Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey
The air has turned cold. Outside, the winds have a bite to them and even when standing in the sunshine, its warmth is barely felt. In the mornings, frost lies sparkling on the fallen leaves. It is a time of transition, when the warmth of summer and the comfortable cool of fall are behind us. Ahead lie long months of cold and snow.
For motorcyclists, it is time to place our bikes in hibernation.
For me, it’s also a time to look back on the riding season, replaying the memorable rides and savoring them one last time.
The first step is to give the bike a good cleaning. This removes any gunk I missed during the summer. It also makes it easier to note any leaks that may develop over the winter. It’s too cold to use water, so I’m left with a can of spray cleaner, a Q-tip, and a pile of old t-shirts.
Its always with great anticipation that I await the end of snow (usually mid-May here in the mountains). The winter of 2009-10 was particularly difficult. Here in Somerset, we logged fourteen-and-a-half feet of snow for the season. So when the last of the lake-effect streamers died and the temperatures rebounded, I joyfully trekked to Cernic’s where my bike spent a warm and dry, if lonely, winter. The sun was shining gloriously, the sky a soft blue. A few good days of rain had washed away the salt and sand. Brian, the Service Manager, had everything ready. The spring maintenance was done, and gleaming and lovely beyond words, it beckoned impatiently.
I punched the starter. The engine caught immediately, its throaty rumble filling the air. It was music to my ears, too long unheard.
I hadn’t ridden since November, so I took things easy. The air, filled with the wonderful smells of spring flowed past. The trees were leafing out, dappling the sunlight on the road. It was spring and I had my bike back. I felt reborn.
After hoisting the bike up on frame blocks, I put a carefully-measured amount of fuel stabilizer in the tank, running the engine briefly to circulate it through the fuel lines and injectors. Then, I change the oil and filter. Carefully, I check the other fluid levels.
Health problems kyboshed any long trips this year. I did, enjoy a few 300- mile days. These weren’t jaunts with any particular destination, rather an aimless meander across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Eastern Ohio, and Southwest New York. The Appalachian region is a lovely place to ride, with mountains and verdant forests bisected by winding roads and quiet streams. Quaint villages populated by people of great warmth lie amongst the hills. On these roads, you won’t make good time. But that’s not what such rides are all about.
I always close off the tailpipe by putting a sock over the muffler, after once discovering a family of mice had resided over the winter inside there. Critters can do significant damage, so it’s best to keep them off the bike.
On US30 through the mountains west of Gettysburg, I stopped at an overlook for a break. But I was dazzled by the beauty of the valley below fully carpeted in brilliant reds and golds.
With a sense of finality, I remove the battery and connect it to the trickle charger. The bike, though gleaming seductively, is now inert. The cover goes on, not so much for protection, but to shield it from my wistful eyes. With a regretful sigh, I close the book on another riding season.
It will still be an active winter. I need a new front tire, crash bars, and I’m sending the seat off to be re-done. In the spring, when the air warms and the mountains turn green again, I will once again hear the call of the horizon and answer with that special joy that only can be experienced on the open road aboard this most magical of human transports.
I stow the gear and head for the door. But I pause once more and look back. In my heart, I hear myself say, “See you in the Spring.” I turn and start to leave, but stop dead in my tracks. In the whisper of the wind, I hear the response:
“I’ll be ready.”