CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
“If you haven’t realized it yet, you’re not paying much attention,” I was once told. “The military is like one giant car club. You’ve got the Subarus, the muscle cars, the trucks and everything in between.”
What they forgot to mention was the amount of servicemen and women who ride motorcycles. Not a day goes by during the riding season that you don’t throw out what others would perceive as just a peace sign. This is the two-finger flip of camaraderie that says, “Hey you’re on two wheels and so am I!”
I grew up, like most other boys, riding bicycles to each other’s houses, all over town, and as the occasional ‘quick get away’ when some snobby neighbor a few blocks down didn’t like us running amuck in homes under construction and decided to call 911. The countless years riding bikes before I had a car to get around, seeing my father, stepfather and countless others seemingly fly by like the Flash made me desire what they had. Something faster. Something powerful. A motorcycle.
Fast-forward to pre-2018, my riding time and miles on a motorcycle consisted solely of hopping on a friend’s bike when they felt nice enough to let me take their “baby” out for a spin. They constantly reminded me if I drop “her” they’ll be sure to give me the same treatment.
Come this year, I still had no bike until one day I had decided to go out for lunch and while eating I heard a deep, long, rumble from the street. I looked up only to see a group of ten or so riders pass by on their bikes. It’s something I’ve seen before but it was only then that I felt it. After so many years of wanting a bike and putting it off, I knew that’s what I wanted. I craved it. I wanted to be a part of the pack.
For the next month I scoured Craigslist, motorcycle dealerships and anyone else who offered two wheeled vehicles. After hours of searching, test riding, calling for loans and insurance quotes (which I’ll cover more later), I found her. A brand new 689cc glacier blue Yamaha FZ-07. It’s by no means the fastest on the street, but it’s not the slowest. What it is, is a torque monster. For those of you who don’t know what torque is, it basically means with a little too much force on the gas, my bike will go from horizontal to vertical with a slight flick of the wrist.
I rode her everywhere. To work, to the gas station for a snack, and even to Walmart for some reason. Sometimes I’d even ride when it was already drizzling out, or a storm was on the way. I didn’t care, I was going to ride. I wanted to be seen.
Through riding around enough and taking some mandatory safety classes I was able to meet some other guys with bikes and ride with them, and let me tell you, nothing beats the feeling as if you’re a part of something.
I’ve always been a stand-out kind of guy, and love doing my own thing, but joining a group of people with the same passion gives you a feeling you can’t find anywhere else. Riding two across, who knows how many deep, down the interstate, highway and even roads in town is a feeling of pure belonging. It’ll put a smile on your face if nothing else. It’s just a good feeling. And, I mean, who doesn’t love riding down the street revving your engines loud enough for anyone on the street to hear. Whoops.
Everything may seem all fine and dandy, like cuddling with a litter of puppies, but it’s not. With every good thing comes something negative. For me it was having to pay a car loan and motorcycle loan at the same time, on top of paying for insurance on both, and motorcycle insurance is by no means cheap. I was tight for cash which almost made it less fun to ride, for me at least. Knowing the bike is where the rest of my money was going, not allowing me to do other things I love such as travel to places far beyond, buy newly released Jordans and video games, was a pretty big let down. I had invested almost everything in one single activity. Consider everything before you make a big purchase. But that was my nonphysical negative, the physicals are worse.
When it comes to motorcycles, it’s the chances of getting into an accident and constant close calls with ignorant drivers that caveat the thrill of riding on two wheels. In all reality, it’s at least once per ride day you’ve got to make a decision that could mean wrecking or staying up right, and sometimes your only decision is which way you want to fall to soften the impact. And road rash is no fun, no matter how slow you’re riding. Take it from me.
Even though a lot of accidents are from people not noticing us, that’s not always the case. A month after getting my bike I found myself in a situation where I was going a little faster than necessary in a parking lot and the car in front of me stopped before I expected. My options were to either rear end the car and fly over the roof or drop my bike to the side and skid past. I chose the latter.
I came up, they stopped, I leaned right and tumbled off my bike at a measly 15 mph. My life didn’t quite flash before eyes, but I was able to make out every detail of my very short, fast fall. I did some sort of somersault, saw the signs of the stores flash by in a blur and saw sparks flying from my bike as part of my bike and frame sliders (life-saving small bars that go on the side of your bike and take most of the hit from a fall) got grinded away by the pavement. I landed, sitting up on my rear with my head down as everyone I was riding with, in front of and behind me, witnessed me fall to my own doing that was more than avoidable.
I got up, brushed myself off and the others sat my bike up for me. I took off my helmet, not even knowing I hit my face, saw the scratches on it and realized had I not been wearing it my face would have looked like someone grated it and may have even broken my jaw. I walked it off for a minute and checked out my bike. I even got back on and continued riding for a couple more hours that night. Luckily for me and my bike we both walked away with minor injuries as I had some on my waist and knee and she had some on her frame and exhaust. It’s been months since my fall and we still bare the scars of that night. Moral of the story? Slow down (sometimes) and wear your protective gear.
But hey, stuff happens. Nothing comes without risk. We ride knowing we love what we do and we ride knowing the dangers of our chosen past time.
We’re not like the kids at the skate park competing to prove boards, bikes, scooters or blades are the best for grinding rails. For us it doesn’t matter what you ride, just that you ride.