When I was 30 or even 40, I never asked myself how long I thought I would continue to ride motorcycles. My friends, about the same age, never considered such a question either. But as I “matured” into my 60s, the question popped into my head. And now that I am only months away from 70, it is a question I have been asking myself and others. “How long do you plan to keep riding?”
I have been riding since age 15. Unofficially, of course on that Lambretta motor scooter that dad brought home. When I turned 16 with a new driver’s license, that Lambretta was mine to ride. Riding has always been my passion. It’s the freedom of the road, wind in your face experience. Even though I have had three accidents (one seriously) I never felt like I would quit riding.
My first owned motorcycle was a 1963 Harley Davidson Sprint Scrambler 250cc made by Aermacchi. It needed a lot of work. When I returned from Vietnam in 1971, I bought a brand new Honda Scrambler CL350. Then another Honda, and another Honda, and so on, including a 1976 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing that I partially restored to its original standard configuration in the early 1990s.
In the “old days,” all motorcycles were standards. You bought them and then modified them to do what you wanted with it. Today, there are so many different types of bikes, niche bikes. There are dirt bikes, motocross bikes, dual sports, adventure bikes, touring bikes, cruisers, and many variations thereof.
Technology has entered the scene with ABS brakes, traction control, and even cruise control, making motorcycles safer and more expensive. My 2017 Suzuki V-Strom DL650 has ABS and traction control, and is much more capable than my riding skills. It, and my previous DL650s, has taken me anywhere and everywhere I’ve wanted to go, including all 48 states of the USA.
So, I’ve been through a few motorcycles in the past decade, looking for that perfect vehicle, and more recently asking about ability to keep riding. I concluded that tall, heavy adventure bikes may not be the right bike for me as I get older. I am not the fit young man of my earlier years. A little arthritis and reduced flexibility remind me often of that, even if 70 is the new 50. It has become a little more difficult to throw a leg over a motorcycle and prepare for launch.
I needed to make some changes. I started by selling my V-Strom 1000. It was a great bike with plenty of power. Lots of power and torque. But, it was tall and top heavy. It will be a great bike for its new owner, who seems to be happy. I plan to keep the V-Strom 650 for a while. It is lighter, more economical, and frankly the better bike.
I also renewed my interest in a smaller bike, one easier to mount, and I returned to my previous research and interest. I found a great deal on an inventory clearance sale on a 2019 Moto Guzzi V7iii Special. Old school bike with modern technology.
The bike and I are just getting to know each other, and I am quite happy. I have also learned a couple of things. The Guzzi draws a little attention. Both of my brothers said they wanted to ride it even before I offered them a ride. They never did that with my previous bikes. One of them invoked the hallowed name of Steve McQueen. There is something to an old school, standard bike.
Another thing I learned, or should I say re-learned, is the true joy of motorcycling. The V-Stroms and the KLRs are great bikes, as are many other adventure bikes, but when I started riding the Guzzi, I noticed something. The Guzzi is wide open. Naked. More exposed to the elements, the environment, the road. All of that which we identify with the joy of motorcycling. And, it dawned on me that when riding the adventure bikes, I feel like I’m in a cockpit on two wheels. Fairing and wind screen with a seat that dips quite lower than the fuel tank. Yes. A cockpit.
This is what I want riding into the future as long and as far as I can. Something easy to ride that brings the joy of motorcycling. Downsizing is good as long as it works toward the goal. Who knows? Maybe the last scoot will be a Vespa. I hope I’m still riding through my 70s and into 80. That is only ten more years.
Fill ‘er up. I’ve got some riding to do.
See you on the highway.
4 Replies to “A Conversation with Myself”
I always enjoy reading your updates. I just turned 60 and I hope to ride until I’m 70. My bike is a Suzuki DR650 and it handles the California pot holes with ease. Just like you, I got my motorcycle license at 16 (I started riding at the age of 13).
Mark, why 70? Why not 80+?
Thank you, Doug. Be well. Ride safe.
Brent, you and I seem to be on similar paths. 70 is the next stop for me also and I’m presently riding a Triumph T120 Bonneville, about the easiest big bike I’ve ever ridden. I never really struggle with low-speed maneuvering and the power is just fine, even 2-up. And of course, the bike looks great and like your new Guzzi, draws compliments from a range of riders and non-riders.
As to how much longer I’ll ride, I can’t say. I guess I’ll ride until I don’t feel safe riding. I know even now my reactions and timing are not what they used to be but I’m still a good, solid rider, just no more high speed corner carving for me. My late father rode until he turned 70 and at the behest of my brothers, stopped. At 80 he told me he regretted that, that he felt he could have ridden safely until he was at least 75.
So onward we go, the nature of the riding experience adventure changing but still fun.
If you find yourself down Arkansas way our door is always open for you.