’s go look at a motorcycle.

It didn’t literally stop me because freeway.

So I put on long pants and my trusty old boots and off we went.

Jump Start


So today The Lovely Rhonda and I went to a motorcycle dealership.

I have my endorsement but TLR does not, and having never ridden a motorcycle before, not even a dirt bike or scooter in her misspent youth, she will need to learn to ride.

We are familiar with a local dealership that has a “JumpStart” device, rather like a bicycle trainer, where a motorcycle is mounted onto a trailer with a roller for the back wheel.  Essentially it becomes stationary.

The tricky part of learning to ride is working the shifting.  Your left hand operates the clutch, your right hand the front brake and the throttle.  You shift with your left toe, and your right foot works the rear brake.  It’s exactly like shifting gears in a car with a manual transmission, but everything is in different locations than you are used to.  Muscle memory has to be learned.

A person with a crappy old motorcycle at their disposal has a lot less to lose than, say, a person who will be facing learning to ride on a brand new Triumph Bonneville.

Did I mention that I have anxiety?  I’m really quite surprised that I myself ever learned to ride, I have such anxiety.

So we wandered down to the dealership and requested that Rhonda be given some time on the JumpStart.

The nicest, goofiest, most affable old duffer in the world was paged and once he understood what we wanted, he went off to get it set up.  From the way he talked, it became apparent that it would be set up in front of the dealership where customers were browsing motorcycles or sitting at umbrella’d picnic tables awaiting repair or service work.  Multiple customers.  Mostly Harley riders.  Crusty, black-leathered, vest-wearing, bandanna’ed Harley riders.

TLR paled.  “Uh, it’s out front?  I kind of thought it would be, um, somewhere inside.”

“Oh no!” says the duffer, “You’ll get to ride in front of the entire store, and they’ll all be staring at you!”

Then he cracked a grin and said, “You see all these guys?  They were all just like you once.  They’ve all been there.”  And then told us how he’d bought his first motorcycle,  a Honda 90, when he was in the military, in Nashville TN, and had an hour to ride it fifteen miles back to base before curfew.  Oh, and he didn’t know how to ride, and he had a friend along who didn’t know how to ride either.

So yeah, compared to that she had it kind of easy I guess you could say.

So we went outside and he offered to put a Bonneville on it, which didn’t fit because the Bonneville has a shorter wheelbase than apparently any Harley.  The JumpStart device is made for Harleys.

Then they got a different Triumph which fit.  “It’s the first time we’ve ever put a Triumph on it,” says the old duffer,  “so we’re making history here.”


By this time TLR was about ready to give it up out of embarrassment, but with encouragement from the duffer she pressed on.  As luck would have it, a large number of the shop rats and dreamers had wandered off to the strip club or strip mall, respectively, and there were relatively few onlookers.

Despite the fact that the bike is stationary, the owner of the dealership has a rule that anyone on the premises who sits on a running motorcycle and puts it in gear must wear a helmet.  So the old duffer set her up with a loaner helmet and onto the thing she climbed.  I stood by helpfully holding her Coach purse and taking photos.  photo(4)

She was absolutely convinced that she would kill it, but she didn’t.  And although the clutch was difficult to get a feel for because there was no real resistance on the rear wheel, she did awfully well at shifting.

She gets her permit on Wednesday.  Stay off the sidewalks!