Editorial: Jamie Beckett on Motorcycle Musings

Apropos of Nothing: Motorcycle Musings
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett

There’s a new motorcycle in my driveway this week. That’s unusual. Traditionally there’s an old motorcycle in my driveway. In fact, as I edge toward senility and decay I am still able to recall that up until now, I have only bought one other new motorcycle in my entire life. That was a 1978 Yamaha XS400. It packed a whopping 27 horsepower, sported chain drive, analog gauges, and a very soggy commute to work on many mornings. Still, I loved it.

As troubling as it may be to some, I have always been a motorcycle guy. Well, almost always. When I was 10 years old my dad became overwhelmed with the spirit of generosity and a driving urge to be the most beneficent and affectionate father of all time. That was one heck of a weekend, let me tell you.

While in the throes of this brief phase, good ol’ dad purchased an ancient Ducati 160 as a gift to his sons. The single cylinder was substantially rusted and had been sufficiently ravaged by time that it seemed entirely possible to me the great Italian motorcycle mechanic, Leonardo DaVinci, might have personally forged it. Still, it was a real motorcycle and a wise 10-year-old rascal of a boy doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I learned to ride that underpowered beast the old fashioned way, which is to say, by falling off often enough that I eventually found a way to hang on and keep the thing upright.

Oh, those were the days.

My older brother could take two-wheels of leave then. So he left them. That was fine with me because it meant I had nobody to share motor time with. I got to ride at will – and I loved it. For a while at least. Eventually my younger sister grew tall enough that dad figured it was her turn to learn to ride. She rode beautifully, too, for almost 100 feet, until a large brick building known as Barnes Elementary School got in her way.

Ten seconds, one dented helmet, one set of collapsed front forks, and one crying little girl later, my motorcycle days were over until that Yamaha came into my life, some years later.

At the risk of ruining my reputation amongst bikers everywhere, I will let you in on a little secret. Boys learn to ride motorcycles for one reason and one reason only. We’re nuts. That doesn’t change with age either, although our riding habits do. You will never see me headed to the beach on two-wheels, sans helmet, with flip-flops on my feet, and no shirt. Fear is a great teacher, and over the past 54 years I have come to know that emotion well enough to respect it. When you fall to the ground with reckless abandon, pavement hurts. I still have issues with the intersection of Highway 16 and North Cherry Street in Starke, Florida where I contacted the street in a deeply personal way more than 30 years ago. I was 19 then, yet the embarrassment of sliding across the road sideways astride a fallen motorcycle is still etched deeply into my psychosis. It didn’t do much for the bike’s paint either.

With the addition of this new motorcycle to my growing fleet, a fellow rider who is also eligible to join AARP suggested we should start a gang. Frankly, I like the idea. He’s suggested we name ourselves the Flying Squirrels, with an emblem of Rocky the Flying Squirrel on our backs. Trademark infringement be damned.

Of course, being in a gang today would be somewhat different than my forays into the field during my younger years. We wouldn’t be inclined to meet up at the clubhouse to imbibe alcoholic beverages and speak coarsely in loud voices over the strains of blasting acid rock anymore.

Today, we’d be more inclined to meet up at the coffee bar to discuss the relative benefits of Ensure, or Metamucil, and other tasty drinks formulated specifically for our age bracket while listening to cool jazz or folk tunes. Attracting girls would still be high on our list of things to do, though.

After all, motorcycles are powerful chick magnets and at this age we can use all the help we can get. Try not to point that part out to us if you can help it, however. We sort of enjoy living in the delusional fantasyland we’ve created for ourselves. Let us enjoy it while we can.

I wonder if you can get flames painted onto a motorized wheelchair? I should look into that.