As the snow was falling outside, I was up in the garage puttering around on the bikes. Simple stuff – changing oil, doing a general check-up. But mostly I was admiring the shiny bits, thinking about what still needs to be done, and dreaming about getting back on the road in a few months. (It may be a dreary December day but we know that winter too shall end one day.)
Then, sitting back with a cigar in one hand and a drink in the other (benefits of having a heated garage), I thought about how we treat our vehicles. While there are some who view their bikes as just another mode of transportation that’s easier to park and cheap on gas I think for most of us it goes deeper than that. We develop a bond with the machine that is different than the relationships we have with our cars or trucks which, in stark contrast to the gleam on the bikes, are sitting outside covered in road salt and dirt – a description that will likely still apply in June.
You often hear variations of the expression “the best bike I ever owned was the one I just sold” and I think that’s true, for a while. The feeling of regret and wondering if you did the right thing or not can be strong and lasting – until you develop a new relationship with your new ride. And if that doesn’t happen, if the chemistry just isn’t right with the new ride, we immediately begin to look for a replacement, always in search of that connection that is so fundamental to being able to enjoy life on two wheels. And no sooner do we have the paperwork in hand than we get busy customising the machine, overlaying our personality onto the bike and making it our own, creating something unique that we can fall in love with again and again and again.
We don’t usually treat our 4-wheeled vehicles that way. Certainly there are car and truck owners out there who take pride in their rides and customize them accordingly, but for the most part we view them as tools or utility vehicles that allow us to get from point A to point B with a minimum of fuss and a modicum of comfort. Sure we’d like to be driving Porsches or Lamborghini's or even Cadillac Escalades, but those are just not in the cards for most of us. So we settle for “okay”, balancing budget (car payments or mortgage?), utility (6 kids + 2 dogs ≠ Corvette), and personal bias (I’ll never buy a Chevy!) to come up with something practical. Then we wash it once a year (maybe), and drive it until the wheels fall off at which point we go looking for the next 4-wheeler to haul us and our assorted baggage around for the next 10 years.
So why do we treat motorcycles differently? I suspect the reasons are as varied as the riders out there, but I think the main factor is one of intent. For most of us our motorcycles are our toys, our hobbies, the icing on the cake of life as it were. And as with any hobby we invest extra attention (and $$$) on them to entertain and amuse ourselves. Nobody wants to ride a stock black Harley around, but throw on some extra chrome, a bit of bling, and a functional do-dad or two and it’s now “my” black Harley and, by definition, an extension of “me”. Which is, as I think about it, probably not unlike the way custom car and hot rod guys view their toys as well.
But that’s a whole other topic, so best to stop thinking and get back to polishing and being thankful this isn’t mine to keep clean.