Two Wheels of Terror

I’m giving serious thought to purchasing a motorcycle again. Specifically the Honda Shadow VLX.

The out-of-control gas prices are what made me think about bikes in the first place, and it’s become a stronger argument this summer as prices continue to creep upward. According to this chart, I should expect to get about 50 miles per gallon on a Shadow, which will make trips to our second campus at work or to things like karate class a lot cheaper than if I were to take the family van at 20-22 miles per gallon. It also lets me leave the van with the wife and kids should they need it, without the extra expense of a car as the second vehicle.

There’s still a nagging fear in the back of my head, though. I only learned to ride last year, and while the course put me at ease about my own riding, there’s always that concern about some pinhead pulling out in front of me or merging into me in traffic. On top of that, I have yet to get seat time on anything more than a parking lot course. My father-in-law offered to let me take his GoldWing for a spin, but I can hardly even get my stubby legs over the seat, much less get them to touch the ground while I’m on it. A co-worker offered to let me ride his Shadow ACE, but if I dumped it I’d feel horrible so I took a pass.

On the other hand, I know riders who have been on their bikes over 30 years without incident. What’s more, statistics show that the overwhelming majority of riders (better than 90% if I remember right) of motorcycle accidents involve riders who are self-taught and/or who are riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Just taking that $20 course put me ahead of most riders on the road before I even get on the bike.

I’m also told that fear is good for the rider. You stay more alert, more aware of your surroundings. When you’re expecting that pinhead to merge into you, you’re reacting before he even starts to move. It’s when you get tired or careless that you start to have a problem.

This morning it occurred to me I felt the same way when I first took driver’s ed in high school. I remember standing out front, watching people pick up their kids or watching other students pick up their friends, and being amazed at how easy they made it look. I used to wonder if I’d ever be that comfortable behind the wheel, even if I’d ever be as good at driving as they seemed to be. A year later, the car was just an extension of my body. I picked up my brother and one of his friends after practice one afternoon, and I realized I was doing the same thing as the people I had been watching. Driving really is easy, and I was as good as those other people.

I’ve been watching motorcyclists with the same awe. They’ve been out in droves with the warmer weather, and they cruise along just like the cars around them. It’s all about experience, and you’ve got to start somewhere. The good news is we have miles and miles of open road out here in the boonies, unlike the crowded suburban streets I learned to drive a car on.

I’d always wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle, and I’ve accomplished that much. Now it’s time to give some serious thought to taking it to the next level. What better time than spring?

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

No comments

  1. Eric says:

    i’ve been riding since 2003. yea, there’s the initial scare of something bad happening from an idiot, but you get a good comfort level after a while and that soon goes away. The best thing about being a good (read: observant) rider is that you tend to notice a lot more things that people do while they drive and you tend to start to expect what’s going to happen before it actually does.

    See if you can find a place that rents bikes that you could take out for a weekend. I’ve rented Buell Blast bikes two or three times in florida from the Harley dealer. it’s pretty cheap (~$40/day) and it’s just a small step up from a scooter. not much power and nice and small, but it does have gears to shift and all the same controls in the same locations as a larger bike would have.

  2. Mike says:

    I’ve thought about rentals, as there’s a Harley/Buell place in Bloomington. However, that still has the “you break it you bought it” factor. :)

    The other thing in favor of just buying one is my wife wants to learn to ride, too. Her uncles and a lot of her cousins ride, but she never got around to learning. We’ll probably put her through the Illinois safety course soon.

    Do you own a bike?

  3. Eric says:

    yea. sport bike, not cruiser, but a bike none the less.