I Dream of ... Motorcycles

I started moto-ing back in 2011. When I think back on it, it doesn’t occur to me what exactly in hell went through my head when I decided that I had to get on the back of an oversized bicycle that could go really, really fast. Maybe it was because the graduate student I worked under at the time rode. She was cool. I wanted to be cool too. (There are probably better ways to not risk your life to be cool).

There are many reasons why people start riding. For me, I want to say it was a simple curiosity through a series of steps. I had ridden a bicycle for most of my childhood life, so that exhilaration, if you want to call it that, was the gateway drug. Then, it was the confusion about what I knew about bicycling and the concept of counter-steering. Then, dreams of how easy it would be to park. Then, idiotic rationalizations - “oh, it’s just a bicycle with a motor.” And on.

Let’s talk about what that bicycle exhilaration was all about. Those exhilarations included:

  1. scars from battling/colliding with basketball hoops (trips to the hospital)

  2. that “funny feeling” in my legs after wiping out in the bushes

  3. and some awesome abrasion injuries on my elbow and knees that came with awarding evenings of picking gravel out of my skin.

Yes I wore gear, but only as a kid. The minute the training wheels came off, so did all the kneepads and elbow pads - the temptation to look oh-so-cool was oh-so-high, plus, kids don’t quite get that concept of “consequences”. You would think all these injuries would turn a little boy away from doing dumb things on two wheels. Nope. So, my mother was adamant that I keep the helmet - ride the bicycle with the helmet or not at all. That, most likely, developed into a good habit.

Growing up, I saw enough motorcycles on the road on the way to and from Chinese school to know that they were awesome. Especially those sport bikes. Black tracksuits, high-tech-looking boots, matte-black helmets with smoky visors - a slender, crouched shadowy figure peeking out from behind a small windscreen, weaving in and out of traffic, pausing at the passenger side of our car just long enough to assess the gap, give me a head nod, and continue barreling down the freeway. So cool.

Every time one of them zoomed past our car, it would make that Doppler pitch noise - a wonderful

nnnnnnnnNNNNNNNNNEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUuuuuuu

blowing by us at 30+ the posted limit. My mother would scream in Chinese “HOLY SHIT ARE YOU LOOKING TO DIE?!” (sounds better in Chinese, trust me), and proceeded to tell me how abso-fucking-lutely dangerous it was to do a maneuver like that. I was busy not listening to her and staring off in the distance, watching the motorcyclist turn into a speck in the distance. She had a saying that people who rode motorcycles were “human-skin vehicles”. Haha … okay fine, point taken. That’s kinda true.

Moving on. College. I worked under that graduate student I mentioned previously (if you’re reading this - HI! Hope you’re still moto-ing). She (let’s call her “E”) rode a big ass green Kawasaki ZX6R with lots of horsepower that she named “Bulbasaur”. She did trackdays, had a tracksuit - you know, the works. Pictures to prove it and the skills to back it up. E had balls that some grown men didn’t.

One day we’re sitting around in the microbiology lab, shooting the shit. I’m doing Schwarzenegger impressions. E’s actually doing work whilst snacking on pound cake (like a boss), and we get on the topic of counter-steering.

“HUWAHUH! GET TO THE CHOPPA!”

“Blah blah blah motorcycles n’ shit, this and that - yeah man you push left to go left and push right to go right.”

“What? You crazy. Everyone knows that you push left, the wheels go right, and you go right. You trippin’ on dat pound cake.”

Turns out … I was WRONG.

E gently nudged me in the direction of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s (MSF) Basic Rider Course (as a consolation pat on the head for being an idiot), and as a legitimate method of learning how to moto.

At the time, it was 2008. It took me 3 years to make a decision that still brings me joy to this day.