Monday, January 08, 2007

Heroes and Rebels

More than any other means of transportation (with the steam locomotive being a possible exception), the motorcycle will forever be associated with certain romantic qualities. All those B-movies from the sixties have forever tainted cruisers and choppers as bad-boy bikes while scooters are either for punk-rockers or hopeless romantics - depending on which movies you watched as a kid. More recent movies like Torque or Biker Boyz, both of which were mediocre by any cinematic standards, have made sportbikes the tool of choice for thrill seeking testosterone-enhanced males. The funny thing is, none of the above have ever left any kind of a mark on my existence.

The riders I tend to admire are non-fiction; not the ones who are riding a dolly-mounted bike behind the camera truck (ex. watch the motorcycle scene in "Paycheck" with Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman - you can easily spot the tie-down brackets on the R1150R, not to mention the dolly's reflection in passing cars). My heroes are guys like Ted Simon for choosing to go around the world on a motorcycle long before marketing types came up with the term "Adventure Touring" and BMW came out with the GS. Or John Britten, for having the guts to go up against the big guys... and win! How about Avis and Effie Hotchkiss, the mother and daughter team who set out from New York to San Francisco on a Harley-Davidson sidecar hack... in 1915!

Of course, some of my heroes haven't reached semi-celebrity status yet. They're just the good folks I meet through the Internet and happen to do stuff that seems crazy to some, but makes sense to others. Guys like Gary Charpentier or Victor Wanchena who ride to work in the Minnesota winter; or the brave women who ride the Amazon Heart Thunder rallye each year.

Hollywood can keep their special effects and stereotypes; I'd rather read about those who are really out there... riding!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Coping with Cabin Fever

OK, I'll admit it's only been a little over a month since I put the Silver Streak away for a long winter's nap; but I'm already noticing advanced symptoms of cabin fever. Buying insane amounts of motorcycle magazines, watching "Long Way Round" over and over again, making a list of farkles from the Aerostich and Touratech catalogs... all are symptoms that this dreaded disease has progressed much faster this year than usual.

Luckily for me, I've discovered a few ways of coping that just might get me through the next 3 months without a complete breakdown:

  • Planning a few trips: I'll sit down at the computer for a few hours and research different areas that I'd like to see on an eventual two-wheeled journey. Then I plug it all into MapSource and try to plot which route would be the most interesting. Sure, I may never get around to doing all these wonderful trips I've been planning, but come spring I'll have a nice list to choose from!
  • Spa: Not for me, of course, but for the bike! If you've got a heated garage or storage shed (or you simply store your bike in the livingroom), then winter's the perfect time to catch-up on maintenance and accessorizing. Even if my bike is in tip-top shape, I still enjoy the opportunity to tear the whole thing apart just to put it back together again. I make it a point to be as familiar as possible with Silver's inner workings.
  • Gym: This one is for me. Motorcycling is great, but it isn't exactly a workout (unless you're constantly dropping it). I love working out at the gym in winter, the physical activity helps to counteract the winter blahs; plus, when riding season finally comes around, I'll be in good shape to take on that BunBurner run ;-)
  • Live through others: I'll spend more time reading blogs and forums. Somewhere out there is warm weather, and you can bet there's a motorcyclist taking advantage of it. Lucky for me, many of these warm climate bikers are also bloggers. I'll also subscribe to motorcycle-related podcasts; 15 minutes of hearing someone talk about motorcycling can do a world of good.
Another guilty pleasure is wasting time on YouTube or Google Video and checking out some motorcycle clips. Through these videos I've been riding in the Sahara, the Swiss Alps, the French countryside...

Anyhow, for my cold weather friends who may be hibernating (like me), I wish you a speedy winter. To all warm weather bikers out there: keep blogging!