Many of my loyal readers know that I am friends with motorcycle cops who work in the area where I live. I have known one of them since we went to high school together (JB), and through him, have met, trained with, and ridden motorcycles together (a little) over decades.
One would expect motorcycle cops to have exceptional riding skills, because they ride and practice almost daily.
However, there are a few motorcycle riders who aren’t bike cops, but whose skill impresses the heck out of me. They have…
…what appears to me to have a natural grace and talent for operating a heavyweight motorcycle that far eclipses my own skill level, ever.
What I mean by “ever,” is even way back 30-35 years ago when I was an instructor for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, my skills were still somewhat rough and while sufficient to demonstrate riding skills for others, my skills were not nearly the level of the equivalent of my talented friends. But I had youthful flexibility and energy on my side.
An analogy — consider that you may be a good ball player. You practice and play ball with friends often. But you might classify your skills as amateur ’cause you’re not out there every day. That’s okay — you’re just playing with friends who can be forgiving if you strike out or miss catching a fly ball occasionally. That level of skill is how I rate my motorcycle operating skills. I’m “good enough.” Not a pro, not a bike cop, not an athlete. I can get myself (and a group) from Point A to Point B and remain upright with the rubber side down. Cool.
The comparative is those few guys I know whose level of talent for motorcycle operation is exceptional. They think nothing of riding in with the bounds of a 16-foot circle (while riding a big touring bike), feathering the clutch to ride 30 feet in 3 minutes (sound easy? Try it!) and who can jump on a bike and ride hundreds of miles daily, for days and days on end — through rain, dark of night, peak altitudes, and all other conditions.
To me, these guys are the equivalent of a pro athlete.
I am nowhere near that skill level; never have been, and never will be. Yeah, I can chalk some of my degraded motorcycle operation skills due to age — not seeing as well, tiring more quickly, needing more frequent stops to pee, and not hearing as well. I make up for age-related skill degradation with experience. One thing about riding over 100,000 miles in my lifetime, I DO have experience.
I can avoid mishaps because I don’t put myself in a situation for a mishap to happen. For example, I know that I don’t see as well in the dark. So I don’t ride in the dark any more. I also know that I do not make right turns well due to an skydiving-caused injury of a vertebra in my neck. So I carefully choose ride routes with gentle (not sharp) right turns. That’s called planning.
There is one reader of this blog who I am admiring a great deal. He is a teacher and has week-long breaks during the school year where he takes off for long-distance rides in various parts of the United States.
He also participates in ongoing education during the summer. He recently took off on a cross-country motorcycle ride to reach the location of a multiweek summer teaching/learning workshop. He rode about 1,900 miles (approx 3000km) in under four days — about 475 miles/day (765km/day) to get to his destination from his home.
I am viewing (with a bit of envy) his adventures and vast distances that he rode during four days last week. It was nothing for him to ride exceptionally long distances in a day, including stops to take protection from severe weather. (He must have a very easy-to-regulate bladder, never gets saddle sore, and doesn’t seem to mind riding at high speeds on interstate highways and in rain.)
I have observed this highly skilled rider go on many long trips in short periods of time, such as across the 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway in the U.S. South, or on another ride this Spring in California. He could ride from San Diego to San Francisco, California, for lunch (or so it seems). His youthful vigor and riding skills blow me away.
The other thing that impresses me about this rider is that he rides alone across vast distances on previously unknown roads. His courage is far superior to my own. (Plus, my Spouse won’t allow me to ride on a motorcycle excursion like that all alone. He would worry too much.)
Anyway, while I never would be a professional athlete, or the equivalent pro-level of motorcycle riding as my friend is, I admire those with those skill levels immensely. With the combination of my fatiguing chronic illness as well as my lack of grace, skill, and stamina — I realize that I will never reach that level of riding skill. However, I can — and I DO — admire it.
Life is short: admire those who have iron butts and demonstrate riding skill at pro-levels of athleticism.