I wish I could tell you a story about my family history steeped in motorcycle culture, but I can’t. The truth is, I didn’t get into motorcycles until I was in my twenties and only rode for a few short years before parking the bike and giving it up for over a decade.
In this Blog Post, I will take you down memory lane as I answer the question What Inspired You To Ride Motorcycles?
Family History with Motorcycles
If you dig around in my parent’s attic, you’d probably find an old dusty cardboard box full of family photos. Among them would be photos of my father as a young man standing beside his motorcycle. Further digging might even net you a photo of a young WaltInPA sitting atop a motorcycle wearing my father’s helmet. This is where my experience with motorcycles begins.
Long before my father had children, he was an avid rider. He owned several bikes over the years – most of which were Hondas from the late 70s. When he married my mother and had children, Motorcycles were set aside, and raising a family took priority.
We were born and raised in Philadelphia (Kensington, to be precise). Despite living in an inner-city row home with limited space, my father held onto his motorcycles. He kept one at our house in the backyard, he stored another at my grandparent’s house, and another at my aunt’s house.
As a little kid, I would sneak onto the bike in our backyard and pretend to ride. I have fond memories of those times – even if they often included shouts from my parents to get off that motorcycle before you hurt yourself!
When we moved out of the city, and those motorcycles were parked in a cramped backyard shed, my childhood fantasies of riding faded. It wasn’t until many years later that my younger brother took up riding. He started with a small dirtbike before graduating to a street bike.
After getting his Class M Endoresemt through a Pennsylvania MSF Course, he dragged one of my father’s old bikes from the shed and began working on it. It wasn’t long before the 70s Honda CB350 buzzed around our suburban housing development.
Seeing my brother ride seemed to rekindle my father’s passion for motorcycles. Shortly after that, my father got his 70s Honda CBX running, and they would go out riding together. I suppose seeing my brother and father ride together inspired me to get involved. I applied for a Pennsylvania Motorcycle Permit and began hunting for a bike of my own.
MSF Course with my Mother-In-Law
When I began to show interest in riding, my father and brother were adamant that I take a class to learn the basics. I followed their advice and registered for a Pennsylvania Basic Rider Course through the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation).
As I began getting registered for a class, my then-girlfriend (now my wife) mentioned that her mother was also interested in attending. My In-Laws were avid Motorcycle Enthusiasts – my Father-In-Law was a longtime rider, and my Mother-In-Law was a longtime passenger.
There was an incident that caused my Mother-In-Law to want to learn to ride. While riding with friends, one individual had a stroke on his bike. This individual lost control of his motorcycle and ran off the road, crashing into a fence. After the initial panic settled and EMTs took care of the situation – an unsettling question arose. What would I do in an emergency if my husband could not continue riding?
The solution to that problem was for my Mother-In-Law to get a Motorcycle License just in case. She signed up for the same class as me, and we went together. After three days at Blackman’s Cycle Center in Emaus, PA, we were officially licensed Motorcycle Riders.
On The Open Road
With my Class M Endorsement on my license, I bought myself a motorcycle. It was an 80s Suzuki GS450L that I found in the local classifieds. The motorcycle was well-worn, and it showed. It was missing a side cover, the paint was faded, and it had a hodge-podge of parts swapped out (presumably trying to make the L Model more like an E model). The best part was that it was within my budget and only cost $650.
My father went with me to look over the bike and rode it home for me in a downpour. It needed a little work, but it was a great starter bike. I rode that motorcycle regularly, commuting to work and having an absolute blast tearing up the local backroads.
Getting Away From Motorcycles
After about three years of riding, my relationship progressed. My wife and I decided to get married, and we bought our first house together. It was a little single-family home outside Reading, PA, with only street parking. Between my vehicle and my wife’s vehicle, I didn’t want to have to keep my motorcycle parked and covered on the street.
My parents were kind enough to let me keep my Suzuki GS450L parked at their house, but it made riding a chore. I would drive thirty minutes to pick up my bike, go for a short ride, and then have to drive another thirty minutes home when I was finished.
That in and of itself wasn’t terrible, but bike trouble was tiresome. There were days when it wouldn’t start, and I’d spend all of my riding time tinkering with it, only to head home without having ridden a single mile. My interest in riding began to wane, and before long, motorcycle rides became few and far between.
When my wife became pregnant with our first child, I had new father jitters and decided that there was too much risk in riding and backed away altogether. The bike remained parked at my parent’s house until, one day; someone offered to buy it. Since I hadn’t ridden in a while, it was an easy decision, and I sold the Suzuki.
Photo Credit MotorcycleSpecs.co.za
Maybe A Mid-Life Crisis
Nearly a decade after selling my Suzuki GS450L, I was burned out. I sat on my back deck, smoking a cigar and reflecting on life, when a motorcycle road by and caught my attention. Instantly, I realized I had spent years grinding my day job with no real life outside of work. Seeing that motorcycle brought back fond memories, and I knew what to do.
I set my cigar down in the ashtray, walked into the house, sat next to my wife, and asked how would you feel if I bought a motorcycle and took up riding again? We spoke for a few minutes, and I was in shock when she told me I think you should do it.
I didn’t waste a single moment. I picked up my laptop, went back out to the deck, and began doing my research. I wanted to start at the beginning and take a Motorcycle Refresher Course through Total Control. It would be free for a Pennsylvania resident and be a great way to ease back into motorcycles.
With a game plan in place to take a Motorcycle Safety Course, I began running the numbers. In addition to the motorcycles, I would also need all new riding gear. I worked out a budget, backed out gear costs, and began shopping for a bike.
What I wanted was a Honda CB650R. I loved the aesthetics, and something about an inline four-cylinder engine spoke to me. The CB650R was a newer model and commended a price outside my budget. After more searching, I found the next best thing – a 2018 Honda CB650F. This model was a little less expensive and didn’t look quite as nice, but it was doable financially.
Buying A Motorcycle
As I shopped around for a deal on the motorcycle, I began ordering riding gear. First, I bought an HJC F70 Helmet, then an Icon Contra 2 Riding Jacket, followed by Scorpion Gloves, Joe Rocket Riding Pants, and TCX Jupiter 4 Riding Boots. I had all the gear but still hadn’t pulled the trigger on the motorcycle.
When I located a used 2018 Honda CB650F at Martin Moto, I was ecstatic. All that was left to do was to check it out and make the deal. Right about this time, the pandemic hit full force.
Pennsylvania announced that all non-essential businesses would close. Martin Moto was forced to close, and I was laid off from my job. To make matters worse, Pennsylvania severed its contract with Total Control, and all Motorcycle Classes were canceled. Things were looking grim, but it would only be a two-week pause in my plans…
To pass the time, I began reading Motorcycle Books. I read The Road to Mastery by Greg Widmar (Motojitsu) and followed that up with Motorcycle Information Safety Systems by Michael Wesley. I began posting about my dilemma here on WaltInPA when I received a surprise email from Michael Wesley.
Michael and I traded emails discussing my situation, and he even offered to meet up with me once I bought a motorcycle to give me a mini refresher course. I was thrilled by his generosity and was eager to take him up on his offer.
When Pennsylvania began to ease restrictions on non-essential business, I contacted Martin Moto to inquire about purchasing their 2018 Honda CB650F. The process was a bit tedious, but given the circumstances, it was completely understandable.
After several phone calls and countless emails, we made arrangements for me to take delivery of my new motorcycle. Martin Moto delivered my bike, and the very next day, I met with Michael Wesley. The refresher course was very beneficial and ended in a trial by fire. On the short ride home, I got caught in a severe downpour with high winds. Despite arriving home completely drenched and shaky, I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. I was riding again!
It has been about four years since I bought my 2018 Honda CB650F, and along the way, I traded up for a 2022 Yamaha MT-09 SP. I’ve also picked up a 2023 Kawasaki Ninja 400. With two bikes in my motorcycle shed, I couldn’t be happier and look forward to many more years of riding.
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