Motorcycle Love Affair
Getting a Bike After 50!
OK, so I was bitten by the motorcycle bug almost ten years ago. . I started thinking about getting my first bike in the fall of 2003. Course everybody thought I had lost my marbles....52, recently separated, and now talking about motorcycles for the first time in my life. I don't really think it was a mid-life crisis but who knows. The last time I had owned anything with two wheels that went faster than 15 mph was my Lambretta scooter back in the sixties when I was attending university.. And as far as I can remember, its top speed was probably about 50.
For some reason, i got this hair brained idea to travel across Canada on a motorcycle the following summer. At this point, it was the middle of a Canadian winter so I didn't have a lot of time to get my act together. With about six or seven months until July, time was passing quickly.
Well, I did my homework...so to speak..,lots of brochures. trips to the local bike shops. the Vancouver Motorcycle Show in January, etc, etc. Decided I wanted something big enough for cruising and for two up just in case I happened to find someone to accompany me. I always have been an optimistic kind of guy. I thought about getting a Goldwing but decided it was a little too big for my liking. Also, when I tried sitting on one, my feet could barely touch the ground. Although everybody says 5'8" is an average height for a guy, my size didn't quite cut it for this beast. I was told by many biker friends that it was important to be able to plant both feet firmly on the ground, especially for a rookie.
One day I saw a 1999 Kawaski Nomad advertised in the BC Buy and Sell. It looked perfect. But hey, what did I know at this point. I was like a kid in a candy store as I peered over all the offerings in the magazine. Called the guy up and said I would come and take a look. One look at the thing and I knew it was perfect, except for one thing..........1500 bloody cc's. Hmmm, maybe a little big for a rookie. Many small cars are 1.5 L, the same engine size. What was I trying to prove?
But did I listen to reason..Of course not. Paid the man on the spot and then wondered how the hell I was gonna get it home, a two hour ride at the minimum. Luckily I had an older student at that time who was into cars, motorcycles and anything else that smelled like gasoline and got your hands dirty. He was a big guy but a gentle giant. He and his girlfriend drove down in his dad's truck to pick it up. She said he was so nervous he stopped every few miles to check to see if it was still in one piece.
When they arrived back in town with this monster sitting in the back of the truck, he asked me a simple question.
"You don't even know how to start this thing, do you?"
I replied with a simple, "Nope," and he just shook his head.
It looked great sitting in my carport but.....I really didn't even know where the starter button was located. This was probably not the most sensible way to begin my motorcycle career, in hindsight.
I registered for a beginner course and proceeded to actually learn how to ride a one for the first time. And found out that it actually is possible to begin riding at the ripe age of fifty something. I soon discovered that I was not the only one. The average age of students in the course was definitely weighted in my direction. Many were starting to ride again after a long respite of laying off their bikes but others were just like me, foolish enough to take up the hobby later in life for the first time.
At one point during the course, the instructor went into a short diatribe on how some people are foolish enough to go out and buy a huge bike as their first one. He continued on by saying that a 250cc is a great place to start and then work your way up if you are so inclined. i sat there innocently listening, not letting on for a minute that I had this behemoth parked in my driveway at home.
I did finish the course, passed the rigorous motorcycle driving test and received my new license. Woo hoo....I finally was going to be able to back this thing up and head down the nearest highway. And by now, I even knew how to start it!
I backed it out of the driveway, turned the key, listened to it purr with a grin on my face and headed across the road to the nearby gas station to fill the tank. Cockily riding up to the gas pump with my new machine, I hopped off, put down the kick stand and......over it went, slowly enough that I was able to jump out of the way of 800 pounds of falling metal. Yep, I hadn't put the kickstand down quite far enough!
So there I was, no damage to the bike that I could see but my ego was totally deflated. I glanced up and down the rows of gas pumps and to my dismay, not one big burly guy in sight, only several women looking towards me with smiles on their faces. Giving a quick tug on the handlebars soon told me that there was no way it was moving anywhere.
Just as I was about to start walking to the pub across the street to search for some muscles, a woman walked up to me who I recognized as one of the local store employees. I had no idea that she was a biker.
"I'm not going to help but I will show you how to lift that thing back up by yourself," she said with an understanding sympathetic expression.
She coached me through the process, telling me to back up against it, turn the front wheel to act as a fulcrum, bend my knees and use my thighs as a strong set of muscles to lift it back up again. I thanked her profusely and carried on my way.
Before I finished the course, I did meet someone online who was foolish enough to agree to ride with me across the country during the quickly approaching summer. She moved in with me that winter and we were married a couple of years later. We did make it across the country and back, and have rode another 40,000 or so kilometers more since that first trip, criss-crossing Canada and the States a few times.
There is definitely life after divorce and life after fifty. And it is never too late to start over. From that first motorcycle course, I have never looked back. I have since taken an advanced riding course and currently ride a CJ750 here in China. I have made many great friends in the biking world and enjoyed numerous rallies across North America and China. Have I dropped my motorcycle any more times? You betcha! But at least I now know how to pick it back up.