Thursday, April 05, 2012
It's time to re-adopt some "bad" motorcycling habits from years past
There was a time, 16 or 17 years ago, when my life's primary and most anticipated goal during any given summer month was to spend a Friday night or two riding motorcycles into the early morning hours out in the middle of nowhere here in West Texas with friends.
What do you mean, "Then what?" That's it. The purpose was to be on a motorcycle on a warm and starry night, hanging out with your motorcycling mates and otherwise experiencing -- in vivid, wonderful sensations -- what it's like to truly feel alive.
What do you mean you don't understand?
Okay, okay. For those of you who can't relate, here's how a typical night would play itself out for me: 1.) Get home from work on Friday afternoon and, by 5:30 p.m., be fast asleep on the couch enjoying a nice, long nap of two to three hours. 2.) Awaken refreshed and ready for an evening of fun, grab some dinner with the wife, and maybe take her for an ice cream. 3.) Later, as said wife gets ready for bed (usually around 10:30 p.m. or so), pick out a bike from the stable, put on my riding gear, and head out to a predetermined meeting spot where other motorcyclists with my proclivity for night riding are assembling. 4.) Ride aimlessly around West Texas as a group, with no particular place to go, stopping every so often for coffee and fellowship. 5.) Return safely home somewhere around 3 o'clock in the morning. 6.) Wake up around lunch the next day feeling lots better about life in general. 7.) Possibly repeat steps 1 thru 6 on Saturday night.
Now then, I know what you're thinking; night riding on a motorcycle is considerably more risky than riding during the day. After all, visibility is reduced, there are more critters out and about, more drunks are on the road, and motorcycles are harder for other drivers to see at night than a car or truck. I don't dispute those points at all. Furthermore, I'm a aware that in certain parts of the country -- specifically where deer are populous -- the risks are further increased by riding at night.
The Permian Basin of West Texas, however, is a little different. Out here, there are very few deer. The roads are long and straight, improving visibility and vanishing points when an entire group of headlights is illuminating the riding environment. But most importantly, nighttime is about the only time during the summer months when riding is truly enjoyable. If you've ever tried to ride for three hours on a 105-degree day with the sun slamming you like a jousting lance, you may have a better understanding than most as to why night riding is so cultural out here in the badlands. Sure, it may still be 85 degrees or more on summer nights in my part of the world, but once you're moving through the night air at highway speeds, the experience is often times a downright pleasure, bugs on your headlights and faceshield notwithstanding.
The important thing about riding safely at night is remembering to utilize the "see and be seen" factor. Extra lighting, retro-reflective decals and clothing, along with other high-viz gear can go a long way toward mitigating the added risks. Slight changes to riding style are necessary, too, but nothing so drastic as to sap the fun from the experience.
Anyway, with all that said, I've admittedly gotten away from regular night excursions over the past six or seven years. The group I trusted to ride within kind of fell apart for a variety of reasons, I'm usually busy playing a show somewhere on the road now, and I've certainly learned to appreciate sleep more and more as I've entered my early forties. This year, however, I've decided it's time to relive the past a bit and make a few more night rides than usual. Some of the people I used to enjoy such evenings with have begun to reform the old squadrons, and I'm starting to get invitations again. In short, I miss it and there's no good reason not to do it a bit more often.
So here's to the summer of 2012. Let there be safe night riding for all, and I hope to see you out there.