Friday, March 23, 2012

Uneasy rider

s, Two news bulletins most mothers don't want to hear are "I'm having a baby," from an unwed teenage daughter, or  "I just bought a motorcycle," from a son, probably of any age.

When you think of bikers, sober-looking CPAs or Episcopal ministers don't come to mind. Bikers are more like Hell's Angels and other greasy n'er-do-wells, with beefy mamas tagging along. Worse, cycles evoke images of horrific accidents, even if the bike in question is just a pansy Vespa for going back and forth to school.

After much delay and consultation with anyone we thought could be an expert, last week Stew and I bought a Suzuki 200cc mountain bike. It's not a roaring, fire-breathing dragon, but fast enough to get us around the country roads surrounding our ranch, and farther afield as we get more used to riding.

Stew and our dog Gladys who
 says: "Get me off this thing."
Our moms are long gone so we haven't had to deal with their tut-tutting or their faces wracked with worry as either one of us vrooms off on the bike in a could of dust, albeit that's fanciful image given the modest size of our machine.

Yet our friends haven't hesitated to assume the loco parentis mantle and shower us with horror stories about the cousin twice-removed who was riding his bike and got run over by a semi loaded with broccoli, or the poor neighbor who literally lost his head in a brain-splattering horror worthy of a Mexico City tabloid.

Truth is that Stew and I--and particularly me--are a couple of old chickens unlikely to recreate any Evel Knievel jumps or embark in a pot-smoking cross-country road trip. Indeed, unless I become way more comfortable and relaxed on the Suzuki, I don't think my back or my butt could take those kinds of feats.

So far getting on the bike early in the morning and riding around on the country roads near our ranch, with no particular destination or schedule in mind, has turned out to be a lot of fun. Warnings and horror stories aside, I highly recommend it.

The origin of our motorbike venture probably goes back to a case of sibling envy on Stew's part. His brother Knute has been riding bikes for so long I'm beginning to think he slid off his baby crib right onto a 750cc Kawasaki. A couple of years ago Knute rode a Honda Gold Wing, with I don't know how big an engine except it was really big, from Minnesota to San Miguel and back, a feat that seems as awesome as wind surfing across the Gulf of Mexico.

For my part I went along for the ride because I believe learning something new--a new piece of software, an  unknown bit of history or how to ride a motorcycle--keeps your mind and body functional, or at least a bit more so than sitting in front of the TV watching Martina Navratilova doing a cameo on Dancing With The Stars.

The learning curve has been a bit steeper for me because Stew had some motorcycle experience. At first the array of controls, which keep both of your hands and feet engaged in something or other, can be a bit daunting. Consistently getting into first gear without stalling is still a work in progress for me, even though I can drive a manual car. Perhaps it's time to deflower the Owner's Manual and look for some helpful tips.

But I've only been at it for a week or so. The sight of hundreds of motorbikes in San Miguel, at the hands of all types of people, many of them not too swift-looking, fuels my optimism. "If some of those fools can ride a motorcycle, we certainly can too," I whispered to Félix the gardener, who's discreetly lobbying for some lessons.

A few days after the Suzuki arrived Stew triumphantly blurted out he might like to try a bigger bike later on. How much bigger isn't clear.

For the time being, I'm going to keep on practicing on this bike every day and begin looking in Amazon.com for books on how to build a chicken coop. That sounds interesting and productive, and a bit less nerve-wracking than a bigger motorcycle as long as I follow a friend's advice: Don't name the chickens in case you need to turn them into chicken soup.

13 comments:

  1. Goodness gracious, what will ya'll think of next?
    Cuidado, por favor........

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  2. Great news, and I agree there is something about the freedom you feel when riding a bike. I had a 360 Honda, and loved getting up at 6 a.m. on a Sunday, and riding around town. Lots of fun, and if it fell over (it did once), I could pick it up. Then I sold it (biggest mistake I ever made) and got a Kawasaki 750. O.K. for the interstate highways, but too much for little jaunts around town. How I wish I had kept the Honda. When I reached 75, I decided it was time to give up bikes, but I still miss them, especially my little Honda.

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    1. Phil: I agree. This morning I went riding for an hour, on dirt roads leading to towns I'd never heard of, and the solitude and freedom was really cool. We had a Kawasaki 750 in Chicago that we finally sold because neither Stew nor I ever felt comfortable riding it, particularly in the city. 75 is much too early to give up on bikes, though.

      al

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  3. we did just that in cuba. what i thought was my pet pollito, ended up on our plate as there was little food to go around. i remember crying and crying:-(

    more power to you for riding that bike. that is not on my bucket list ;-)

    have a great weekend!

    teresa in nagoya

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  4. The two of you will be surprised how the motorcycle brings out the true inner yous.

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  5. A chicken coop?
    First bees and your own honey
    Next chickens....I assume so you can get fryers
    After that why not a cow for milk, a goat for cheese, a pig for chops and sausage, a.........
    Can't wait to see what is next.

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    1. Now, now, don't be sarcastic Billie. Chickens maybe, even a goat. But a cow and a pig, I don't think so.

      al

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  6. I have to say that I absolutely love reading your writings, you just crack me up. So, out of curiosity, what does a Suzuki 200 cost south of the border?

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  7. Thanks for the compliment. I really appreciate it. A Suzuki 200 runs about $3,800 US down here. So far we're pretty happy with it.

    al

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  8. OK, we'll have to go riding together when I get down there. I have a 400 cc Suzuki Burgman. Your friends can't help themselves regarding cautionary messages...I get the same treatment when I tell people I am moving to Mexico. "Have you lost your mind? You know they decapitate people down there." Then they go on and on.

    Here's a link to the Basic Riding Course materials from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation: http://msf-usa.org/CurriculumMaterials/BRCHandbook2011.pdf
    Check out the pages for street situations and dogs. Here's a link to all their online library items: http://msf-usa.org/index_new.cfm?spl=2&action=display&pagename=Library
    Street Rider Course: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7Eu9hFy_qY&feature=relmfu

    For a beginner, you want to get a construction crew hi-viz vest. Always wear gloves, boots, and helmet. I wear Kevlar pants and a day-glo yellow jacket, but this is in Florida and you don't have the geriatric drivers who don't "see" motorcycles. Write if you want more sources. And have fun. --Bill

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  9. Thanks for the advice Bill. We've got the helmet and the day-glow vest, and boots. Look forward to talking with you when you come down. To your worried friends say there is absolutely nothing going on down here regarding security. No decapitations, maimings or anything.

    al

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    1. The three best pieces of advice for riding are:
      1. Slowing 10 mph reduces the stopping distance by half. E.G. Going from 40 to 30 means you can practically stop on a dime.
      2. Your greatest danger in town (where parking will become a breeze) are the cars turning left in front of you. Just assume they will. For that reason don't trail behind a truck. A turning car waits until the truck clears the intersection and then can turn fast. If you are too close right behind the truck, it's a big surprise for you and for the car driver.
      3. Driving in the blind spot of a car...well, you know the rest.

      Next time you are in the USA, the MSF safety classes are held virtually every weekend at most junior colleges and community colleges in every city. I take a safety course every year to lower my insurance. It costs $200. Well worth it. They provide the bikes to ride. The instructors are real pros.

      Bill

      PS Stew's yellow helmet is nearly the same as mine. But if you drop it, the safety features of the helmet are damaged inside.

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