an ode to motorcycles

This post discusses certain behavior that may or may not be legal in all 50 states. I do not advocate breaking (or even bending) the laws of your state, county or municipality.


There really isn’t anything you can do in a car that you can’t do on a motorcycle. Sure, there’s some stuff you can do in a truck that you can’t do on a bike, but who wants to put a new refrigerator on the back of even a large motorcycle?

Whether you ride a 125cc dirt bike or a behemoth Gold Wing, you’re part of the brotherhood (even if you’re a sister!).  We smile, we wave, we chat each other up at gas stops.  No matter how clapped-out that guy’s ride is, we’ll always say, “Hey, nice bike” and ask some questions about it.

On Sunday, I got grilled by a 10-year-old about just about anything you could ever wonder about motorcycles. It was great fun, and I even managed to work in a suggestion to him and his father that he take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic RiderCourse.

I’m a giant proponent of ATGATT – All The Gear All The Time – but like most people, I’ve been known to head off to the store wearing, for me, what passes for the basics – boots, jeans, jacket, gloves and helmet. The few times in my life I’ve ridden without a jacket on, I’ve felt so uncomfortable it’s not even funny.

I don’t understand why people fight against laws that require helmet use.  This, to me, is the most critically stupid thing a motorcycle rider can do.  Frankly, I don’t understand why all riders don’t use full-face (or at least flip-front) helmets to start with.  The point of a helmet is twofold – 1) to prevent your brain from suffering catastrophic injury (which it does by slowing down the rate at which your brain bangs around inside your skull – as your skull deforms the EPS lining of the helmet, it decelerates your brain) and 2) to prevent skin, eye, mouth, nose, chin and penetrating damage done by objects external to the helmet like roads and guard rails.

There isn’t a half or even three-quarters helmet made anywhere in the world that will prevent your chin from scraping along the ground if you should be separated from your motorcycle at high speed.  I simply don’t understand why all motorcycle riders don’t recognize this.

Yes, a full-face helmet is warmer in the summer than a half helmet.  You know what else it does besides make your face & head hot?  It protects you from sunburn (provided your face shield blocks UV rays, which most of them do) and windburn.  It protects you from getting smacked in the face with bugs of all sorts (imagine getting your cheek splatted by a big ol’ butterfly or cricket).  It cuts down on noise, thus protecting your hearing (though you should not rely on your helmet alone to do this).  In the winter, your helmet helps your face and head stay warmer.  A full-face helmet keeps your whole head and face dry if you’re riding in rain, sleet or snow.  (Riding in sleet is just no fun, and it’s even worse if your face is being pelted with tiny, angry slivers of ice.)  If your full-face helmet is a bright color (yellow, orange, white, silver, etc.) it gives you a lot of real estate to be seen by car drivers.

You get the point.

Motorcycles are just plain fun, too.  I discovered in the past few days that both of my bikes will get up to about 90 mph in 3rd gear before the rev limiters kick in – which is impressive considering one of those bikes has a giant heavy sidecar hanging off it (and it had a passenger in it at the time).  One of my bikes gets 40+ miles per gallon – on a bad day!  When you’re out on a motorcycle, you’re more in touch with nature.  You can smell everything, see everything better, hear the sounds around you (that is, if your bike isn’t obnoxiously loud).

I think I might be rambling at this point, but I’m having fun. Not as much fun as I’d be having if I was out riding somewhere, but I’m supposed to be working, so the 10-minute break it took to write this counts as my union 15, right?

Ride. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.