Giving Up Riding and Starting Again

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Why don’t people understand how much fun we are having?

Why it is so hard to give up your ride.

Last night, CL and I were talking about our Mother’s Day Ride (Niagara Falls, NOTL, Avondale Dairy, Tons of Bike Gear, Tim’s and back to Hamilton) and she exclaimed “How come you never told me how much fun it is to ride?”  It’s a bit of a joke between us.  She started riding her own bike last summer and, frankly, she has become an avid and enthusiastic rider.  And the joke is that I had been telling her for years how much fun it was to ride your own bike.  That got me to thinking about why I had given up riding for several years and why I started to ride again.

When we started having kids, I reluctantly decided that the family money and my time was not going to stretch far enough to include my beloved Yamaha XJS750.  Even more than the costs (insurance, maintenance etc.) for our stretched budget, I found my time outside of work almost totally consumed by our kids and CL.  This was my choice as a Dad and partner, which was taking precedence over my love of riding.  What made it difficult to give up was that riding was a big part of how I self-identified.  If someone asked me about myself, it was one of the top things I listed (married, engineer, hobby musician and rider). It took becoming a Dad to change that list and re-order how I thought of myself.

So, eventually, I put the bike away and then sold it.  I had been riding for 7 or so years at that point.  CL had been my passenger for the last few years and had an easier time to let go of the bike as her new role as Mom took over her life.  

So for several years I watched others ride by, fully intending to get riding again, but never making it a priority.  When your kids need your attention or they get sick.  When they have special needs or they learn not everyone is nice.  When we need to deal with scraped knees (and elbows and hands) or learning to swim.  Helping them learn what they are naturally good at and what they’re going to have to work a little harder to learn.  All of this takes time – my time (actually, our time).  So when the kids turned into teenagers and became less dependent, I started to have more time for myself.  I got back into playing music and I started to look at bikes again, not with envy, but with intent.  

Although I desperately wanted to get back riding, it was important to me that CL was on board.  Not because I needed permission, but because I didn’t want to ride alone.  Not surprisingly, I realized that she wanted this for me.  

We looked at a few bikes before settling on a bit of a project – an ’86 Kawasaki Concours C10 that had been poorly taken care of.  The motor was strong and the bones were good so we took a chance and picked it up for cheap (no bags, no foot pegs, warped rotor etc.).  This bike was big enough for the two of us and sporty enough to be fun for me.  Getting it on the road was a bit more of a challenge – Bryan at Ultimate Cycle was able to hook me up for most everything it needed for safety (new rear rotor, tires, brake pads, and other bits and pieces).  A few parts required other sources, as far away as Perth Ontario.  Some minor grumbling as each dollar went into the bike but I had an ally in CL – just a fiscally prudent one. 

(As a side note:  I can’t say enough about how great it is to have access to a shop like Bryan’s when you are trying to get a neglected bike on the road again.  Focusing on older Japanese bikes, he has used parts galore, encyclopedic knowledge and will not break your bank.)  

When I went to pick up the bike to bring it home, I was given a little lecture by Bryan to do two things:

  1. Go to the back parking lot and ride around for 20-30 minutes getting familiar with the bike and getting my riding reflexes warmed up after no riding for so long.  I don’t think he would have given me the keys otherwise.
  2. Make sure I got my wife to go with me.  The stated theory was that if she was with me, I would be able to ride more. “Take her to places she wants to go”.  It was rare good advice.

So we began to ride, two-up, as often as possible.  Hamilton is a city that we have grown to love despite its flaws (maybe because of them).  It lies within an hour or two of so many good biking destinations, we were spoiled with the range of choices we had for day trip destinations.  For more than 4 years we explored our little corner of the province (and the Bruce Peninsula) as often as we could.  We pack light tasty lunches and treat ourselves to delicious dinners – we have had some of the best meals just picking a spot along the coast of Lake Erie, sitting on a rock and eating cheese, sausage and fruit from our little cooler.

CL likes to say it’s like we were dating again.  And it is, in all the best ways.  

Then she got her own bike last year – but that’s another post.



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