I’m a 40-year old father, and just started learning how to ride a motorcycle. If you know me at all, you know that I’m obsessed with all things motorized. Even with this love of motoring, I’ve never understood or embraced the motorcycle. Perhaps it was the learning curve, or maybe it’s just because I’m a wuss.
Here’s how I got into motorcycle culture.
First, I bought a sweet scooter called a Honda Ruckus. It looks cool, and you can buy it brand new for a couple thousand dollars. As a bonus, since it only has a 50cc engine you can ride it without a motorcycle license here in Vermont.
I rode that thing back and forth to work (about a 30 mile round trip in heavy traffic) for an entire summer. The ruckus gave me the bike handling skills necessary to understand what it’s like to ride in traffic on a motorbike without adding the additional complexity of shifting.
On a small displacement scooter, you quickly realize that you’re not really fast enough to keep up with traffic over 40mph. This gets dicey with people jockeying for position and trying to get around you. You’re also forced to choose routes where you can keep up with traffic, so destinations are limited by the scooters speed. It quickly becomes clear that more speed isn’t just more fun, it’s also safer in heavy traffic.
The smart play would have been to trade the Ruckus for a small displacement motorcycle like a 250cc, but since I’ve never been smart, I recently traded it for a 2003 Ducati Monster 620.
The bike is old and has cosmetic and mechanical issues, but man does it look and sound amazing. My neighbors must love me since I’ve been puttering around the neighborhood streets almost every night for the last week and a half. “Oh look, honey, there goes that aging idiot on the street bike again!”
It helps to know how to drive a stick shift when learning how to ride a motorcycle. The left-hand clutch and right-hand throttle feel pretty natural. If you’re not already versed in driving a stick, I would definitely recommend a smaller bike since a rookie mistake with the throttle on a powerful bike like a Ducati will not be pretty.
I’m glad that I’m getting into riding in my midlife years and as a father. The fact that I’m old enough to really understand injury and death has affected all of the decisions I make as I ride. I can only imagine what I might have been like with a rocket underneath me when I was a teenager, or even in my 20’s.
I have all of the necessary protective gear that includes:
- A full-face helmet
- Riding jacket with armor in all the right places
- Knee guards
- High-top boots
- Gloves with armor.
- I also wear hi-visibility gear like a neon vest over my jacket and a blinking strobe light.
These things are goofy to a 20-something rider who wants to look cool. But I prefer to be around to see my son grow up. I also want to show him that I’m doing everything I can to minimize the risk of riding a motorcycle.
Also, I want my son to see that I’m willing to try new things even as an “old man.” Hopefully, this instills him with some sense that we never really stop growing.