Marriage and Motorcycling
How to happily "marry" the two
How to Succeed in Marriage and Motorcycling
If you are married to a Motor Maid, you probably won't want to read this. If your wife is a "Desert Daisy," this isn't meant for you. If your wife is one who says things like, "Gee, honey, it's only five o'clock. Couldn't we just ride another 100 miles or so, before we go home?" then I seriously doubt that you'll find much of interest here. If, however, you are in the other ninety-nine percent, then carry on gentle reader, for perhaps we can provide you with food for thought; with succor for the many periods of tribulation which undoubtedly lie ahead.
Your first problem may be to get a motorcycle. The "fountain of youth" pitch will sometimes work:
"You know, dear, we aren't getting any younger. Life is going by. We ought to try to think young, act young, do young things."
"I suppose you're right, dear."
Now you've got her set up. She probably thinks you are thinking of dancing, or some equally stupid pastime.
"What we ought to do is get a motorcycle."
"A motorcycle! Charlie, have you lost your mind?"
"No, really. Just the other day at the club meeting, I heard a doctor say that motorcycling is a marvelous way to stay young. You know, the fresh air and sunshine and all that."
In some cases, it isn't the time away from home that bugs the wife; it is the money that is spent. Would you believe that I frequently meet guys who say to me: "My wife would kill me if I got a motorcycle." Most of these guys take the old "second car" approach: "Listen, honey, if I get this bike, I can ride it back and forth to work. It only costs a thousand dollars and it will get 100 miles to the gallon. Why just imagine, it would pay for itself just in the gas savings alone."
Now, if you think a minute, you'll know why this is an ineffectual argument on a wife. It is because wives aren't really economy minded. That should be obvious by the way they spend money. However, they are prestige minded. And they are interested in keeping up with the Joneses. You better believe it. So try this:
"That Harry Jones down the street must be crazy. You know what he did? Bought a motorcycle, that's what. You know they can't afford that. He doesn't have as good a job as I do, and I know we can't afford one."
She will say, "Are you kidding? We could afford a motorcycle if we wanted one."
It is important here that you say, "They can't afford one," and not, "He can't afford one." The wife then relates to the other man's wife, and compares you and she to he kind his wife, as a team. But if you say "he," you are not giving your wife anything to compare herself with.
Once you've got the bike, the economy subject may still be a problem. "Charlie, you've got to sell some of these motorcycles. I've just been going over last year's bank statements (nobody has yet figured out why wives go over bank statements for a year at a time) and last year you spent $2,000 on motorcycle stuff."
In this case, try the old comparison routine: "That's not so bad. A man's gotta have a hobby,a little diversion. Take old Fred, there. He lost close to $5,000 on the ponies last year. And Bert, he goes into that tavern down the street 3 or 4 nights a week and blows $5 or $10. Figure what that comes to in a year."
Your biggest continuing problem will be getting to ride enough. First, it is necessary, in fact essential, that you understand women. Women aren't like men (forget that, this is a serious discussion). They think differently. For example, a woman will always tell you she wants you to have a good time. Forget that. What she really wants is for you to have a lousy time. That way you'll want to hurry home to her. It kind of brings out the mother in her. So make her think you always have a miserable time, and she'll urge you to go:
"Did you have a nice time, Charlie dear?"
"Terrible. Utterly terrible. The bike broke down once. I ran out of gas once and had to push. It was freezing cold. Everything went wrong. I even got lost and rode a hundred miles out of my way."
"Oh. Well now you're home with mumsy. I'll fix you a nice din-din and give you a rubdown."
See how well it works? If you told her you had a magnificent time, you know what she would have said? "Well, I'm glad somebody in this family had a nice day. I've been utterly slaving all day, painting the guest room. You'll have to get your own supper."
Sometimes, if you're clever, this reverse psychology tactic can even work before you go for a ride:
"Boy, what a miserable day. I told the guys I'd ride today, but wild horses couldn't drag me out of here."
"Charlie, I knew you shouldn't have gotten that motorcycle. You're just not the outdoors type. As little as you use it, it was a waste of money."
"You're right, sweetheart. But I'm not going to let that weather get me. No sir. I'm gonna show 'em I'm a man, weather or no weather."
Every woman wants to be proud of her man. Sometimes this can work to your advantage:
"Charlie, you're not going to ride that stupid motorcycle today! You know we promised Horace and Agatha that we'd be over to help them celebrate their anniversary."
"I wouldn't think of missing their anniversary celebration, dear. Even though it will mean missing out on the first trophy I would have ever won."
"What are you talking about? You've never finished any higher than 40th place in your life."
"That's true, but all of the guys in the club think that this course is my kind of course, and since we overhauled my bike . . . well, they all have bets going that I'll take home a trophy. But old Horace and Agatha's anniversary is more important."
"Well, maybe you could come over as soon as you finish the ride."
Depending upon how long you have been married, you can try what I call the "Try a Little Tenderness" approach. Follow her all around the house, hugging her and kissing her on the neck, and like that. "Boy, sweetheart, today I'm going to be so loving. I'm just gonna keep my arms around you all day long."
After an hour or two, depending on the number of children you have, how often the neighbor ladies drop in, how much housework your wife has to do, and other variable factors, she is apt to suggest that you go for a ride
"Oh, Charlie, I can't get anything done with you around all the time. Why don't you go ride your motorcycle or something?"
On some wives, the "therapy" routine works well. Just sit around very quietly, not doing anything except looking very worried. Wring your hands occasionally. Pace up and down
"Charlie, whatever is the matter with you? You seem so nervous."
"I just feel like I'm going to explode. Like I've got the weight of the world on my shoulders. I'm worried about business and bills . . . just everything. I need some sort of escape mechanism, some kind of relief valve."
"Maybe if you just went out and went for a ride on your bike . . ."
On some wives, (not many, and mostly war brides at that) you can take the king of the castle approach: "Listen Charlotte, I know we haven't seen each other for three weeks, but I'm going riding and that's that. And when I come home, that dinner better be waiting."
This approach should be taken only after careful forethought and with due caution.
Quite a few wives will try the old danger ploy. There are logical arguments you can try in this instance, but the problem is, wives aren't logical. Here is one possibility:
"Charlie, I don't want you to ride that motorcycle today. There is snow and ice on the roads, and your tires are bald and you said the brakes weren't working, and besides those things are so dangerous."
"Listen, it is a proven fact that the guys that get hurt on motorcycles are the ones that just ride once in a while. They get rusty. Their reflexes are slow. The best riders never get hurt and the reason is, they ride all the time."
If a wife doesn't want to go along and you want her to, there aren't too many methods that will work. One good one, however, is jealousy:
"Boy! You should have seen all the good looking young girls that were out at the hillclimb last week. Most of them without dates, too."
If that doesn't work, hit a little closer to home:
"Bill's wife is going along on the ride today. Of course, she is younger than you and seems to have more energy. But I don't mind if you'd rather stay home and rest, sweetheart."
Of course, not all wives are the same. There are some wives that none of this stuff' will work on. Now you just take my wife . . . you may as well take her - she left me about six months ago. Didn't care much for motorcycling. Next time around, I plan to marry me a Motor Maid.
This litle story is an excerpt from my book, OVER THE HANDLEBARS, a collection of 24 short stories and articles about motorcycling. Most have been published in motorcycle magazines. The book is available from Amazon.com
The Motorcycle Shop That Will Be
The average motorcycle shop today is a far cry from its predecessor of twenty years ago. There has been a gradual change. An evolution. But the average motorcycle shop still has a long way to go before it reaches its potential.
Let's pretend it is 1950 and you are paying a visit to the average shop. Here is about what you probably would have found. The shop itself is in a crumbling building in a poor section of town. It is poorly lit, needs paint, has almost no identifying signs, and is so dirty you are afraid to go in with good clothes on. It has only one line of bikes, probably either Harley or Triumph. And there are only a few models in the line to choose from. There is very little literature on the bikes and what there is is not very good. Aside from parts you can buy gunk (a degreasing agent), oil, hats of black cloth or leather with a white brim or a black brim (regardless of the brand of bike the dealer handles) plastic handgrips with streamers, and sunglasses. If it is a Harley shop you can also buy a leather jacket, saddlebags (the leather kind), AMA patches in all sizes, kidney belts and possibly studs and reflectors to affix to your jacket and/or your kidney belt. Oh yes, and gloves. And that is it.
The atmosphere is that of a closed fraternity house. If you are a stranger you are made to feel about as welcome as yellow fever. Of course once you buy a bike - assuming you can get somebody to talk to you long enough to sell you one - and learn to ride it without benefit of any instruction, and then ride it for a couple of months, you are accepted. You can then sit around in the service area where the signs say "employees only" and drink coffee with the boys. You then have the privilege of laughing at any outsiders like you used to be that wander in.
Now let's jump in our magic time machine and move up to 1970. The average shop you visit is in a clean building in a modern suburb on a busy business street. It is well lighted. There is at least one attractive sign, easy to spot, that tells you of the major brand the shop carries. Inside you find three brands of bikes on display. There are many, many bikes on the floor - most of Japanese manufacture with an infinite variety of models to choose from. And a couple of more exotic brands, one from England and one from Spain. There is ample literature on hand. Attractive banners and posters decorate the walls. Because there are so many models to choose from, the parts department occupies a larger area than the 1950 shop.
If it is a weekday you are warmly greeted. Someone tries to sell you a motorcycle. If it is a weekend there are so many customers in the shop that you have to fight for attention. If you do buy a bike, many times they will spend a half hour or so "teaching you to ride."
The choice of things to buy other than motorcycles has improved. Not much, but some. Helmets have replaced Harley hats. Goggles ,join the sunglasses. There is more hardware such as exhaust pipes, handlebars, compression releases, rearview mirrors. You can buy footpeg rubbers, handgrips. Bates seats, luggage racks. But the leather jackets have disappeared - unless it is a Harley shop.
And the most disconcerting thing is the noise. Every, thing is under one roof - including the service department. As you try to hear the information the salesman (who is also the dealer) imparts to you, you are constantly subjected to the shrill, ear-splitting echo of a motorcycle engine being raced back in the service department. And of course the smoke burns your eyes, nostrils, throat.
Mind you this is the average shop that we are talking about. So what will the average shop in 1980 be like? Let's hope it will be like this:
The building is not only clean and modern, but the design and decor are of and for motorcycles. There is ample customer parking adjacent. to the building. Inside we find that there is a motorcycle simulator in a private room so that you can "learn" to ride before a qualified instructor makes an appointment for riding instructions, first in a traffic-free area, and then in traffic. The service department is in a separate sound-proof building - or is in a truly soundproof room within this building. There is a customer lounge with magazines, a color television, a soft drink machine and complimentary coffee. Restrooms are kept sparkling clean for customer use.
As you browse through the dealership you find that it is really a motorcycle department store that can fill your every need. In the clothing department you find jackets, leathers, boots, sport clothes, several styles of helmets, a variety of gloves, kidney belts, rain suits, and much more. And all sizes are stocked so that you are sure to be fitted. In the camping department you find cookstoves, lanterns, tents, bike trailers, carrying racks, sleeping bags, gas cans - everything you will need to take your family on an extended outing. You appreciate the fact that you will not have to visit several other stores or order by mail to get those things that you have to have to complete your equipment for fully enjoying your hobby. You find that one section of the store has been set up as a self-serve department with a check-out stand. Here are the inexpensive things you frequently need: sparkplugs, handgrips, footpeg rubbers, levers, oil, etc. There is even a bargain table with all kind of items being offered at a special reduced price.
When you step into the air conditioned showroom and walk over the richly carpeted floor you see that the bikes themselves are bigger, faster, yet safer than those offered in 1970. And they have many engineering features we wouldn't have thought of back then. Pleasant music drifts towards you, muted, from some hidden speaker. You notice that each bike has a cassette with earphones. As you slip a set on and punch the button you begin hearing a recording giving you all of the pertinent information about this particular model. You repeat this procedure with several models until you select one or two that most interest you. Then you press a button and quickly a salesman joins you. You tell him what models interest you. You find that he is a well trained professional. He takes you into a private office and shows you a film which gives you even more detailed information through pictures of engine cutaways, diagrams and blow-ups of the features and selling points of the model you are interested in. The salesman then counsels you even further. When you make your selection you find that an instant credit check and insurance can be arranged, the model you want can be in your hands that same day. When you leave you are a happy man. You realize that motorcycle marketing has finally become sophisticated. Big time. Small wonder. Some three million bikes a year are being sold.
Yes, this is the average shop of 1980. Or am I just dreaming?
It is customary to enjoy working on motorcycles if you own one. If you don't enjoy it, you are supposed to fake it. Or develop a taste for it. Like drinking Scotch. Most of my friends seem to get as much satisfaction from repairing a bike as they do from riding one. And they can stand around at parties for hours and discuss all of the finer points of engineering. They delight in telling one another of methods they have discovered for performing the most complex mechanical feats on their machines.
Sometimes I think they truly miss the good old days when bikes were not nearly as reliable as they now are. Because you see, then they were forced to repair them much more frequently - something they really relished doing anyway.
I'm just the opposite. I'm a misfit. I detest any sort: of mechanical work. Probably because I am totally inept. It is not possible for me to pick up the simplest tool without skinning my knuckles. I have to get help from service station assistants to check the air in my tires - so I never bother to do it. I get grease all over myself changing a sparkplug. A chain adjustment is an evening's work. I try to turn nuts or bolts or whatever you call them, the wrong way. I become frustrated to the point of insanity, shouting and cursing and throwing things.
But I've found my way around my problem. I let others "help" me. Now you'd think that my friends would hold me in utter contempt, knowing that I have loved motorcycles for over twenty years and have still never bothered to learn the simple homespun art of motorcycle maintenance and repair. And indeed sometimes they appear to. But it is a surface thing. Deep down inside they love me. For after all, haven't I provided them with an opportunity to do that which they consider the most pleasant of all possible pastimes - working on a motorcycle.
Of course I think they are absolute nuts. But the alternative to playing along with them would be outrageously expensive, namely paying a shop to repair my bikes. So I play the game. With different friends, different techniques are required. Sometimes, especially if they are new friends, I express an interest in learning. This brings out the natural teacher instinct that. everybody has. Or I offer to help them help me. The old "God helps those who help themselves" routine. Of course it doesn't take them long to realize that I'm really not going to be much help. Like when they ask me to get them a 9/16th open end or something like that. I've never been able to look at a tool and tell what size it is and when I hold it up to the light and try to read the marking they usually find the tools they want without my help after that.
Sometimes I have to make a challenge out of it: "Monty said you'd never be able to overhaul my bike." Other times I ply them with alcoholic beverages. Some of my buddies will do any amount of work for a free six pack of beer. Or I work on their egos: "Of all the guys I know, you are the only one I would trust to do a top end job on my bike. I'd take it to a shop, but they'd butcher it. You are the only man in town with enough skill, patience, and experience to do the job correctly." Invariably these friends get on to the subject of something they call preventive maintenance when they are repairing my bikes. I don't pay too much attention to what they are talking about, but from what I can gather, that is a name they use for working on the bike all of the time.
At times they appear astounded at things I consider inconsequential. Like I remember this time when my buddy was tuning up my BMW and asked me when was the last time I had checked the oil. Naturally I told him that I had no memory of ever having done such a menial task. So he unscrewed this dipstick thing and began shouting that it was totally dry, that I was an idiot and so on. I submitted myself to this kind of verbal abuse with the thought ever present in my mind that it was better than paying a mechanic in a bike shop.
Of course I haven't always been totally lazy. I've tried a few projects - with disastrous results. Like when I lived in Florida I used to work on my Triumph 500 out in the back yard - in the grass that I never mowed. I used to always lose little bolts and nuts and spacers and washers and grommets and things. Usually I'd just put the bike back together without the missing pieces. Then when I'd ride it I'd get oil on my boots or something. But this one time I decided I was going to paint it. It was going to be the jazziest looking two tone blue bike in town. Well, I tore it all down and then decided that sanding it would be too much of a drag. So I took all of the old paint, primer and everything, off, right down to bare metal. Then it rained. It was hard enough getting the rust off, but during the month or so while I was worrying about the paint job (my brother-in-law finally did it for me) the engine seized up as tight as a drum from moisture and rust. It was then that I made an interesting discovery. If you put enough Liquid Wrench into the cylinder where the sparkplug fits in, and pull the bike about 40 miles an hour while hanging on to the window post of a car (not recommended for new riders) you can unseize an engine that has been stuck up in such a fashion.
Sometimes I get to thinking that I really know about bikes from all of this experience. But it usually turns out when I think that way that I get fooled. Like this time one of my club members was going to sell me this 1958 BSA Spitfire. The bike looked ok and didn't sound too bad except that it had megaphones and was a little loud. But I figured I'd really be smart. I took out my handkerchief, placed it behind each exhaust pipe in turn and told the seller to rev it up. He did, and
In addition to OVER THE HANDLEBARS, which is a collection of short stories, I have also written two novels about motorcycling. You can read all 3 of them for $2.99 each by going to my website, MOTORCYCLENOSTALGIA.COM