You Can’t Hope For
Few questions caused me more concern than when my son asked if he could learn to ride. I was frozen suddenly by all of the things that could go wrong. Why should I agree to risk one of my most precious friends to the hazards of the road? But slowly I also considered the potential for the great experiences that can be found from the saddle of a motorcycle. I relented with several quid pro quos, stipulations and pre-conditions, such as taking the MSF Beginners Class, and riding only in my company until he had the skill, and I had the courage to release him to the world.
The search began for his motorcycle with a “you’re going to do this aren’t you” from my wife as she rolled her eyes and slowly walked away. She paused and turned back towards me, “Don’t make it too expensive, you know he’s just a beginner”. The intensive search for his starter cycle involved visits to all of the local motorcycle retailers (yes even Harley Davison) to find a machine that could reasonably accommodate my son’s six feet, four inch frame. When he tried a 250 cc Nighthawk he looked like Kobe Bryant on a tricycle. We quickly settled on a Suzuki DL-650 V-Strom. Perfect ergos for him with lots of leg room.
I knew he was excited as he gladly got up at 1:00 am to begin our drive to California to trailer back the used hardware we selected. On the long drive I considered the happy prospects of having a family member as a real riding partner, not just a pillion who can navigate (sorry Honey).
During the first weekend with the little machine I rode it to DVM to change registration and get a new title. Little did I know that this short little ride would turn into a ride to another time and place. Perhaps my departure from the “lite-bike” scene began with graduation from college when I had more money to spend on two-wheeled power and speed. With a purchase of a Honda six-cylinder CBX (a must have at the time), getting from point A to point B was no longer a matter of transportation but about making a statement to all who knew enough to take notice. After more than two decades of driving big and heavy motorcycles, my recollection of the delights of the small and light weight bikes that I grew up with were all but gone.
Yet as I rode home from DMV on the bike with a motor that sounds like a transplant from a lawn mower, something stirred within me. I passed the turn to my house and next thing I knew I was climbing southward on State Highway 83 towards Sonoita. There was a real chill under the white billowing clouds that hung low in the valley, the little bike now behaving more smoothly after I quieted my heavy handed clutch and throttle control which worked so well with the brutes I normally ride. It may have been the beautiful scene or the smell of fresh grass from the prior night’s rain that made me recall how truly wonderful “lite-bikes” can be. I guess we have all been trained by the motorcycle industry’s marketing executives to believe that lighter and smaller displacement hardware somehow diminishes the motorcycle experience. For decades the manufactures worked to achieve more horsepower and the ability to get it into the road cleanly.
I still love the neck-snapping acceleration and speed of a high performance bike of any kind, but on the little motorcycle maybe for a just moment I was back on my blue 1963 Honda CB250 with its chrome sided fuel tank gleaming in the sun on a lonely country road, seeing the world as I once knew it; new and full of promise for what lays around the next curve. No matter what the motorcycle, I couldn’t hope for anything more than that for my new riding partner.