Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Long, Cold Winter...

So now its official: winter is here. The new year is here and it's brought a suitcase full of snow in the guise of a blizzard. This time of year always conjures up a bagful of mixed feelings. On one hand, I’m happy to see the holidays are here. It’s a great time of year to get together with family and friends, reflect on the year gone by and simply have fun. There are, of course, the gifts under the tree and the massive turkey dinner prepared with love by the family matriarch (which, invariably, leaves grandpa snoozing in the easy-chair from over-exertion at the table). There’s also a feeling of general brotherhood; goodwill towards men and all that. People seem to smile more often and shake hands more willingly. That is, of course, if you stay away from the dreaded shopping malls; or as I tend to call them “Hell in a shopping basket”!

Winter also has a flipside for many of us; the other side of the coin, so to speak. For a great number of men & women around the world, winter means “No Motorcycling”. Now to all you four-wheeled commuters out there who have never seen the sunrise over a set of handlebars: don’t try to understand what I’m talking about, you simply can’t. I won’t try to make this an overly ideal or romantic affair, like the lone-biker-down-a-desert-highway image that manufacturers over-use in their ads, because it isn’t.

Motorcycles and their riders have a constant love/hate relationship: it doesn’t idle right, or the seat’s too high, or the windshield’s at the wrong angle, or the pegs are too far back, and so on and so on... But the funny thing is that they keep coming back for more! No matter how burnt-out a motorcyclist might be from working on their ride and spinning wrenches in the shop their smile goes from ear to ear when they press that small red button and bring the two-wheeled beast to life. Which is precisely why winter can be so darn depressing for some of us living North of the snowbelt. Ever look at a motorcyclist’s face when he or she is prepping their bike for a long winter’s nap? It’s a mixture of pride and sadness; proud of another great riding season, and sad to see that it’s coming to an end.

The advent of the Internet and the online motorcycle communities has helped ease the burden of hibernating for some bikers, but it’s also added salt to the wounds of others. Who really wants to hear about a biker in sunny Florida riding around in tropical temperatures when you can’t even stand to look out the window because the frost and snow is too depressing? Winter can also be quite costly for motorcyclists as it gives them plenty of idle time to think-up new ways to “accessorize” their bikes. A great man once said that “We must use time as a tool, not as a crutch”, and many snow-bogged motorcyclists do just that!

There is an upside to hibernation though: the incredible feeling of childhood joy you get come spring when you can finally take out the bike and go for that first ride. You meet up with your riding buddies, show off any new toys you may have added over the winter, and bitch about how your bike isn’t quite right yet! “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” they say, and I tend to agree. It’s almost like having two holiday seasons! Come to think of it, I’ll keep the snow and bitching: it only makes me appreciate Spring that much more when it finally comes around.

“Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart!” – V. Hugo

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