The Essence of Cruising

What does it mean to be a "cruiser" rider?

With our choice of transportation we make a statement, riding in the wind, which differentiates us from the cage dwellers. We motorcyclists are a motley crew indeed, taken as a whole—we all see the sportbikers with their flashy and insanely fast machines, the "wingdingers" and Beemer riders touring to destinations unknown, the "scooter trash" zipping nimbly through the urban sprawl, more and more trikes as the boomers and their bodies get older. By and large we are seeing the majority of today's riders on cruising machines, and this is no accident. Cruising is probably the most satisfying way to roll down the road for the average rider.

I once had a 1978 Datsun 280Z—no other car I've owned has ever fit me so well or gone so fast. Well, the time came for me to replace the motor in the Z with the help of a good buddy. In the meantime, I needed something to drive. What I found was a 1970 VW transporter, a "bus." Talk about a sea change in the way I approached driving! Instead of watching the horizon and my rearviews for blue lights, instead I was taking in the scenery at the pace dictated by that old bus. We weren't going anywhere fast, and that was just fine, after all. I eventually took a trip with a great friend in that bus, cruising out to the Ozarks for a few days then returning through Nashville to catch the second Lollapalooza tour. Those were good times, slower times.

What I found is that when you slow down, you replace the thrill of speed with the generous beauty of just rolling down the road, taking it all in. I miss things on my sportbike that I wouldn't have, had I been on my cruiser. My favorite passenger won't ride the sportbike with me, but is ready at a moment's notice if I'm firing up the cruiser. (She still thinks I go too fast sometimes, but you gotta stretch the legs and let 'er run every now and then...) Motorcycling is, at the same time, the most kinetic and the most visceral thing we can do as human beings.

Let's face it, folks—we're all just a bunch of jellyfish on sticks, with better nervous systems. As humans we've done unbelievable things: we've been to the moon and back, and we invented the motorcycle. How best should we go about enjoying and utilizing this invention? I've been on a racetrack before, running as fast as I ever have or will go on a bike. (Until I can schedule another track day.) I've traveled hundreds of miles to get somewhere and back, mindful that the "getting there" is more important than the destination. I've clocked many thousands of miles on my sportbike running at speeds and lean angles I'd rather not discuss, and survived. Cruising, to me, is the most satisfying way to roll overall. Sure, I love to run the Dragon and cook a little calamari; I love to travel and clock the miles to get from A to B. Nothing compares to simply firing up the machine, pointing the front tire down the road, and rolling. No need to set the lap timer, no need for a map. Rolling down the road at a leisurely pace, with my sweetie on the back, packing a picnic lunch and little else is just simply living right in my book. This is the essence of cruising.

Better yet, give a buddy or two a buzz and arrange a group ride. Cruising with friends is always a gas, especially if you all have many miles and experience rolling with one another. Getting together shortly after daybreak, grabbing a good breakfast and good coffee, gear up and kickstands up on time with your riding buddies is a smorgasbord of good living. The best friendships and the most memorable experiences happen with friends on two wheels. (I can see many of your heads bobbing in unison.)

A caveat: Doing the big group rides, with dozens or even hundreds of riders, can be sketchy. I look at it as a multiplication of variables, all rolling on two wheels. Don't get me wrong—the charity rides benefit many great causes, and I wholeheartedly support all those who arrange and attend those rides to help uplift those in need. Just BE CAREFUL: remember your training, scan your mirrors, and time your gaps.

Cruising, like all motorcycle riding, still requires attention, vigilance, and discipline, especially as the numbers in your group increase. Become a rider captain in your group, or better yet, a rider coach. The more we know, as riders, the better our lot as riders becomes. Pulling off a group ride as big as the Trail of Tears ride takes more than just a little planning, and I salute those who "giterduuunn." Let's all work towards riding back home—that's the goal. Then let's do it again.

I'm planning a ride, soon, to go get some soap. I know where the best homemade soap can be bought. You can get it in a store not far from here. And another great store, farther down at the state line, sells good soap. I like good soap, and so does my girlfriend.

Kickstands up, let's ride!!

J. Brad Hardin is a rider from "Mur-vil" Tennessee, who may or may not have sold you your bike once upon a time. Ridden them all, from a Moto-Morini moped at age 12, through all kinds of rice, to his current rides: a ‘77 Shovel, an ‘82 Beemer, and an '05 Buell. His lifelong dream is to someday know roads the way Richard H. knows roads.