Well, the new year is nearly upon us—just after we get through the holiday season with all its hustle and bustle, planning and fretting over gifts and holiday dishes to be cooked. With the advent of January 1, many of us have New Year's Resolutions on our minds. We resolve to lose weight, get busy exercising, fix something around the house, etc. As for myself, I have learned not to set the bar too high, to keep things reasonable and attainable.
As it turns out, we are all creatures of habit—for good or for ill, we keep our habits and find it difficult to change them or adopt new ones for any benefit. So, this year I had the thought to find ways to improve my enjoyment of my favorite pastime, motorcycling. After all, as much as we enjoy rolling down the road on our favorite iron steed, we could be doing things a little better: Paying better attention to places we are passing through, making things more enjoyable for our passengers, and so on.
Allow me to expound a bit...
1. Use the cold winter months for research and planning. I've always wanted to develop the discipline to look at an entire year month by month, taking note of certain rallies or festivals as they are scheduled. They don't have to be bike related, just a good reason to go there and back on a motorcycle. This will take a fair amount of time on the front end, early in the year, ideally with some motorhead friends and computer access as needed. As the famous movie line states, "Build it, and they will come," to paraphrase: "Plan it, and we will ride."
2. Get a good handle on expenditures related to two wheels rolling. I've got a motor swap to do on my Buell, hopefully with no "$urprise$." With any luck, to finance that, I'll be able to find my good old R65 a home and put any remaining funds into a biker piggybank. Tires, routine maintenance, personal riding gear updates, all these things are more important than we realize, once we give them some thought. I may let things slide a bit with my trusty old pickup truck, as far as maintenance. When it's only two wheels, everything gets much more important.
3. Following my own advice on #2 above, be sure to spend some money on your honey. Some of my favorite rides, naturally, have been with my favorite passenger on back. I'll need to take the initiative in finding her the right riding gear, rainsuit, etc. It's even a good reason to look at updating seats or suspension components for both of us to be comfortable. Once everything comes together for riding two-up, go have a ball.
4. Crosstrain. This means riding any and all various two-wheelers one may have, including bicycles (which serves the most common resolution, being more fit). Personally, I've found that my reflexes and motor skills, over time, have been skewed more towards riding my Buell than my Shovelhead. This feeds my need for speed (which the Shovel has) as well as deep lean angles (which the Shovel DOES NOT have). Consequently, I'm always mindful of slowing down and carefully planning apexes on the cruiser. With any luck and some extra $$$, I'm hoping sometime this year to purchase a lightweight 250-400cc dual-sport, getting back into the dirt after decades away from it. (Take me to Land Between The Lakes, Russ!!) Every machine has unique demands upon the rider. Learning and mastering them one after another will produce a higher skill level.
5. Keep up with your best riding buddies. Include them in your plans, figure out where the next moto-camping adventure will be, pack your stuff along with some grillables for the campfire, and hit the road. After all, we humans are social animals—we bikers are more animals than most. Make the most of your riding time with some of your best friends. (Not to mention, but if someone breaks down, better to not be alone on the side of the road...)
6. Join the AMA. Although I hate to involve politics and motorcycling, we do not exist in a vacuum as related to the rest of society. Cage dwellers are generally ignorant of the world we bikers live in—on the road, in real life, motorcyclists deserve a higher profile and much more respect than we get as we roll down the road or trail. Cell phone use, insurance rates (!!!), access to good off-road trails, traffic laws—these are all things we take for granted, and the AMA speaks on our behalf with those in government. Those of you who are life-long riders may have varying opinions of the efficacy of being an AMA member, but I believe the benefits far outweigh being a loner. Plus, Erik Buell is now on the board of directors of the American Motorcyclist Association. He's a super cool dude, and I believe also a strong indicator of the AMA getting back to its roots.
7. On a similar note to #6, be kind to others rolling down the road with us. My Shovel has straight pipes, so I work to stay easy on the throttle when in the neighborhood. My Buell has the potential to haul ass while pulling a 48 degree lean angle, so I'm careful choosing the roads where I can enjoy it. If you're an avid off-roader, always look out for hikers or equestrians. Don't be a squid or a meathead. Remember those famous last words: "Watch This!!"
I'll leave my list as it stands for now... don't want to get too ambitious, but I feel that those things mentioned so far are quite attainable. Your list of resolutions may vary, but what I'm hoping to get across is that we've got the opportunity ahead for another great year of riding. With some thoughtful planning and a strong resolve to gitterdun, we can look forward to 2010 and the common goal to ride as often as we can, knees to the breeze. Won't you join me? C'mon, kickstands up, let's roll!!
J. Brad Hardin is a rider from "Mur-vil" Tennessee, who may or may not have sold you your bike once upon a time.