I'm guessing you've seen that look: You pull up to an intersection, snick the bike into neutral, plant your feet and wile away the time waiting for the light to turn green. Then you notice another motorist in a car giving you that look.
The poor sap is devouring every inch of your ride. More often than not, people looking that intently know what they're looking at. These are high-information bikers without bikes. They devour motorcycle magazines, frequent motorcycle web forums, and not only know the various makes and models, but their performance capabilities as well.
The look is unfulfilled desire. It says"I want my first bike." Or "I want to get back on a bike." My dad had it right: "I wish that guy had a feather up his butt and I had his bike; then we'd both be tickled to death!"
I know that look because for a long time, I was the one giving it.
I'd wanted a high-performance streetbike since, oh, about 1973 when Kawasaki came out with the orange-and-brown 900 Z-1. Those twin cams and four gleaming pipes made me weak in the knees. I was in my last year of high school. I got some work and needed wheels. But we were living in Colorado Springs at the time and the cold winters meant I'd have to park the bike for long periods. So I got a car.
I eventually sold that car to travel across the Western States and British Columbia, walking and hitchhiking a circuitous route through National, State and Provincial parks. I fell in love with being on the open road. I was as free as I had ever been, anxiety over the next ride, food and camping spots notwithstanding. I was seeing the world and was envious of no one-mostly.
Harley riders would come by with their thunderous chorus and their bedrolls tied to their handlebars. We'd exchange nods. They were every bit as free, only much more mobile. There was just something about having your bedroll on your bike that stirred my soul. Such a rider could stop most anywhere, sleep, get up and start off again. Kind of like a cattle drive without the stupid cows. I was equally envious of the BMW and Gold Wing riders with their high-mileage bikes. My envy was proportional to the amount of luggage they carried. More bags meant more days on the road.
"Someday," I thought, 'that'll be me."
But my wanderings took me to the North Central region of British Columbia and my new family, and I forged a living homesteading in a semi-remote area 150 miles from the nearest town. Through the years I continued to read motorcycle magazines and almost bought a dirtbike a time or two, but snowmobiles were the ride to have up north.
In '98 we moved to Washington State, and one day my 25-year-old son asked me to co-sign a loan on a Yamaha YZF-R6. I didn't mince words: "You think I'm going to sign for you to have a bike while I just watch you ride around and have fun. No way! We're both getting bikes. Let's go!"
Jeremy got his R6 and I got a Honda VFR800 in flat-black. Stealthy she is; sexy but subdued. I was 48 years old and finally got my first streetbike. I rode it from around the back of the dealership and promptly scraped the curb while parking out front. I was so giddy I could hardly stand up, but I got home fine.
Did my experience of finally getting a motorcycle live up to my lofty expectations? Yes-and then some. I bought my Honda to ride the mountain and canyon roads, to cruise along the Pacific Coast. I ride many of the same roads and visit the same parks I used to hitchhike through.
I've logged more than 50,000 miles on my VFR with no breakdowns. I chose a sport-tourer because I wanted a comfortable sportbike with decent range. I wanted a V-4 because the magazines said it was a wonderful motor design with the low-end torque of a V-twin and the top-end rush of an inline-four. They were right on.
I got some saddlebags and am now the guy I used to envy back in my hitchhiking days-the one on the multi-day, multi-week motorcycle adventure.
I just wish I'd started sooner.