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Showing posts from January, 2013

What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

Running the numbers

As I've mentioned before, the biggest challenge I face in this whole motorcycle saga is financial. Motorcycles are cheaper than cars but when you've got almost no money, how much less one thing costs than the other can be academic. I suppose I shouldn't be thinking about motorcycles at all right now – at least, not any more than I think about buying holiday homes in Montana. But I can't not think about it.
So, it seems the best thing to do is try to be practical about what I'm up against – get to know the face of the beast I'm trying to slay. And that means being honest with myself about what all this is going to cost.
The first thing for which I'm going to have to fork out money is training and licensing. There's no getting around those costs, which I've calculated to be £895.50 (US $1,434), based on the prices listed by the 1st Class Rider Training school on its website. You'll note that I've allotted myself four days of Direct Access tra…

Crazy things I do: Play dress up

Apparently, I should never have been accepted into the motorcycle-theme Google+ community of which I am a member, since I am not yet a motorcycle rider. I don't own a bike; I have never owned a bike. But I desperately want to change that situation, and perhaps that was good enough for the moderators.

I haven't got a motorcycle but I have got a whole lot of crazy. If you've been following this blog over the last month that will have become pretty clear. I think about motorcycles in every waking moment, then I go to sleep and dream about them. And that's a sort of thought process that can manifest itself in some pretty odd ways. Perhaps the most ridiculous effect motorcycling has had on my behaviour is that it has reverted me to my childhood self. So intense is my love for and fascination of motorcycles and motorcycling that sometimes – and, oh Lord, am I embarrassed to admit this – I find myself playing dress up.

When I was a boy, my grandmother made a Superman costume…

You know, I know, and they know

I love this. I've watched it about a dozen times so far, and each time it gets my heart pounding. This is what I'm talking about. This is the need. Why am I still inside? Why am I still not on a bike? Why am I not moving, not going, not living?
"You know, I know, and they know the joy that sometimes comes along out of nowhere, rising like a falcon moon across the impossibility."

The need

I'm going through hell. I cannot think of any other thing. I don't feel like eating; I can't sleep. Today – truthfully – I've taken the day off work and claimed to be ill because I simply don't have the ability to concentrate on my job. My need for a motorcycle is the only thing my mind will hold on to. 
Sometimes I feel an all-consuming flood of panic and anxiety at the thought of not getting a motorcycle – the fear that this thing I need so desperately might never be attained. I feel nauseous. My hands tremble. In these moments I feel as if my whole world is coming apart, as if I were in the Matrix and some catastrophic event has caused the pixels of my world to break apart. It is that feeling of irreversible doom, like when you were a teenager and your girlfriend would say: "Listen, we need to talk."
Nothing good ever comes of those words. In my experience they are always followed by a break-up or an uncomfortable confession, then a break-up. In the t…

The reason

Yes, I know it's just a really long advertisement for a Harley dealer. And, yes, I'm very wary of all the Harley Cult nonsense, but still. I like the video just for the line: "There's a reason you don't ever see motorcycles parked out in front of therapist offices."

Feminine opposition

I first met my wife in autumn 2010, when I was still high on emotion from a U.S. road trip I had taken that summer. My theme song in those days was "Free" by the Zac Brown Band. So, I think it's safe to say she got it. There was never any point at which I was not clear about who I am and who I want to be. The man who needs to be free is the man she fell in love with; she understands.
But understanding only goes so far. Especially when there's no money.
If you are particularly astute you may have picked up that I have another blog, which I've maintained for almost a decade now. I use it to talk about anything and everything, including motorcycles. Why, then, create this blog?

Because she doesn't know about this blog.

I'm always honest with my wife, so if she happened upon this motorcycle diary I wouldn't be upset and it wouldn't contain any sentiment she hasn't already heard. But I feel that waving this obsession in her face wouldn't reall…

The universe tells me to calm down

I went to buy a helmet today. I have no bike; I have not taken my CBT. And I have no actual money, just that which credit card companies are willing to lend. But still, I put on my jacket and trudged out in the snow, determined to buy a helmet.
"I'll wear it around the house," I told myself. "To get used to it."
There is some logic in such thinking. When I was 18 and took a training course to get my motorcycle endorsement in the United States, I found myself distracted by my helmet. I was too easily amused by the fact I could sit there and mumble to myself without anyone hearing. And some strange aspect of the whole thing made me feel I was in a pillow fort – I wanted to close my eyes and take a nap.

So, sure, even though training courses here provide helmets and it's a good idea to make sure you want to do something before you go spending hundreds of pounds on it, perhaps it might be smart for me to buy a helmet and get used to the feel and experience of …

No tengo dinero

As I said in my last post, there are three things standing between me and motorcycle ownership: lack of a UK license, lack of money, and lack of enthusiasm from my wife. The first issue isn't too big a problem, but for the second; I don't have the money to pay for training.

You may have read one or two news stories about this: the economy sucks. It sucks everywhere and especially here in Europe, where in places like Spain unemployment hovers around 26 percent. In her majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland things are a little better, with the most recent figures showing unemployment at about 8 percent*. That's almost on par with the United States, which has a rate of 7.8 percent (and falling), but I think it's a misleading figure because many of us who have jobs are not, in fact, fully employed.

I really like the company I work for (and I'm not just saying that to cover my ass), but unfortunately they don't have the money to pay me …

But it's not that easy

So, I've come up with a clear and compelling case for getting a motorcycle (I'll go crazy if I don't get one). And I can even produce solid evidence that motorcycle ownership is a responsible and practical thing to do. In the United Kingdom, especially, motorbikes are a wise move in terms of transportation because they are (generally) cheaper to insure, cheaper to maintain, and cost less in taxes and MOT*. Add to this the fact that they require a fraction of the petrol (gas) that a car would use and they are not only cheap but environmentally friendly**.
Indeed, as far as commuting practicality is concerned, one can't help but feel that to not own a motorcycle is downright foolish. And yet, I don't own a motorcycle. The obstacles in my way are threefold:

1) I'm not licensed to ride a motorcycle in the UK.
2) I don't have a lot of money.
3) My wife isn't all that fond of the idea.

The first issue is easily fixable. I've trained before; I can train a…

What happened

Last time I wrote, I told of how I got my motorcycle license at age 18, but thereafter never rode. I had gotten my certification in a place with bad weather most of the year and I had neither the money nor storage space to own something I would have used so very rarely.
When I was 22 years old I left Minnesota for the slightly better weather of Northern Nevada, but married a woman who had a strong idea of who and what she wanted me to be. What she did not want me to be was one of those guys who zips around on a motorcycle. She was convinced I would get myself killed. And I wasn't able to convince myself she wasn't just a little bit right. Especially when she and I lived in San Diego, California.

San Diego is conducive to riding about 360 days a year, but it is home to countless military bases, which means a lot of people who make bad decisions involving motor vehicles. You may have heard that motorcycles have killed more U.S. Marines than IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan combined…

How and Why Motorcycle Lane Splitting is Safe and Good - RideApart

What I am - part II

In my last post I mentioned that I am naturally longwinded. As if proving my point, I started to tell the story of the beginnings of my motorcycle obsession but then had to cut myself off because I had reached the self-imposed 500-word limit for posts.
In that post I told of my doing poorly in high school and posted, too, a picture of a 1985 Honda VFR, with the caption "No Fat Chicks." It's a picture and caption that doesn't make sense in that post because they don't have the context of this story:
As summer grew closer in my senior year of high school, all my friends were full of thoughts and ambitions about what they would be doing after graduation - what amazing and far-away colleges they would be attending and all the incredible things they would be doing. Whereas my head was filled with the increasingly impossible-to-deny realisation that I was going nowhere. I wasn't going to graduate and I felt awful.
It was sometime during all this that I found mysel…

What I am

In my last post I described this blog as "a tale of the journey from what I am to what I want to be." There are so many things I want to write about, but I'll do my best to keep it all under control. One of the ways I plan to do that is by imposing a 500-word limit to my posts.
We're talking about an obsession here, and you bet your sweet tushy I can go on and on and on and on and on (and on) about motorcycles. I could easily and happily sit here churning out novel-length tomes on motorcycling, motorcycles and so on. But who - apart from me - would want to read it? Part of the reasoning behind a public forum like a blog is to share the experience. Perhaps someone else will find comfort in knowing there is a person just as sick for motorcycles as they are. Perhaps others will be able to offer advice or commiseration. To make it more palatable for them - for you - I will try to rein in my longwinded nature. 500 words or less. And no more than one post per day. I promi…

The beginning

If I felt this way toward a girl there would be incrimination; restraining orders would be issued. People would look at me with their best serious faces, speak in their best concerned tones and say: "Chris, you are sick. Very, very sick. You need to get help."
Authority figures and neighbours would stare me down in judgemental disgust. I would find myself uninvited from social gatherings. Acquaintances would slip away, and I would learn who my very truest friends are. They would be the two, maybe three, people who would come and grip my hand and implore me to get over this thing - let this obsession pass.
But what I'm thinking about - what I'm obsessing over, what's filling my thoughts in every single waking moment - are motorcycles.
I want one.
I need one.
Is there a stronger word than "need?" That's what has its claws in me.
Being obsessed with motorcycling is a more socially and legally abiding thing - no one's going to throw me in jail simp…