Live to ride, ride to die

Ah, springtime. One of my favorite times in Boston. The Red Sox are playing again, the snow shovel and ice melt gets put in a dark corner of the basement, I can open my sunroof while tooling around town, and the air is filled with the loud thunder of motorcycles. Isn't it such a wonderful time of year? There's nothing that heralds the onset of spring more than the sound of some short-pipe Harley accelerating at full bore down an otherwise pastoral, tree-line thoroughfare.

Now, before all two-wheeled enthusiasts out there add themselves to list of people I've pissed off with my rants here, let me make a disclaimer: I actually like motorcycles; almost bought one, too. It was a 1984 Honda Shadow 500, a starter/project bike, that would have been a great way to learn how to ride, and how to fix a bike. It was short money and I didn't care if it got wrecked. Other priorities prevailed at the time of the purchase, and I had to spend my bike money on something major repairs to my regular car. Not only did I miss the chance on buying the bike, but it made me realize I didn't have the money to pay for repairs, maintenance, insurance and excise of a motorcycle.

I will live to ride again, but when I do, I won't ride like an idiot the way I see other bikers do, and I won't ride through a residential neighborhood at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning at full bore.

All through the winter I was reminded that motorcycle season was coming every time I saw a bumper sticker on the back of a pickup truck (usually next to or near a Harley emblem) that read: Motorcycles are everywhere! Indeed they are. Though not quite the same way as God is everywhere, but close. Like the other day on the Southeast Distressway, for example, when an old Honda Gold Wing passed next to me between lanes, and wove through traffic. Or the guy on the Kawasaki crotch rocket wearing a head bubble helmet who cut and slashed his way through the slowing tunnel traffic on Route 93 on Tuesday. He came up hard and close on my right, then cut in front of my bumper so I had to jam on my brakes to avoid hitting him as he sailed into the lane to my left only to go around the car in front of me and cut to the right back across the highway again.

Those examples are a fairly representative sample of the types of crazy things I see by motorcyclists every day, and it's not recent. Once last year, I had a topcoat on while in the car and the belt got caught in the door. While at a stop light, I swung open my door, but had to pull back at the last second before it was ripped off by a guy on a crotch rocket (you won't find me using racist bike terms, by the way), riding up next to me on my left. Previous to his arrival, the only thing on my left was the double yellow line.

So, yes, indeed motorcycles are everywhere, because many riders think their size gives them the authority to ignore marked lanes. And each time I see this behavior, I am reminded of a motorcycle slogan, "Live to ride, ride to live." I get the intent. A person has a passion for riding, but gets a passion for life from riding. But this is a double-entendre that should also be a safety message: Live to ride, but don't ride like an idiot and you won't die.

I remember when I was considering the motorcycle purchase. I was 20. I thought I was the mac-daddy and was totally going to get tons of chicks to ride on my hawg. There was no reasoning with me, either. The few people who knew about the impending purchase tried to counsel me against it, and they all said, "motorcycles are dangerous." I disagreed with them, saying that safe, smart riding would not be any more dangerous than riding in a car. The major difference between a bike accident and a car accident is that the bike doesn't offer the protection a car's frame does. And I even corrected people to say that motorcycles themselves weren't dangerous, but that it was the riders who did things that put them in harm's way. I would do my best to avoid that and share the road properly.

Now, still as a non-rider, I do my best to share the road will all two-wheeled vehicles, motorized or not, even when the rider does something stupid like opening it up on the wrong side of the road to get past a line of cars stopped at a traffic light.


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