Like most riders, I am frequently asked why I ride. I tend to respond with something vague like “it’s fun, challenging, and the feeling of freedom and being one with a machine is incredible”. I do this for three reasons:
1.) Most people asking the question really don’t care. They don’t know me, and they are making small talk to fill an uncomfortable silence. I like uncomfortable silences, so a short answer gets us quickly back to the quiet.
2.) Non-riding friends and family who ask typically do not approve of the sport. Anything I say can and will be used against me, so it is best to keep it short.
3.) Let’s face it, it sounds better than “I have an addiction”.
But after saying these things for years – some people getting it, most shaking their heads as I ride off from my lunch stop on a rainy Saturday afternoon ride – I decided I needed better stories to explain the allure for those that do not understand. Some are about why I wanted to start riding; others are moments in my riding career that reinforce the simplistic go-to response above.
For me, the dream started early…
I have quite the imagination. Spending a youth full of Wisconsin winters made it a necessity. For months on end I would trudge out through the snow to the standalone garage to look at my lonely, waiting bicycle. I sometimes would try and ride it down the snow and ice covered driveway, pretending it was a dirtbike…until I crashed into the garbage cans.
Once summer came I would ride my bicycle everywhere, and often would end up “down by the lake” where the older kids and young adults would cruise back and forth in their hot rods and on motorbikes. There was one section of the bike path that ran parallel to the road and allowed me a closer look at the motorcycles in action and because of the condition of that road, I could often ride faster than they could.
Enter My imagination.
As I pedaled faster and faster to overtake a guy on a “Ninja” (there were two types of motorcycles in my mind back then, Ninjas and Harleys), I imagined the motorcyclist being jealous of my speed and offering to trade methods of transportation.
“Hey man, that is a nice Schwinn you got there.” sweet-mullet-guy with the Ninja would say, “Wanna swap?”
“You know it!” I would reply, “But what about your girl on the back?”
“She only likes guys on motorcycles, so I guess I am out of luck.”
Then I would imagine riding home, wind on my face and blowing back my hair (I had no clue about safety gear back then), new girlfriend holding on for dear life as I wheelied away from every stop. Unfortunately, I could never quite imagine hard enough to create a scene in which my mom accepted the fact that I was 13 with a motorcycle and a live-in girlfriend. Thinking back now, I think that she would have approved of the girlfriend long before she let me get a bike.
Is this memory the reason that I ride? Could be. All I know is that now, as a supposed adult with my own motorcycle, I sincerely enjoy seeing kids on their pedal-bikes watching me ride past and catching that “some day I am going to get one of those” look on their faces. And to keep the dream alive, I smile and wave as I rip on by, remembering that I was once the one on a Schwinn.