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.

My current motorcycle is a 2010 BMW R1200R. In BMW jargon, this bike is 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!

Monday, July 1, 2013

I've Done Many Stupid Things In My Life....

...many.  But I nearly topped them all this afternoon.

I added a pre-paid a service contract when I bought my bike three years ago, so hadn't done anything to it myself.  The contract is finished so I figured I'd save the $50 in labor and at least do my own oil change.  I drained it but then couldn't get the filter off so I had to run to an auto parts store to get a wrench.  I carefully reinserted the drain plug with a new crush ring and the new filter.  Then I thought I'd go for a ride and get it heated up so I could check my levels and seals.  Before I pulled off I was thinking, "That thing sounds really, really weird."  I mulled it over for a few seconds then remembered that I'd forgotten to fill it back up with the new oil.  Had I taken off, that would have been a $5,000 ride.

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To follow up on this, I'm absolutely stunned at what a difference super premium, Swiss-made, synthetic oil makes in the performance of the bike.  Much smoother shifting and quieter.  The company says I'll also get better fuel economy and less oil usage.   

1 comment:

  1. I've taken to removing the filter first. It was particularly difficult to remove the filter on my 1150RT. And the old filter gasket always (always!) remained stuck on the bike, which can cause a big problem if you don't notice it.

    I used Rotella 15W-40 in the RT. I have a Concours now, and I'm using Mobil 1 15W-50. Both good oils.

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