Roughly a year and a half ago, I took up bicycling. Not in a competitive or team recreational sense; The car I’d been using as my main source of transportation died, so I purchased a cheap two-wheeler to facilitate local commuting until I could acquire another motor vehicle.
I hadn’t ridden a bicycle since I was in high school, but the simile “like riding a bike” held true. The experience took me back to the adventures I had whizzing down dusty bike trails as a teenager, and I enjoyed the physical aspect of peddling in the elements (I journaled about these cruising crusades in the post I Rode My Bicycle Past Your Window Last Night).
At the time, I was in the heart of pre-production on the musical film The Devil’s Carnival: Episode One. Production followed, then post, and then months of touring the completed project, so free time to break away and car shop was non-existent. Moreover, the more I relied on the bicycle, the less enthusiastic I became about car ownership. It’s been nineteen months, and I’m still using the bike.
Cutting through narrow alleyways and neighborhood necks, I enjoy traveling outside the Los Angeles mainstream. Further, I dread the idea of reassuming the wages of high gas prices, costly auto repairs, insurance payments, and SoCal traffic. The sad fact, however, is that it’s very difficult to exist in a city as expansive as Los Angeles without a motor vehicle. Sure I get around my hood on the bike and bum rides from friends when possible, but my roaming options are severely limited. And even though the city of angels is one of the world’s largest, its public transportation system sucks. In other words, I need to get another petrol-powered bucket.
One of the things I enjoy most about bicycling is that while cruising at slower speeds and being unconfined, I notice things I’d never catch in an automobile. Some of the things are positive—odd color combinations on the surfaces of neighborhood houses or bizarre lawn statues. Others are negative—road kill stuck to gutters and litter heaps. I also notice passing motorcycles.
In addition to the motorbikes being loud and cool-looking, motorcyclists seem more aware of their environments than passing cars. They also appear more cognizant of their fellow two-wheelers, including me.
Bicycling on city streets has made me quite the defensive driver. Almost daily, I’ll encounter distracted car and truck jockeys who come dangerously close to hitting me while texting or simply not paying attention to the road. Sometimes drivers will look right into my eyes as I peddle through an intersection and then turn their vehicle into me as if I wasn’t there. They always appear horrified as they slam on their brakes to avoid crashing into me, so these folks aren’t sadistic, just absentminded.
Motorcyclists, on the other hand—probably because they too are defensive drivers by necessity—generally give a wide berth and patiently wait for me to pass if they need to move through a lane I’m occupying. Through helmets, black goggles, and grizzled beards, I often get nods of solidarity.
These experiences opened up my mind to the possibility of making my next vehicle a motorcycle instead of a car: a perfect middle ground that would transfer many of the enjoyable aspects of bicycling into a vessel better equipped for navigating my fair city. Plus: motorcycles are cheaper than cars, cheaper on gas, and cheaper on auto insurance.
Last weekend, I enrolled in a motorcycle training course where I learned the basic biker ropes. The school provided not only instruction, but trial motorcycles and helmets for their students. For me, it was literally a “crash course” as I tipped a bike during a drill and scraped up my knee and elbow. At the end of the class, us students were given the driving portion of the DMV’s motorcycle test. I passed!
I have an appointment with the Department of Motor Vehicles the first week of July to take the written exam for the M1 license. Once this is obtained, I’ll be able to legally drive a motorcycle in the state of California. I’ve already begun the hunt for a bike and gear and will post photos once all are acquired.
Pictured above are the four basic types of street motorcycles: Touring, Cruiser, Sport, and Standard. I know what I’m getting. If you were to join my hypothetical motorcycle gang, which type would you ride? And what should we call ourselves? Please share your suggestions in the “Comments” section below.