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As Long as We Remember...

November 13, 2007

10 Dumb Questions I Get

Nick Diaz

I am a motorcyclist. For 37 of my 60 years I’ve been riding motorcycles. It all goes back to my youth in my native Cuba, where I spent summers riding horses at my godfather’s cattle ranch.

Back in old Havana, I used to ride my bicycle everywhere, escaping my parents’ arbitrary neighborhood boundary lines and exploring as far as the day’s ride would take me. Always (well, almost always...) on time for dinner.

“Where were you today?”

“Just riding around and playing ball with my buddies. (Yeah, right...)”

Years later, in early 1970, my bride and I were settling down to our jobs and post-college activities; having only one car, I was hurting for transportation. Her younger brother, still in high school at the time, had just bought himself a small Honda.

So she says to me.

“Why don’t you get yourself a motorcycle?”

Big mistake, one she’s regretted more than once in our long marriage. How could I miss this chance to get back to my horseback riding and bicycling roots? After all, a guy is only happy when straddling something, eh?

So I did get myself my first motorcycle. For $175 I bought a little Honda 90 step-through, a moped-looking kind of thing, with automatic clutch and three speeds. Following a comical self-teaching lesson at the local cemetery, I was ready to traverse the streets and rural roads around Dayton, OH.

Sold that little Honda in late summer, at which time the long list of successive motorcycles followed: 2 Yamahas, 1 Moto Guzzi (bet you’ve never heard of that Italian marvel), and 6 Suzuki’s. After 37 years and almost a half-million miles on motorized two wheels, I have never tired of motorcycling. If God allows me to continue being in good health, I’ll keep on keeping on...

I’m essentially a cheapskate. Education has been a wonderful career for me, but, as you know, is not one that makes anyone rich. My present ride is a 1984 (yes, 84, not a typo) Suzuki GS1100GK, with 124,000 miles on the odometer. How many of you still ride a 1984 automobile that is in perfect mechanical shape? I make do rather nicely with this old Suzook.

I’ve had this magnificent touring bike since I bought it for $2,000 in November, 1999, with 25,000 miles on it. Fifteen States have seen the light of this bike since then. My friends in the “Between-the-Sheetz Gang” have much more expensive and modern motorcycles, including some BMW’s, Honda Gold Wings, and yes, a proverbial old token Harley.

“When are you gonna buy a new bike?”

“When this one falls apart some day...”

It’s hard for this cheapskate to justify getting a new, mostly recreational vehicle, when the old GK still runs well.

So, I have two passions in my life, other than my family – math education and motorcycling. I intend to write pieces for The Tentacle on these two subjects, so allow me to educate y’all on my “favoritest” subject, motorcycling.

I’m going to expose you to a few of the dumbest questions we of the two-wheel fraternity are often confronted with – at gas stations, Christmas parties, at work, at church, anywhere and everywhere.

I will also give you my inner smart-alecky answers, and a bit of explanation and background about the questions and the replies. Rest easy, I usually bite my tongue and refrain from saying what I’m thinking, in the act of being kind to strangers.

Question #1: “You rode that thing all the way out here from Maryland?”

“No, you idiot, I pushed the damn thing, all 650 lbs. of it, all the way out here, all by myself!”

(So I’m thinking... Shut up, Nick, and be nice...)

Last summer I rode to northwest Ohio for a class reunion. I was asked that question at least five times. I’m happy to report that I was nice.

Folks, big road bikes like mine are designed for two-wheel travel. A 600-mile trip to Ohio from Maryland is nothing. Motorcycles today, even one as old as mine, are extremely comfortable to ride and quite reliable. We think nothing of going on a 1,500-mile, three-day weekend ride into the wilds of Virginia and West Virginia, with not an ounce of Deliverance-phobia.

Let’s do some quick math here: 100,000 miles in eight years of ownership translates to 12,000 miles per year on this Suzuki. Not bad for a vehicle that is basically recreational and seasonal in nature (little riding in January or February; we may be crazy, but not stupid...)

Question #2: “Ain’t it too cold to ride that thing?”

“No, you idiot! I have layers on me, and probably feel warmer than you are, with hardly anything on.”

(Bite your tongue, Nick.) I’m learning...

This question we get at this time of year, when temps are getting down, especially in the morning. Recently I rode to Barnesville from Middletown all five days straight, 30 miles each way.

Full-face helmet, layered jacket with plenty of insulating air pockets, boots, overpants, and Thinsulate gloves. Most of us in the BTS Gang have fairings and windshields on our bikes. I also have lowers that guide the wind around my legs. I essentially sit in an air pocket as I knife through the air.

So, folks, don’t ask a well-prepared motorcyclist a question like that. Chances are you’re the one freezing your butt as you pump your gas, as we overheat thanks to the layered approach.

Question #3: “Is that a Harley?”

“Heck, no! Can’t you see the word “Suzuki” plastered all over this motorcycle? Geez!”

(Be nice, Nick...)

The American public thinks of the word “Harley” much as we think of “Kleenex” or “Xerox.” It took me years to realize that the word “harley”” is now a common noun, a generic name for any motorized two-wheel contraption in the eyes of the public.

No, I do not ride a harley; I don’t even ride a Harley! I ride a Suzuki. The Harley Davidson Motor Company has been – over the last quarter century – highly successful in promoting their product. So much so, in fact, that people actually have told me, “I didn’t know Suzuki made motorcycles, too!”


(Be nice, Nick.)

(To be continued…next time.)

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