Rick and Lorraine

Motorcycles: Not Just for Kids
                    By Lorraine Ryan
                    Published July 2000
      Roy Rogers packed up his spurs and gave up horses when he felt too old to ride. However, with Dale Evans singing “Happy Trails” in the background, Roy donned his leather and continued traveling on the other trusty steed in the coral. His motorcycle!
      Elderly tycoon Malcolm Forbes hopped on a flashy motorcycle with equally flashy Liz Taylor on the back and had adventures money can’t by.
      And if Elvis hadn’t left the building, you can bet your old ‘45’s and blue suede shoes that you’d find him roustabouting on his Harley at a Dunkin’ Doughnuts drive-thru.
      As they say, once you’ve learned how to ride a bike, you never forget. My husband, Pat and I sold our bike about twenty years ago when we were in our 30’s and thought that was it for motorcycles. But, after he retired early and needed another toy to keep himself busy, we decided to give motorcycling another try.
      The mature rider (anyone over 30) tends to ride on a more comfortable cruiser model, while the younger crowd opts for the sport bike. We found a mint-condition Honda Shadow for sale and—surprising our neighbors in our empty-nester development in Williston and ourselves, I guess. This spring we drove home to the tune of a rumbling motorcycle and loved every minute on the bike since then.
      Afraid that he might be just a little rusty, Pat rode solo for a few days before he felt comfortable enough for me to sit on the passenger seat behind him. In the sometimes mystical-looking world of Vermont one does not have far to go before finding a country road with scenic vistas. We ride every chance we get. One of our favorite rides is along Route 15 through Smugglers Notch in Stowe (but beware of the hairpin turns).
      Is it dangerous? Is it exciting? And, is it safe enough for the over 50 gang to still ride?
  Yes. Yes. And Yes.
      While it is true that riding a motorcycle at any age has obvious, inherent risks, it is also true that driving defensively, knowing all the safely rules about bikes, wearing helmets and protective clothing will greatly reduce these risks. And hopefully, as we’ve gotten older most of us have gotten a little bit smarter and are not apt to take as many chances.
    Bill Collins of Bennington, now 53, started riding a small Suzuki back in ’67. “The first mile was the most embarrassing. After buying the bike, I drove one mile from the dealers, and the thing fell over. That was fun,” he said sarcastically. But after many years and a few grey hairs, he continues to ride with very few incidents. Collins says he doesn’t worry more about riding now, but does admit that going around corners and having wet leaves, gravel, oil slicks, etc were things he wasn’t as concerned about in his younger years.  “You don’t have the experience to think about that until you’ve put the bike down. Now I know what to watch out for. I know from driving a car that there are times I just don’t see a motorcycle, so now when I’m on one and see a car back out, I wait until I know he’s seen me. I drive more defensively now.”
      He’s always wanted what many consider THE BIKE---a Harley Davidson---and rewarded himself on his 50th birthday by buying a Harley Softail. For those remembering Harleys as the preferred bike among the Hell’s Angels bunch, well, it’s not your father’s motorcycle anymore. Bill and his wife, Marge, belong to a club called Harley Owners Group (HOG) and he said members comprise of a little bit of everyone—young, old, middle-aged, yuppies, regular good old boys, whoever. They’ve got an expression,” he said. “$15,000 in 15 miles don’t make you a biker. The point is that a true biker goes out in any kind of weather.”
    Riding with other bikers as they tour along roads in their safe horizontal “V” position along the highways can be a lot of fun. Besides the social aspect and pure enjoyment of riding, motorcycle clubs tend to do a lot of charity work. Collins mentioned a ride they for the Bennington County Hospice, riding everything from Harleys to scooters for 120 miles along Route 100. “Most states have a toy run. You buy a toy for kids and some organization picks them up.”
      One of the Collins’ favorite rides in Vermont is along Route 30 in Manchester, “going up through Dorset, Poultney, up that way. It’s a nice ride. But,” he added. “You can ride anywhere and be happy.”
      Joe and Judy White from Essex also rode in their 20’s but gave it up during the hectic years of raising a family. “Once the kids went into college,” Judy stated, “we said let’s buy one and see if we still like it and got a 750 Suzuki.”
      Judy, 54 and Joe, 58 definitely did like it and moved up to a Honda Goldwing 1500, making a 6,138 mile three-week trek this year to Idaho, Oregon, Yellowstone and South Dakota.
      The Whites travel in as much comfort as possible with Judy in the passenger seat somehow managing to read two and a half books along some of the more mundane roads on this trip. In addition, they a haul a small trailer behind for clothes and a cooler. (Before the trailer, they learned to pack very lightly, keeping the bare necessities rolled up in plastic bags for overnight trips.) With the latest in up-to-date helmets, they can speak to each other via radio controlled devices. “When the speed limit is 75 and you’ve got the noise of traffic and wind, you can’t hear each other talk otherwise,” Judy said.
      A favorite ride of theirs in Vermont is over to Texas Falls along Route 125.”With the waterfalls and scenery, it’s absolutely gorgeous,” she said.
    The Whites belong to two national motorcycle groups that have chapters in Vermont, one is the Goldwing Roadriders Association (members must have a Goldwing, but other bikes can still ride with the group as an associate member) and the Vermont Retreads where you have to be over 40 to belong (any type of machine can belong this group).
    “We very much enjoy these clubs,” Judy said. “We’ve met a lot of nice people through the years, there’s a lot of camaraderie out there.”
    For more information on the Vermont Retreads, call state directors, Gary and Nancy Meunier of Milton at 893-6238. The cost for joining is $20/couple. The Goldwing Clubs costs $45/pp with an additional charge for a spouse. The contact for this group is John and Lori Bilodeau of Colchester at 862-1573. These are only a few of the clubs available to bikers. Check your local motorcycle shop or the internet for more information on others.
    The State of Vermont Agency of Transportation Dept of Motor Vehicles has a “DMV Rider Education Program” available for a beginner, intermediate or experienced riders. For more information on any for these courses, call 1-800-529-2535.
    Riding a motorcycle is a special experience where a rider truly feels one with the environment and is as close to the feeling of flying with your wheels still safe on the ground. As Melissa Holbrook Pierson wrote in her book The Perfect Vehicle, “Riding is dangerous. Riding is dynamic. It is something to look forward to and something to hesitate about---something of both at precisely the same time. It is something to work at, for me, something to surrender to. Close your eyes tonight….You will dream of this ride.”