Biking grows on you


At 63, biking has been ‘growing’ on me for fifty years. The hunger first started when a friend, a year older than me at 14, was given an Allstate Motor Scooter on his birthday and took me for a ride. I couldn’t sleep for a month. My mother nixed the idea of my having one until, she said, I was old enough to buy one myself.

Later, when I could do just that, I instead got into cars in a manic way.

I wasn’t to buy my first bike, a Bridgestone 175, until I was 21 and in the Army. By then I had owned or leased 6 cars including a brand new ’65 Sting Ray. Within a couple days of arriving at Fort Bliss, however, I had my own first bike and didn’t get off it for nearly 4 months except to sleep.

This was November, December, January and well into February in El Paso, Texas and it was cold, but who cared? I rode every day without fail.

Transferred to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, I had to sell the bike, and didn’t buy another until I left the Army. Since then I’ve owned a fairly representative collection of dirt and street bikes, keeping up with as many as four at a time (I believe that if you own motorcycles you need to ride them so four kept me pretty busy).

With the exception of an 18 month period about three years ago, and the occasional weekend rental, I haven’t driven a car in ten years. I ride every day, of course, since the motorcycle is my only motored transport and I live in a climate (middle Georgia) that permits it. I suspect I’d figure out a way to ride every day, though, no matter where I lived.

The 1983 Midnight Virago shown is my current street ride. Her name is Betsy.

And while Betsy may be small at 750cc and a 60″ wheelbase, she’s as game as they come.

The striking lack of mechanical complexity of the older, air cooled V-twin with shaft drive is a sweet bonus. I have no desire to own a four wheeled vehicle.

I’ve always said, “No matter what kind of crap day you’ve had, or what kind of crap day you’re about to have, the split second you throw a leg over your bike everything’s good, and by the time you’ve ridden 20 feet you’re a brand new man on a beautiful day.”

The luggage on the bike stays on the bike all the time. In it I carry rain gear, various cold weather riding gear, cleaning supplies, oil, tools, maps, battery water and a bike cover. There’s plenty of empty space, too, for the periodic trip to the store. During warm weather months I store the cold weather gear, and on a trip I lose most of the cleaning stuff to make room for tent, sleeping bag, mattress, food and clothes. I’m in the process of retiring my old, beat up tank bag in favor of a new one.

Two indispensable items shown in the picture are: the big round ‘trunk’ which serves as a back rest and storage area, and the thermostat located on the tank just in front of the seat. The thermostat hooks up to my electric gloves and, for long rides in seriously cold weather, my electric pants. The electric gloves alone make a huge difference in cold weather.

I’m a strong believer in riding in perfect comfort irrespective of weather. I don’t want the distraction of being uncomfortable. It’s a safety matter as much as anything.

I sometimes substitute the backpack on the luggage rack for an ice chest since a cold beer at the end of a long ride is another of life’s great pleasures.

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