Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey
As a motorcyclist, this has been a really tough winter. For the first time in my memory, I didn't log a single ride between Thanksgiving and Tax Day. A big reason for this has been the Siberianesque winter that was visited upon the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic this year. The roads were never completely clear, and even now when asphalt is finally making it's long-overdue re-appearance, there's so much sand, salt, and cinders on the road that taking a ride means also taking your life in your hands.
But, the weather is finally warming. For the first time in two months, we've had two consecutive weekends without blizzards. The snow packin our yard, responding to the sun and 40-degree temperatures has retreated from neck-high, to merely thigh-high. Birds have made their return, their cheerful songs filling the once-silent sky. Hopefully, by the end of this month, or by the latest, mid-April, I will go to Cernic's, the hospitable bike shop and liberate my Vulcan 900 (whom I've named "Wyatt") from his heated garage space. Once again, I will sit astride my machine, feeling the steady beat of the engine from the souls of my boots right up my spine. We will take to the road and revel in the joy as the world becomes a blur before vanishing in my rear view mirror.
Tempering my anticipation is the acknowledgement that it has been several months since my last ride. I must endure some patience, while I carefully re-learn that plethora of skills that ensure a safe return from every ride. Chief among these are my traffic instincts. Every experienced rider knows whereof I speak. Nobody can convince me that driving a four-wheeled vehicle and riding a motorcycle are anything close to analogous. They require completely different styles, and even philosophical approaches. Over the years, I have developed the "ability" to judge the difference between a motorist merely looking in my direction, and a motorist actually seeing me. This is crucial because every accident database I've seen reflects a motorist's "failure to yield" as being the most common cause behind car/truck vs. motorcycle accidents.
Also to be re-learned are cornering instincts. There are three parts of every cornering exercise on a motorcycle: entry, apex, and exit. Your lean angle has to be balanced on a knife-edge between the forces of centripetel, centrifugal, and angular momentum. Judging that correctly will get you through the tightest curve safely. I'll also have to re-teach myself to keep my head on a swivel, taking into account everything around and ahead of me. And raising my level of alertness, as well.
Experience (and three accidents) has left me a more cautious and circumspect rider. My approach to riding this spring will be slow and careful. I must be patient in this process because, after all, I can't fulfill my dream of riding forever unless I make sure that I come home safely from every ride now.
So with great anticipation, I await that first ride.