In the Beginning

Driving a car, your relationship with the road is like that with a friend. Bumps are softened. On a motorcycle, the relationship is much more intimate, like that with a lover. You feel every small bump and dip.

Me, November 2011

This is the unfolding story of motorcycling and me. While I'd toyed with the idea of riding for several years, I'd never thrown a leg over a motorcycle until I was 51. Then the time seemed right. My youngest kid had finished high school so I considered myself expendable. I'd just spent two years with every waking moment was consumed writing a book. With it completed, I again owned my life and was looking for a new obsession.

My driving force in life has always been pushing myself, taking on new challenges and mastering new skills. I thrive on exploring new places and always prefer to be outside with the wind on me as much as possible. So I gravitated to riding.

As I contemplated this big plunge, I made several assumptions. One was that riding a motorcycle would save money given that gasoline prices had just spiked. A second was that royalties from the book would pay for a motorcycle. But most of all, I assumed that having put in thousands of miles on road racing and mountain bicycles, and manual transmission cars for years, I'd pick up motorcycle riding easily.

These assumptions all turned out to be wrong. What I spent on motorcycling far exceeded any savings from higher gas mileage. I didn't sell enough books to cover the costs. And learning to ride was much, much more difficult than I expected. But it was also much more fulfilling. In life, I've always wanted to be where I'm not. And I'm rushing to get there.

In the few years since I began riding, I've fallen passionately in love with it. The average American motorcyclist rides 1800 miles per year. I did 16,000 my first year, 18,000 the second, and over 20,000 in the third. I've continued to average 15,000 to 16,000 miles per year even when I began writing a weekly column that eats up much of my Sundays. At night I often dream of squiggly lines on a map. Seriously.

When everything is clicking--I'm alone on a winding country road, I've got my "A" game, the music is in a groove--I sometimes forget the motorcycle is there and feel like I'm simply flying. If you don't want to take my word for it, trust Alton Brown.

Luckily, I live close to some fine riding, with twisty roads over mountain ridges, large state forests, miles of farmland (which often requires dodging Amish buggies), charming little towns (each different from all the others), and lots of historic sites. There's always somewhere new to see. (Here's a map of my favorite routes and road food). I particularly like combining riding with photography--one of my other passions.

When I began this blog I was riding a 2010 BMW R1200R. In BMW jargon, this bike was a "hexhead" (named because the engine cylinder covers are hexagonal). So these are the "Hexhead Diaries." I'll update them regularly with stories and pictures. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 14, 2011

I Sing the Body Electric

October is by far my favorite riding month, with the leaves bursting with color, the weather brisk but not uncomfortable, and none of the winter gravel on the roads.  But I do ride year around, and am looking forward to this winter more than previous ones because of a couple of new purchases.

For the past two winters, I used First Gear electric gloves (made by a company called Warm & Safe).   I found them absolutely essential when the temperatures fall below 45.  Even the beefiest insulated gloves didn't cut the mustard. But for the rest of my body, I'd just layer enough clothes to be comfortable.  That worked but by the time I got four or five layers on my torso, I could barely move my arms.  It was quite annoying.

Over the summer I finally broke down and added a 90 watt First Gear electric jacket liner as well.  Not only will this keep my torso warm with just a base layer and a top coat, but it also allows me to plug the gloves directly into the sleeves of the jacket rather than having clumsy wires running from the bike to the gloves.

It was chilly enough last weekend that I could try out the new electrics.  I did find that having a single heat controller didn't work well.  If I cranked it up enough to keep my hands warm, my torso was too hot.  So I added a dual controller.  By getting a "semi-remote" one, I was able to get a very clean installation with the knobs on my dash but the controller box under the seat.  The cables to attach the heat controller to the jacket and gloves come from under the seat, so I can stuff the wires out of the way when I'm not using the electrics.

My First Gear gloves were getting a bit worn so I've also added a pair of Gerbings.  That company  makes heated gear for the military, so it has a great reputation.  And I got them new on Ebay for an excellent price.

I haven't had a chance to try them out yet, but am very impressed with the comfort.  And they have a slightly longer gauntlet which should make it easier to put them on over the sleeve of a big winter jacket.

So let the cold come.  But let the snow and ice stay away.

No comments:

Post a Comment