So it’s been about a year since I bought my first motorcycle. It’s something that I thought about a lot ever since I was a kid. Actually as a kid I had a little Honda 125 mini bike that I used to ride around in the concrete waterway behind our house in Dodge City. I remember one day I was riding down there and some cranky lady rolled down her window on Avenue A that ran parallel and said, “You can’t do that!” I remember thinking, “Uhh… yeah I can”. I didn’t say anything though.
As I got older though, I got my car and never really had any other motor powered things. And I didn’t really want for anything other than a car either. Four or five years ago we got the Arctic Cat ATV and started riding down in the river. I always really enjoyed it, but there were times that it was hard to make the time to get down there and get all the stuff loaded up. So alternatively I would ride on the country roads around Albert. There’s some fun back roads around here and you get a totally different perspective on the land when you’re on the back of an ATV compared to sitting in a truck. I found myself thinking I wish I could ride this thing legally on the street to ride anywhere I wanted to go. Then I realized that motorcycles are street legal ATVs with less wheels. It was like a light went off in my brain.
Casually I started looking for motorcycles. I didn’t want a big hog or anything, and I was somewhat scared of riding to be completely honest. Youtube was a great resource on how to get into the mystical world of riding because there’s so many different motorcycles with different engine sizes, engine configurations, riding positions and different brands and different prices. Then there’s all the riding gear. It’s a little intimidating to just jump in unless you have somebody who can kinda guide you.
Eventually I decided that I wanted a cruiser, and something big enough to take on the highway so I could do a longer trip if I really wanted to. So with that criteria in mind, I started to narrow in on what I was looking for as I browsed things like Facebook Marketplace and local classifieds. There was a lot of stuff out there, but most of everything I was finding was too expensive, or needed a ton of work.
I stumbled upon a video on a channel from SRK Cycles about the Honda Shadow RS. It hit me that this was exactly the bike for me. It’s simple. It’s reliable. It’s big enough to go on the highway, and it’s retro. Sign me up! A few searches later I found a guy in Lawrence selling one. And thankfully it was in my price range! We made the deal and I drove up one evening and loaded it up.
It’s a 2011 Honda Shadow RS. It has a beautiful red white and blue paint scheme. It’s a 750cc so it has plenty of power for me. And it’s fuel injected, so no carb cleaning or anything like that. I wanted something for once that wasn’t a project, and so far a year in all I’ve done is put a new front tire on and replace the battery.
When I got it home, I didn’t even ride it around town. I was too scared of it. Haha. I immediately signed up for a MSF course which would not just help me get my motorcycle license, but it really would (hopefully) teach me to ride.
I would recommend any new rider to take that course, or really any rider that hasn’t taken one yet. It not only helped me get over the fear of riding, but it made me a better driver behind the wheel too. I see the road completely differently now. Things like watching the wheels on cars in an intersection help you notice whether that car is starting to move. Looking down lanes in traffic to see what the driver in front of you is going to be reacting to that maybe they haven’t even seen yet. And of course just the basics of maneuvering a motorcycle.
With my new found confidence and freshly arrived gear, I got home, laced up, hopped on the bike and hit the road. That feeling of freedom really reminded me a lot of the first time we took the Wrangler out with the doors off. You really do get a sense of freedom driving a motorcycle that few other vehicles afford you. The bike drove great, and while my confidence was shakey, I probably put 50 miles on in the first day.
Early on as I was coming home from work I knew I needed to stop and get gas. So I pulled up to the gas pumps in town and I don’t know what my brain was thinking. I guess it wasn’t. But I got off the bike… without putting down the side stand. What an idiot. It busted the left rear turn signal. I was so upset with myself, but I suppose I’m glad the bike didn’t go down while I was riding it. I picked it back up and checked around to see if there were any witnesses… There weren’t.
The first summer with the bike I rode it a lot! The kids were staying with Andrea so I roamed around quite a bit but never really took it very far. But I rode it to work almost every day. I started getting more and more confident. I started out taking back roads and low traffic places, but the more I rode, the less scary it was to take it through the middle of town. And in fact it’s a really great bike for just getting around town. Not super heavy, so you aren’t lugging it around. And it’s pretty maneuverable.
The first “out of town” trip came earlier this spring. I decided to drive it down to my dad’s. I knew it was going to be cold, so I put layers and layers and layers on. It was still cold. Temprature outside was around 40 degrees. I made it to Kinsley before I pulled into the park and warmed up. Just getting off the road made the 40 degree temps feel warm! I had figured it be around 60 degrees when I got to their place, but when I pulled into their driveway it was still only 52. I shivered and shook at their house for probably at least a good 30 minutes. I never before had been “chilled to the bone” but that did it.
The ride home was a lot more comfortable as I left in the afternoon and enjoyed 70’s and sunshine the whole ride back.
With the kids around it’s not as easy to ride, but I’m usually able to ride at least to work once a week. They want to ride on the back, and I’ll haul Lucas around town, but other than the driveway, I’m not quite ready to take Emma around. They like the motorcycle though and think it’s pretty cool.
Just a week or so ago I got back from my longest trip yet. I drove about 500 miles round trip to my friend Matt’s place in Kansas City. I took Highway 56 the whole way up there, which I guess I never really paid attention that it follows the old Santa Fe Trail. So there was a ton of places to stop and check out along the way. I didn’t stop at every historical marker on the way just because it would have taken ages to get there, but it was need to see so much history and so many towns that sprung up back in the days of the Santa Fe Trail and see what’s getting them by today. Some are doing better than others for sure.
Right now on long rides, I can get about 50 miles in before my butt starts hurting. A nice break helps, but then it starts creeping back in about 40 miles or so. I’ve looked into new seats, but I think the result is to just suck it up. Probably wouldn’t hurt if I decided to lose about 20 pounds or so too…
The only part of the trip I was nervous about was riding on Interstate 35 in Kansas City. But to my surprise, it wasn’t bad at all! Granted I wasn’t in rush hour or anything, but there was a decent amount of traffic. So I was pretty proud of myself for not chickening out.
I think one of the things I like the most about riding, is the solitude. On the bike, nobody can call me, nobody can text me, nobody can talk to me. It’s just me, my thoughts, and the outdoors. No interruptions. There are so many interruptions in life, both real and virtual. That there is some joy to being truly disconnected from it all.
Since I started riding, I’ve had a few people volunteer their “I used to ride until X” stories. And it’s not that I don’t think that kind of stuff wouldn’t happen to me. I mean, yeah, riding a motorcycle is in fact more dangerous than driving a car (which is already pretty dangerous). But for me that’s kinda the point. Every time I hop on that thing, I appreciate being able to do it. I appreciate the experience. Could something happen? Sure. Could something ELSE happen that takes me out? Inevitably. So why keep yourself from things that bring you joy?