Born to be wild

The Prince George Citizen - - Opinion - NATHAN GIEDE

T’was a piss-poor sum­mer for much out­door ac­tiv­ity. Cer­tainly, the rain beats the smoke and I dare not tempt the fire-demons to re­turn. But from hay mak­ing to fes­ti­val go­ing, in­clement weather had ev­ery­one on the run.

Now it seems that fall has ar­rived early, beg­ging the ques­tion what did our few months with­out ice and snow ac­com­plish?

For my­self, de­spite the lack of sun, the warm days of 2019 were spent learn­ing how to mo­tor­cy­cle and com­ing to love it deeply.

Un­til this May, I had never set my der­riere on the vinyl seat of any two wheeled ve­hi­cle that wasn’t hu­man pow­ered.

I’d seen my brother and his friends get up to no good on their dirt bikes many moons ago, de­vel­op­ing a healthy fear of what can go wrong when your bal­ance is the only thing be­tween you and the debris made lethal by in­er­tia and grav­ity.

Thus, it was at my father’s be­hest that we three all en­rolled in and then com­pleted the PG Learn to Ride course.

The in­struc­tors were knowl­edge­able and help­ful, their cau­tion­ary tales as well as sin­cere love for mo­tos­port, tour­ing, or sim­ply cruis­ing keep­ing the class en­gaged.

Their best demon­stra­tion was done at the out­set, us­ing a part­ner to push the rider from be­hind, grav­ity help­ing a lit­tle or a lot de­pend­ing on the carpark: it only took about 10 km/h for the bike to stay up­right, re­in­forc­ing the les­son that hu­man er­ror ac­counts for the vast ma­jor­ity of falls or crashes.

I set­tled into the pat­tern of shift­ing up and down, coun­ter­steer­ing, and get­ting up to speed al­most im­me­di­ately.

A grin was glued on my face as our crew did cir­cles and fig­ure-8’s, tight turns and quick stops.

Of course we all have to fall once and I did so un­der the best of con­di­tions: the bike slid out from un­der me dur­ing a quick stop drill on some loose gravel; cast­ing it aside, I planted both hands and rolled up on two feet, all with­out scratch­ing my hel­met.

As Scott Adams’ Dilbert tells us, the garbage man knows all things.

Vis­it­ing the trans­fer sta­tion af­ter com­plet­ing our course, the han­dle-bar mus­ta­chioed for­mer biker asked me if I was in­ter­ested in a sin­gle owner, never dropped

1999 Honda Shadow 750 Amer­i­can Clas­sic Edi­tion with less than 13,000 km on the odome­ter. With a price that was too good to refuse, I was now in pos­ses­sion of a mo­tor­cy­cle widely known for its re­li­a­bil­ity, han­dling, and just plain fun fac­tor.

I’ve added 3,000 km to that bur­gundy steel horse in spite of the weather.

While still liv­ing on the fam­ily farm out­side Prince Ge­orge, the com­mute to town went from a long bore to a new odyssey daily, as ev­ery curve and straight in the road be­came an in­vi­ta­tion to test one’s skills.

There are of course many risks as­so­ci­ated with mo­tor­cy­cling, from the fact that you’re a hard ve­hi­cle to spot to the reality that if you get into any kind of col­li­sion, you’ll lose.

Out­side of keep­ing your head on a con­stant swivel and driv­ing de­fen­sively – I have used my horn many times to re­mind fel­low trav­ellers I ex­ist – the dan­gers of rid­ing must be taken in stride.

And once you’ve ex­pe­ri­enced the free­dom of cruis­ing on the open road, the stakes be­come tol­er­a­ble.

Ev­ery­one I meet in the mo­tor­cy­cle community as­sures me that the first bike doesn’t last long – soon you’ll be want­ing to up­grade for power, com­fort, ease of use, stor­age, etc.

And while I’ll ad­mit to pe­rus­ing many cat­a­logues as well as web­sites, all while find­ing my ride’s lack of pro­tec­tive fair­ings against even a sprin­kle of rain very frus­trat­ing, both ma­tu­rity and bud­get­ing have caught up with me.

Truth be told, the lit­tle 750 Shadow is all I re­ally need for right now.

Walk­ing up to the mo­tor­cy­cle, two-toned and chromed, makes one swell with pride.

I wear “all the gear all the time,” don­ning it while the carb warms.

Then man and ma­chine pull away from the curb, off to an­other ad­ven­ture.

Nei­ther speak­ers nor head­phones ac­com­pany me on these trips to­wards the hori­zon: the rush of wind and roar of ex­haust are all the mu­sic I need.

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