Walked Away From My Big Two-Wheeler

Walked Away From My Big Two-Wheeler

I used to subscribe to Cycle magazine, back in my twenties to forties, and motorcycling was a notable part of my life. This was an editorial written by the late Phil Schilling, then-editor of the magazine. I still have it. I kept it because when I read it 30-plus years ago, it was jarringly and startlingly like my own life.

There is more to the editorial than what I repeat here.  In the much longer version, Mr. Schilling is bemoaning the absence of a motorcycling buddy. But he gets the so-attractive atavism of motorcycle riding, particularly not for the “coolness” or “badness” that it brings, but for the simple escapism involved.

Because when you’re on a motorcycle, if you want to keep living, you are in tune with the environment, with your machine, with the air around, the feel of the road, potential dangers up ahead, your center of gravity. Because if you’re not in tune with all that, you run a larger chance of not coming back alive. And when you’re cocooned in that heightened and necessary awareness, you feel much more alive.

Anyway, the editorial snippets:

Do you recognize this man?

He is 34.3 years old, married to 1.0 woman with 1.7 children, has 4.0 years of high school and 8.0 semesters in college,lives in a house that has 1.0 kitchen, 1.0 living room, 2.3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, and 1.5 mortgages with 16.0 payments annually for 21.7 years.

Have you seen this person?

His garage has 375 square feet, a concrete floor stained by oil, and an automatic garage-door opener that works with a grudge. The garage occupants are 1.2 cars, 1.4 benches with 1.6 toolboxes, 12.8 overcrowded shelves, 1.7 lawnmowers, 3.0 bicycles in assorted sizes, and 1.0 motorcyle bought 2.2 years ago. He has ridden this machine very little.

Can you identify this individual?

He alternately feels energetic and wiped out. He has reached the age at which he enjoys the fullness of life, and sometimes thinks he’s chocking on it. His life has become a fully utilized timeshare property: time for work, home, kids, “your mother,” church, PTA, broken appliances, Little Leagues, and leaky faucets.

Do you know this guy? His solitude is a fragile, brittle thing. Every once in a while he describes his life as a series of interruptions, punctuated by further interruptions. But he keeps that description to himself, inside the safety of his own head.

(And the article didn’t finish with this, but it was the punchline for me:)

Surely a man needs a refuge from his 1.0/1.0/2.3/1.5 life.

Back to me now, and thank you, motorcycling. I believe I’m done with you, and that brings sadness, but leaving a thing you love will always be sad. But it’s necessary. The reflexes are sharp enough, but the available time continues to dwindle, and… well, the confidence and security I used to bring with me when straddling the seat has faded somewhat. And if you don’t ride with a strong level of confidence in the bike’s and your own abilities, it’s time to stop.

It was great for the 40-plus years that it lasted.

Yes, this is me. Grandma ‘n’ me.

— Grandpa

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