My 8-month old daughter is really all the reminder I need that time passes way too quickly. But at the end of my driveway, I have another one: my R1200GS. Beautiful in her own right, she was my baby before there was a Madison. And truth be told, I’ve been neglecting her. So I thought she deserved some ink here, too. 

But this isn’t a love story about a motorcycle, because that would falsely suggest that I’ve ever been the kind of diehard enthusiast that ‘lives to ride, brother.’ I haven’t. In fact, I’m a terrible rider. I’ve scared myself at least once every time I’ve gone out to ride. It’s usually by doing something absent-mindedly, or by not doing something that better riders do automatically, like when I pull up to stop signs and forget to downshift. What happens next is me trying to pull out quickly into a busy intersection while still in 4th gear. 

Stall. Tip. Catch. Or drop (happened once). Block traffic. Turn bright red underneath my helmet (thankfully full-face).

If you couldn’t guess, riding requires a great deal of concentration, especially when you don’t have many hours of saddle time. And concentration is not something that comes easy to us creative types. So, no, I’m not great. And moving to San Francisco didn’t do loads to increase my comfort. The best analogy I ever heard for driving in San Francisco was from a friend who compared it to sticks floating down a fast-moving river. Spot on. Random, haphazard, and completely given to whim, without a discernible awareness or purpose of their own. Add to that mindless pedestrians, arrogant bicyclists, and really steep hills and you’ve got more than enough drawbacks to dissuade us lesser riders.

But the amazing weather and beautiful scenery kept me trying—cautiously—during early mornings and other times when I knew traffic would be light. I would point my handlebars towards the coast and away from the tangles of downtown. It was impossible not to fall in love all over again. 

Then in October, 2011, Madison was born. Everything else got put on hold as I went about the business of something infinitely more complex, and terrifying, than riding a motorcycle; raising an infant. The cover went on the bike. And the oxidation process began in earnest. Every time I thought about going out for a ride, I talked myself out of it. The mind can go to some pretty scary places when you know you’ve got a lifetime of daddy responsibilities ahead of you. Visions of high-sides crashed in my head. It became an all too convenient, if practical, excuse not to go out for a ride.

But this is not a lecture about orphans and the evils of motorcycles, either. I do plan to ride again. Someday. It’s just that, like the bike in my driveway, I know I’ve gotten a little rusty. And the more I sit idle, the rustier I’m getting. It’s a vicious cycle, really.  Don’t ride, lose confidence. Lose confidence, don’t ride. And the amount of remedial maintenance I know it’s going to take to get me out there on the next ride continues to pile up. Practically speaking, the battery will need to be charged and most of the fluids changed. Personally, it’s going to involve re-teaching the limbs to work in perfect, unconscious synchronization. So I put it off. And, thus, a factor even more powerful than nerves keeps me off the streets…inertia. It’s a lot easier not to ride at this point.

As for why I don’t try to find my motorcycle a better home, rather than watch her in a slow decline, I guess it’s one of those guy things. I just love having her around. She’s rusty, inoperable, and aging, but she’s mine. And I still think that’s pretty cool. So for now, she’ll continue to sit out there among the elements. Patiently fading under that cover. Reminding me that time is indeed flying by, and that we all have to make tough decisions in life about what our priorities are going to be. I do get a little sad sometimes walking by my once pristine GS—the only brand new vehicle I’ve ever owned—but these days Madison comes first. ‘Tikes before bikes,’ I guess you could say.

Updated: I had to come here and rectify one major oversight. That’s the relevance of my own father to this story. He IS a diehard enthusiast, and the reason I decided to start riding in the first place. I don’t know that he was ever a nervous rider, but I do know that he faced a similar dilemma in 1973 when my older sister (and his first daughter) was born. He sold his bikes and decided to put riding on hold. Over the years, us kids always knew my dad USED TO ride motorcycles, including some kind of BMW, but not much more. Then, when my younger sister neared graduation from college, my dad started talking more and more excitedly about riding again, and finally bought another bike…probably the day after the last tuition check he would ever write cleared.  It took him about 30 years, but he got back to it. So I guess I will too, when the time feels right. Anyway, had to update this. How could I talk about priorities without talking about where I learned them?

Unridden, but not unloved.

And back when she was a newborn.