Getting back into Motorcycling: Embracing your Mid-Life Crisis — Part 1

So I’m 46 years old. I’ve been on hiatus from my “mechanical hobby”; restoring cars, for nearly three years. I’ve been doing this since I was 18, and sold off my last Citroen DS21, on January 18, 2005. On a self-enforced hiatus for two years, it’s been another year because the Ideal Ride that lurked in my head just never materialized.

Modern Triumph Bonneville

Enter “Test Pilot Bill” in Phoenix. I’ve known him for years through my wife, Sheila. He is possibly one of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet.

Last year by happenstance he showed me his newly acquired 2004 Triumph Bonneville that is absolutely perfect, low miles, and an H.G.-Welles-Time-Machine moment (I orginially attributed it to Orwell – forgive me!) with all the wonderful things about British bikes and none of their vices.

As I threw my leg over the Bonnie, something funny hit me. Kind of a “yeah… nice”. It fit not only my butt – it fit into my thoughts. Something deep inside me began eating away two of the four wheels that my Ideal Ride had always possessed. From that moment, I began to think of a motorcycle as The Thing to replace the Car Habit I had nurtured for more than 30 years.

I didn’t know if my search would result in a Triumph like Bill’s, but I knew that I would start on a journey of self-discovery and, as I write this, I couldn’t be more excited about anything I have ever undertaken.

Ace Cafe BikersInitial Research

I began ruminating over just what kind of Motorcycle would give a physical representation to this journey. Digging deep into my psyche, I initially went down the “Rocker” route, fueled by the initial impressions of the Bonneville and earlier memories of Nortons, Vincents and Ariels that I had either ridden or had been owned by friends. I read everything I could about the Café Racers in England during the 60’s. Admiring these amazingly engineered hybrids with various cobbled-together components, they represent the best of an era that I only missed by a couple of years and a very intolerant father. Although insanely interesting, it didn’t give me that solid path forward, in fact there were now more questions and less answers.

The Scooter Phase

Long ago I discovered that visiting family over Christmas is both expensive and “stressful”. A Hotel near dysfunctional relatives in Scottsdale over the holidays would cost real money, and I decided to divert said money, wife and daughter to Italy instead. It turned out to be a spectacular idea, and the time I spent walking around Rome’s cobblestone streets and rustic alleys gave me a renewed appreciation for two-wheeled transportation, focused mainly on scooters.

At some undefined point in the trip, I completely erased the idea of another automobile project. The “way forward” in my journey to Mechanical Nirvana was going to be astride a cycle. This part of the journey had to occur on this path – a two-wheeled mind-trip. The only decisions left were the “how” ones. Scooters swarmed Rome, and I had a new appreciation for them.

I had a peripheral association with Scooters since the early nineties. At that time I had a business finding Picture Vehicles for film, television and video productions. Working on a TV movie in the early ‘90s, I had to find cars for a honeymoon scene at a Sicilian Airport in the late 50’s. I had a DC-3 decked out in Alitalia colors, Scooters everywhere, two Carabinieri on Moto Guzzis (later Eldorados because I couldn’t get Falcones) and other cars, etc. I gained an admiration for the people and attitudes associated with the vintage Vespas and Lambrettas on this project.

Rome renewed these memories inside of my eyelids, except I now enhanced them with the new “maxi-scooters” that the serious “cognoscenti” rode. These two-wheeled Roman Executive Jets are everywhere.

maxi-scooter

Businessmen ride Aprilia Atlantics wearing amazingly slick gear, ready for the office or a Milan Runway. Seemingly ageless women navigate through traffic on their Suzuki Burgmans with a confidence that has me wanting to sell my soul to be a young Italian man chasing her down on one of my own. Is a Scooter like these king-of-the-hill Burgmans or Atlantics the answer?

I re-examined what I would be doing on two wheels. I spend quite a bit of time on Los Angeles’ Freeways. I also have a serious Road Trip habit that involves about 12,000 miles of traveling per year. I decided that Scooters were really not well suited for freeway travel and really not the best road tripper. While the larger, 500cc-plus scoots would definitely “work” for hitting the road, they really aren’t ideal; there are better choices out there. I’m thinkin’ bigger tires, a little more motor and the same amount of “cool”.

Scooters have quite a bit of “cool” factor. The big ones crank out ponies; have serious practicality, are fun to ride and do almost everything that I want – yet there is a final, not-quite-fulfilling hole wrapped into geography and intent. Maxi-Scooters left an indelible impression and provided an epiphany – I need a Real Live Motorcycle, not a scooter, and it is absolutely, positively going to be Italian.

Read the second installment of the series 

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16 thoughts on “Getting back into Motorcycling: Embracing your Mid-Life Crisis — Part 1

  1. Ducati…. I rode until my early 30s when I got married and gave it up. A Ducati cafe bike was always my goal. You can’t go wrong with that. Guitar playing is my current midlife crisis cure but I still feel the pull of the motorcycle. Both are equally expensive 🙂

  2. Heh heh — I’ve been taking classical guitar for the last couple of years. It’s been fun, but…

    This is a series of posts over the next few days. I bought a bike, but I’m not going to reveal it at this point (it was definitely Italian, though!)

  3. Cool blog! Will enjoy following your story. I had the same issue, at 30 though. I think losing a job and wife at the same time expedited it. I too explored Triumph and also BMW, Norton, Victory, Aprilia, Ducati. I like old stuff. I too went Italian, but of course you knew that.

  4. I can understand how you could see the Triumph as a time machine, but why Orwellian? Because it has a computer? Or a GPS that tells HAL where you are?

    Keep at it, the combo of Italian food, programming, mid-life crisis and impending motorcycle has some possibilities.

  5. Ah, that would be H.G. Wellian then, but no matter. Did you look at the Thruxton? I love that bike.

    You say “getting back into riding,” what were the earlier days?

  6. HG — Damn. Editing now. I’m glad I didn’t say “Orson Wellian!” —

    Getting back into riding — the earlier days consisted of riding around on a classic Sears Mini Bike from the time I was 11 until I finally killed it off at 13 or so — After that it was a long romance with a YZ-125 – and an Old Chevy Pickup halfway through my 13th year (advantage of growing up in rural Arizona — that’s another story indeed).

    Out of college it was all automobiles until I had a business getting vehicles for movies, and I rode quite a few bikes that belonged to my clients — a 1928 H-D JD with side hack, 198- XLCR, 197- Norton Fastback, Some cushmans, a CHP ’47 Knucklehead, and a 1944 Knucklehead — tank shift, foot clutch, bone stock. I’d say my total miles before completely going away was no more than 5000 miles. I plan to double that very soon at this point.

  7. Pingback: Part 2 – The Nicest People Ride a Honda, but the Most Eclectic People Ride a Moto Guzzi! « As the dude abides…

  8. Pingback: I need a “new” car. « As the dude abides…

  9. You must have supplied a few of the cars and maybe bikes, too, for The Big Lebowski, I’m thinkin’.

    ” … I’m just going to find a cash machine.”

  10. Nah, I worked in California on an irregular basis. Most of the film projects I worked on were in Utah and Arizona. Kenny Mason was usually the Transportation Coordinator on the shows; he was really good to me and having all the old cars around was really entertaining. I also did a ton of commercials. My best stuff was in “The Last Mafia Marriage” — for CBS, with Nancy McKeon and Eric Roberts. I actually got to teach her how to drive a standard-shift. I also did “A Home of our Own” — with Kathy Bates, that had a lot of ’50’s hardware including a killer Dodge “Le Femme”. “Above the Law” was fun because of all the Harleys. I had a green Porsche that actually is in that one for about 5 seconds at the end…

  11. Pingback: Back to Motorcycling Part 4 — 25,000 miles in 9 months « As the dude abides…

  12. Pingback: It’s the Coolest Scooter I’ve Ever Seen. « As the dude abides…

  13. Hey Danilo,
    I am enjoying your articles!. Great Stuff!- I’m sorry my vocabulary is not as Orwellian (Orson Wells), but I think it gets the point across- “We never sell a wine before it’s time”- an Orson Wells moment!

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