Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Guilty Pleasure

I have to admit that I feel guilty doing it. It's just not something that people like me do. In fact, I have spent years looking down on people who do it.

I'm talking about powersports. Activities which involve using a motor to have fun. I have always been a people-powered person. On the water I scowl at jet skiers and water ski boats. On the cross-country ski trails I shake my head at people who ruin the pristine winter wilderness with snowmobiles. Being something of a car guy, I go a little easier on the pleasures of motorized vehicles on land. I don't expect car owner to be a super-miler in a Prius, but I also give a pretty wide berth to ATVs and dirt bikes.

But now I'm motorcycling. Over the summer I fulfilled a "bucket list" item by learning to ride a motorcycle (Valerie took the class too). For the last month or so I've been tooling around on a borrowed Kawasaki Vulcan cruiser, and I must say I'm enjoying it. Riding a motorcycle is ridiculously impractical, particularly in a densely populated area such as where I live. There's little feel of the open road when there are five stop signs between home and the supermarket. Commuting to Tysons Corner is only for the suicidal. Even the highways in the area - I66, the Beltway - don't lend themselves to easy riding, except at really off hours.

In my brief riding career I have experienced a fresh horror at the terrible driving habits of Washington area drivers. I have become pretty inured to them in my "cager" (biker sland for car-driving) mode, but motoring along on two wheels gives you a fresh perspective on the cell-phone-talking, makeup-applying, left-turn-from-the-right-lane habits of my fellow Northern Virginians. Riding is pretty impractical too. You can't carry much on a bike, and it requires special clothing, which is another limiting factor in using a motorcycle as a commuting vehicle. Motorcycling is really a form of recreation rather than transportation. People ride for fun, and quite frankly I have more than enough forms of fun that I don't get to in my life. I think that if I buy a bike it'll just sit in the driveway looking forlorn and making me feel guilty.

Have I mentioned it's fun? There is something pretty cool about being astride this motorized beast, leaning it through corners and feeling the acceleration when I twist the throttle. The wind in my hair (OK, you can't feel the wind in your hair when you wear a helmet. Oh, and I don't have any hair). Also, motorcycles are cool. I love looking out the window at the thing. I find myself spending time looking at motorcycling web sites - gear, bike manufacturers. There's also a community of riders. One day when I was riding to work another rider exited the Beltway and merged into Rt. 123 right in front of me. As he pulled into the lane in front of me he flashed me a peace sign. Suddenly I felt like part of the tribe.

Speaking of tribes, I have also joined the email list of The Tribe, the DC area club for Jewish motorcyclists. Yes, there is such a thing. I haven't met any of my fellow kikers ... ooops, bikers ... yet, but I can't wait to!

I even had a biker bonding moment at work the other day. I went in for a meeting with my new boss and noticed his office had a lot of motorcycle-related stuff in it. Turns out he's really into riding - commutes every week from his house in the Northern Neck to his pied a terre in Tysons on his Harley. We had such a good time talking bikes we almost forgot to talk about how his plan to eliminate my department's budget, which I guess I can categorize as two engineers' equivalent of a barroom biker brawl.

Anyway, I am conflicted to death on this bike thing. Dropping another couple of thou for a hobby (I'm already into music and kayaking for that much or more)? A dip into a world where people burn gasoline for pleasure? So confused. I think I need to clear my head. A ride on the bike would be just the thing ...