Why I got back in the saddle

posted: February 26, 2022

tl;dr: Why I returned to motorcycle riding after a 30-year hiatus...

Last week’s post described the “how” of getting back in the saddle after a long break; this week’s post discusses the “why”. There’s a bigger question of why ride a motorcycle at all, but that deserves its own post, as does the topic of choosing to ride a Harley. So this is likely part two of a four-part series.

To answer the question of why I resumed, I first have to answer the question of why I stopped. As I mentioned in my post about my first motorcycle: 1984 Yamaha SR250, I did a cross-country trip with a buddy after we graduated from college, but my bike broke down towards the very end of the trip. It required major surgery, so I gave it away. I was thence motorcycle-less and began a somewhat itinerant phase of my life, moving from place to place and state to state. My motorcycle-riding college friends scattered around the country, as graduates of Cornell are wont to do (hardly anyone remains in Ithaca, New York after graduation), so I didn’t have any riding buddies. I was also renting, in apartments that lacked a garage. Bicycling was a better fit for my living situation: a bicycle can be carried inside an apartment for safe storage.

Then I met a girl, who was not into motorcycling, got married, and started a family. Family life is not conducive to motorcycling: I’m not aware of any baby seats for the back of a motorcycle. We bought an SUV instead. There’s also the danger element of motorcycling that must be considered: at that point in life, it would have severely disrupted the lives of multiple people were something to happen to me. Thoughts of motorcycling faded even further from my mind.

A black 2020 Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 1200 cruiser motorcycle, viewed from the right side while parked on a sunny street

My 2020 Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 1200 as purchased, before customizations

When my kids were of school age, we moved to the Chicago area. While I worked with some people who rode Harleys, and the world headquarters of Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee was about 90 miles north, owning a motorcycle in the Midwest meant putting it dormant in the garage for six months of the year at least, depending on one’s willingness to ride in cold or rainy conditions. Illinois is very flat, and the roads never appear on anyone’s list of the top roads in the country. Family life occupied my spare time. I didn’t think much about motorcycling.

Then our kids became more independent, and my wife and I moved to Arizona. Arizona has some of the most scenic roads in the country, as I had learned as a kid while paging through Arizona Highways magazine in the school library. The weather in the Valley of the Sun is conducive to year-round motorcycle riding. Motorcyclists come to Arizona specifically to rent bikes and tour the American Southwest. The world’s largest Harley-Davidson dealership (where I bought my Harley) is in Scottsdale; it is quite a place, complete with barbershop, tattoo parlor, and wedding chapel. It’s also right next to the Scottsdale airport, in case you want to fly your private plane to Scottsdale to pick up a rental bike for your trip. I started to get the itch to resume motorcycling.

When my college buddy and I did the cross-country motorcycle trip after graduation, we said multiple times that we were going to have to repeat it in fifty years. We both anticipated getting busy with our careers and family life, and projected that in retirement we’d have our next opportunity to take months off and see the country by motorcycle again. That fifty year anniversary is still more than a decade in the future, and it might be a bit of a stretch to push it off by that much. But if we are going to do that trip again, getting back into motorcycling sooner rather than later is the best way to proceed.

COVID-19 was the final impetus I needed. I’ve written about how it resulted in a pandemic of risk aversion, and people misjudging risks and rewards. Yes motorcycling can be dangerous, but there are ways to reduce risk, and the rewards are considerable. I never bought into Zero COVID, just like I’ve never believed in eliminating all risks from life. Motorcycling is fun. It is a social activity, especially if you get a Harley, as I did. When you’re on a motorcycle or hanging out with other motorcyclists, COVID hardly exists. I knew that getting back on a bike would be a great way to add some fun to a dreary world, to meet people, and to forget about the craziness in the world.

So I did.

Related post: Getting back in the saddle after a long break

Related post: Why I ride

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