My 26 year old Love…and life lesson in trust

I had to blog about my old bike before the riding season was over.  I have “ride motorcycles” as one of the things I love to do on my “About” page. I thought, “I, at least, need to post a pic!”

Margo and I have owned this 1982 Honda GL1100 since 1997.  We bought it in 3 months before we were married and rode off on it on our wedding day.

It looked quite a bit different back then.  It was still black, with chrome.  But, it was also a full-dresser, which meant it had a full fairing, windshield, saddle bags and trunk like a normal Goldwing.  I de-dressed it the year I bought it because I wanted a big bike, but something not so encumbered.

Even after 26 years, it’s still smooth, responsive, powerful, and rides wonderfully.

Margo and I moved to Chicago in 2003 and I actually have had the bike stored for the last 4 years.  This season, we got it out and had it serviced for the season.  The ride back from Grand Rapids, MI, where I had it stored, was the first time I had ridden in 4 years.  I don’t really have words to describe the 3-hour ride.  No bugs in my teeth, but I grinned the entire way.  The weather was perfect and the ride went smoothly.

One of the things I love about riding a bike is the lessons it teaches in trust. A motorcycle can teach life lessons, especially in the area of trust.  When you’re riding 70 miles an hour, or even just 30, you have to learn to trust the bike to ride it safely.  Leaning into curves or trusting the engine to do what you’re telling it to do, all require trust.  An anxious or nervous rider is a dangerous one.  Being comfortable on your bike is key to riding it safely.

It takes 3 of  your limbs to control the bike when you ride.  Left hand is the clutch.  Right hand controls the throttle (accelerator) and front brake.  Right foot controls both the rear brake and shifter.  My bike, like many old bikes, is a 5 speed.  Learning to coordinate all these controls, keep balance, and pay attention to the road and traffic around you is part of the fun and art of riding.

A motorcycle teaches trust to the passenger, too.  In fact, the lesson in trust is more important for the  passenger.  Why?  On a bike, you turn by leaning.  Unless your moving slowly or in a tight space, you generally don’t ever actually twist the handlebars.  Instead, when riding, the driver and rider have to be coordinated and working together or it can be like driving two steering wheels.  The rider has to learn to do what doesn’t always come naturally – learn to lean with the bike.  If the rider does what the bike does, the driver can drive it and ride safely.  If not, riding with a passenger can be quite hazardous.  I threw my cousin on the back of my bike in college, not knowing he had never ridden before.  We both almost ended up in a lake.  The passenger has to trust the bike and driver, and do what the bike wants to do.  Getting comfortable as a passenger on a bike is its own art.   Trust is the only thing that makes it work.  It’s what makes it possible to ride and ride safely.

I’ve been riding since I was 18 years old.  This is my fifth bike.  I don’t ride that often, mainly for recreation.  But, when I do, there is something like freedom that I feel, that I don’t always feel when I don’t ride.  I know it sounds cliche, but its true for me.  Little can describe the feeling of the open road, the sense of the wind across your body, the noise of machinery underneath you, and the responsiveness of the bike when riding.

In 16 or so years of motorcycles, there’s a few things I’ve learned from riding.  One, rain at 60mph feels like being shot with BB’s.  Two, after the sun goes down, 60 degrees feels like 32 at about 50mph.  Third, out in the country, riding without a windshield at dusk in the fall can get you covered in bugs…and a June bug on bare skin at 60mph can leave a welt!

But, lastly, I’ve learned that trust is something you need when you ride, whether riding or driving, no matter what you’re doing.

It’s not unlike faith.  Some people think they could never trust a bike.  But, if you’re gonna ride, you better learn to trust – because not trusting undermines the relationship you need for you and the bike to work together…

…and your life might depend on it.