(OPINION) – Good Afternoon Thunder Bay,
How are you holding up?
It’s been an emotional couple of days for me personally, getting a lot of my chest here on social media which is a pretty wonderful therapeutic outlet to be sure. However if you’re feeling like reading something about another type of outlet give me a chance and I’ll tell you all about wind therapy.
Some of the most well-adjusted folks I’ve met in my life are bikers. Now I’m not just talking about the leather wearing, skull covered, wallet chain dangling’ cruiser crowd. I’m talking anybody who enjoys the rush and experience of being on two wheels, regardless of bike configuration, manufacturer or displacement.
A woman I highly respect once told me all that matters is “Two wheels and knees in the breeze”, this really struck a cord with me prior to mounting my first motorcycle as the area of the country I’m currently living in is Harleyville through and through, oh sure you’ll get good natured ribbing for riding anything else but folks who ride know that at the end of the day nothing feels better than a 650lb gas powered vibrator between your legs.
You get something you simply don’t with a cage. You get the world around you flying by at any speed you choose, be it ripping up the highway riding hard for glory or leisurely cruising a backroad. You get to soak it all in. The sounds, the smells, the feel of every bump, imperfection and buttery smooth section of asphalt under your tires. You become directly connected with the experience instead of zoning out like so many behind the wheel will.
Jake, riding seems expensive though? Well that all depends on you, what do you want? What do you need? A cursory evaluation of local kjiji reveals from 70’s and 80’s metrics like Kawasaki and Yamaha cruisers for under $1000. Insuring a motorcycle like that in some places in Canada costs next to nothing. Hell in Saskatchewan you can get insurance for anything older than 1989 for $120.. for the whole year! Fuel costs? Incredibly low. Maintenance? Due to the popularity of certain motorcycles you can rebuild the entire thing tooth-to-tit for a pittance. You don’t need the best machine on the market and my Harley is far from that but it’s mine and I love it.
Jake, riding seems dangerous? Well, of course it’s dangerous but there in layeth quite a great deal of the fun. Riding is only as dangerous as you make it. If you obey the traffic laws, ride at a moderate pace and don’t take any real risks then by all means you’re probably more likely to die by getting asked for a cigarette in the wrong part of Thunder Bay. At the end of the day it’s no different than riding a bicycle, for the most part as long as you’re moving forward the bike will stay upright through physics alone. Yes if you’re like me and tend to bomb prairie highways at excessive speeds things can go wrong and at that speeds things can go wrong in a hurry but it’s hard to explain what it feels like to push the limits of yourself and your machine.
Jake, if I buy a cruiser will people want me to join a gang? No, hell no. What gangs? Lots of bike riding folks belong to clubs, be they RCs or MCs and while the media and law enforcement might give you a really skewed view of the way things work for the most part everyone is just looking to have a good time and share a bond that goes deeper than blood. Most club members I’ve met would give you the shirt off their back if you truly needed it. They don’t self-promote their individual charitable acts but if you meet a biker odds are they’re the kind that attend memorials, donate obscene amounts of money to charity, go on charity rides, volunteer etc. You’re going to find most of them live by a code and adhere to it daily.
Surely Jake, it can’t be all that great? It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t live the lifestyle. I haven’t been riding my entire life, I haven’t been riding most of my life, I think this year if I can get my health back together will be my fourth or my fifth year riding. What I can tell you is that it changed my life. When I met the people I met that got me into riding I was at a low, low spot in my life. A strung-out addict, alcoholic and worse. I was on the edge and feeling pretty suicidal but these folks saw something in me and encouraged me to join them on their journey. The people I’ve met, the things I’ve seen, the rallies I’ve attended and the memories I’ve made trump anything I’ve done in my life prior. There is raw expression, emotion, connection and understanding when you enter this world of bikerdom. Those that didn’t fit in anywhere else find themselves at home easily. You’ll have people, lots of people that will be there for you in thick or thin. You’ll experience our beautiful country in a way that nobody behind the wheel of a car truly can.
Don’t hesitate, if you’ve been thinking about riding go out and get yourself that machine tomorrow. Get an old clapped out used metric and polish it up. Book a riding course for the spring and get ahold of the fundamentals, or do like I did and start slowly teaching yourself as you go but be careful. You can thank me later. The best time to start living your life is right now and personally I’d trade the rest of my life for just one more day behind bars.