Did anybody read Saul Bellow’s novel Henderson the Rain King? Here’s the Wiki synopsis:
“Eugene Henderson is a troubled middle-aged man. Despite his riches, high social status, and physical prowess, he feels restless and unfulfilled, and harbors a spiritual void that manifests itself as an inner voice crying out I want, I want, I want. Hoping to discover what the voice wants, Henderson goes to Africa.”
Except for the riches, high social status, physical prowess, and that I’m not currently feeling a need to go to Africa, Henderson could be me. I want, I want, I want! It came to a head last month after our big Superbike Shootout, which I wrote about in last month’s column. I didn’t think I wanted so much anymore, but after we’d ridden those seven superbikes around on the street for a couple weeks, I couldn’t wait to get loose on them on the track. Digital speedos reading in the 150s on the banking seemed like plenty at first, but by the end of day two, we were all holding them wide open as long as we dared to try to squeeze out 180 on a couple of the bikes. Wanton want. Fill my spiritual void with a couple more gallons of hi-test, will you?
Now that’s over, I’m trying to dial it back a little, pace myself a bit for the long haul while being increasingly aware that the haul is quite a bit less long than when I started riding motorcycles. Forgive me for falling off the wagon, I betrayed Mad4TheCrest, who commented that he’d bought a smaller, rational bike after I ragged on big, powerful ones in an earlier column.
I was right the first time. You really don’t need 180 horsepower most of the time. However stimulating it is, most of us MOrons would have to save up all year to afford one trackday on a tire-eating, gas-gulping Aprilia RSV4. There are other pressing things to attend to.
It’s not all my fault, though; most of the blame falls on the advertisers, the Madison Avenue jerks who want to upsell us all up the river. It’s even worse lately, since now it’s all about the “lifestyle.” I can’t just ride an “adventure bike” out to Cook’s Corner anymore for a cheeseburger and (never) a beer; now I have to deck myself out like Buzz Lightyear and camp for a week in the desert on freeze-dried rations to be in the club.
I’m kind of with Jim Gaffigan when it comes to camping: Why do we want to go out and pretend we’re homeless when there are all these nice buildings with refrigerators and beds in them? Camping by a nice babbling brook under some shady cottonwoods is one thing, but dry camping on a desert moonscape like everybody does in the backlit-dust BMW ads just reminds me of climate change and refugees, things I ride motorcycles to forget about. I mean, more power to the Rawhyde adventurers who do that stuff, but it’s possible to enjoy your GS just as much on a half-day loop. You don’t have to abandon all your worldly possessions.
Maybe you want a Harley to, again, ride out to Cook’s Corner on a nice weekend day for a cheeseburger and never a beer, and listen to the free band? Last time I was in a Harley dealership, everybody was super nice, but the salespeople took one look at my lack of visible tattoos and piercings and went on about their business without giving me a second glance.
My point is, it’s okay to be a part-time motorcyclist. You don’t have to be Eugene Henderson, you don’t have to go to Africa. I’ve known more than a few type-A people who poured themselves into roadracing for a couple years and did very well, burnt themselves out (well, many of them crashed themselves out). Next year, they’re big into scuba at the expense of everything else in their lives including motorcycles. Next up, competitive shooting… (come to think of it, most of these people didn’t yet have children to soak up all their time and money).
Personally, I’ve always been into pursuing several less taxing activities at once, but none of them at a really proficient, adequately-funded level. Aside from motorcycles, I’m a big fan of navel gazing and beverage exploration and reading old Saul Bellow novels – all time-consuming activities that conveniently lend themselves to simultaneous practice. I’m heavily into weed-wacking. Not only is the Aerostich suit excellent for world exploration, it’s also ideal for zipping into over bathing trunks and going to the beach.
Tennis, anyone? I watch more than I play now, which takes up even more time. I guess it’s perceived as a sissy game by a lot of motorcycle people, but it’s how Josh Hayes stays in shape (and I played more when I lived close to the Co-Editor of another major motorcycle publication, who I could beat like a gong if we ever bothered to keep score). Roger Federer may be the GOAT of tennis, and he’s on a Valentino Rossi-style roll this year at the ancient age of 36. He’s my hero also because of his perfect backhand, a stroke I’d like to lay, without a racket, upon so many people in the world. SLAAAP!
Be not ashamed, then, to be a part-time motorcyclist. Despite what the marketers want to sell you, you really don’t need to forsake all other things in your life to enjoy motorcycles. In fact, it’s way better that they don’t for the vast majority of people. Excuse me, now, while I tune in Federer in a Wimbledon quarterfinal.
As for today, I’m off to Idaho and Washington to ride the all-new Yamaha Star Venture for a couple of days. I wonder if its high-tech TFT screen will pull in ESPN? Variety is the spice of life, no?