I was sitting in one of my favorite local biker bar hangouts the other day, sipping a cold brew, making small talk with others, and checking out all the "chrome ponies" that were coming and going through the lot, when a thought hit me: The entire motorcycling community is getting older. A lot more gray hair, balding pates, white beards, and middle-aged bellies in sight than ever before. Many of the hot biker babes of yore have wind and sun-wrinkled faces and sagging figures of varying degrees nowadays; some are still hot, but it's a relative thing. Your perceptions change as you grow older; what's "hot" at 50 would've gagged you at 25. So it goes.
It's not like there aren't any younger bikers out there on the streets, because there certainly are. There's just fewer of them than before. Smaller generations and more overprotected than we were. But you will still see teenagers and twenty-somethings on their "crotch rockets," zooming down the highway, zipping in and out of traffic like it's not even there at all, looking sudden death square in the eyes and spitting in its face. We older, wiser bikers just grin when we see them fly past our Harleys, British Classics, and Gold Wing Hondas. Yeah, we used to do that stuff too. Some of us still do, but most have learned our lessons via dislocated and broken bones, with arthritis and rheumatism in our joints as a reminder of the foolishness of youth. It catches up with you, sooner or later. Always does. There are old bikers and there are bold bikers, but there are no old, bold bikers. I don't know who came up with that old saying, but I know for certain now that it's true.
I'm like so many others. I got motorcycling in my blood when I was a teenager. Had lots of fun, fell off of and dropped the thing ten dozen times, then crashed bigtime. Totaled my bike and ended up in the hospital. I bought another one a few years later and got over the fear. You either do that, or you choose not to ride again. And some can't ride again, after crashing. That's just the way it is.
I sold the second bike, then didn't own one for many years, until I bought my Miss Velvet last year. But that had always been in the back of my mind somewhere over all those bike-less years. Once you get the motorcycle bug, it never completely leaves you. Something about the wind in your face on a deserted country lane in the morning, the smells of nature in your nostrils, alone with your thoughts, with the sound of the powerful machine that you become a part of. It's freedom. True, utter freedom. It can't be explained. You have to experience it for yourself. But it's that sense of freedom that drives us all.
We have been somewhere where a non-biker never goes, experienced something unique which they can't begin to imagine. We aren't criminals or bad people, for the most part. Those are the one-percenters. We're some of the sweetest and nicest people you could ever meet. We aren't out looking for trouble; we only want to ride and have the cagers respect the fact that we share the road with them. Give us our portion of it. That's all we ask.
I've always been a biker, ever since I first climbed on a motorcycle and brought the engine to life. Now I'm back again. The world's changed, the bikes have changed, and we have changed and aged ourselves. But we aren't ready to trade our 2-wheelers in on trikes quite yet, thank you. As long as we can still put our wobbly old legs down and hold the damned thing up, we'll be leaning into those curves and chasing the wind. It's a way of life for us.
We Don't Do Fear
Over the last 105 years in the saddle, we've seen wars, conflicts, depression, recession, resistance and revolutions. We've watched a thousand hand-wringing pundits disappear in our rear-vew mirror. But every time, this country has come out stronger than before. Because chrome and asphalt puts distance between you and whatever the world can throw at you. Freedom and wind outlast hard times. And the rumble of an engine drowns out all the blah, blah, blah on the evening news. If 105 years have proved one thing, it's that fear sucks and it doesn't last long.
So screw it, let's ride.
Copyright 2008, Harley-Davidson Motor Company