Old Dog, New Tricks

You’re reading this because of a simple, almost throwaway, comment a friend made a little over six months ago. Just days after my birthday, they asked if I had anything special planned for my 60th trip around the sun. I’m sure the person who said this doesn’t remember the conversation, and honestly, I’m not 100 percent sure who actually said it to me. The question, however, stuck with me. It nagged at me in a very subtle way, like a tiny splinter in my finger that I couldn’t see to remove but could clearly feel when I slid it across my skin. 

A good example of how upright I’ve gotten in the saddle, requiring that I spend more time at full lean (and maximum risk).

I thought of it periodically throughout my day. Or in the middle of the night after one of my old man trips to the bathroom. However, these weren’t thoughts of regret – or even ones looking backwards. Rather, I was considering what the next 10 years had in store for me. I’ve learned and experienced a lot over the last decade and was puzzling over how I was going to apply the knowledge gained to the next 10.

Although this rumination covered all aspects of my life, only one thread bears mentioning here: What role do I want motorcycling to play in my future? Of course, riding will be a big part of it. After all, more than half of my life and almost the entirety of my professional life have been devoted to, no, consumed with motorcycles. What more do I have to do?

Way back in the 1980s, one of my college professors said that past a certain age (and I am most certainly past it even if I can’t remember what age it is) the best I can hope for is to lose just one percent of my ability in any activity per year. That was the best case scenario. Use it or lose it is the more succinct way of putting it. And from that thought came the germination of – if not a plan – most certainly an idea. Or perhaps, a pledge. 

I will recommit myself to motorcycling. 

While not exactly a big surprise, given that I write for a motorcycle publication, this represents a sea change of sorts. I can trace the genesis of this decision to the purchase of my KTM 790 Duke (and the subsequent torrid affair). This rekindled passion has increased my recreational street and track riding significantly. (Having my kids get old enough to not require constant attention on the weekends was also a contributing factor.)  And yet, below the surface, I’ve been dissatisfied with my riding for quite a while. On the track, I’d noticed that I was riding like an old man with my ass firmly planted in the seat, and my attempts to mitigate that issue were fruitless. Other, similar issues with my technique were also making themselves noticeable and resisting my efforts to remedy them. 

An accurate representation of my off-road capabilities. Fortunately, cameras aren’t around most of the time I tumble into the dirt.

Another area in which I have never been happy with my riding is my off-road skills. I’ve always been a self-identified street rider, but my time testing adventure bikes has made me realize that there is a lot to see and ride through after the pavement ends. My time teaching my daughter to ride in the desert this year has piqued my interest further. 

While I’m not a naturally gifted rider, I have had the good fortune to spend my motorcycling life surrounded by some amazingly talented riders who were more than willing to share their knowledge with me. Also, it turns out that I’m pretty coachable. So, it was only natural for me to look towards riding schools to achieve my goals. For brushing up on my paved riding, I’ll be attending Yamaha Champions Riding School, with the goal of breaking some bad habits and getting my body position to where it should be. For off-road riding, I’ll probably attend more than one school since I have such a large skill deficit. While I may be too old to ever become a good off-road rider, I’d settle for proficient adjacent – or at least not fearing for my life every time my knobbies enter any sand over an inch deep. 

After this photo was taken in 2019, where I looked somewhat like a sausage that was unable to tuck in on the bike, I went on to gain almost 20 more pounds by April 2021.

This plan is all well and good, but if I formulated it after my birthday back in April, why am I writing about it now? Six months is a long time without action. Well, the honest answer is that I needed to do some other work first, and I’ve been doing that behind the scenes since May. Namely, I needed to get in shape if I really wanted to stand a chance of achieving my goals. 

So, this project will have three phases: focus on my body, recapture (and expand) my paved riding skills, and go all in on off-road riding. As it stands, this series of articles will have three parts, but who knows, maybe I’ll stumble into some other ideas along the way. Since I know my age group is well represented in our readership, I’m hoping to inspire some of you to recommit yourselves to motorcycling, too. I firmly believe that the more we put into riding, the more we get out of it. 

Let’s get started. 

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