The Story Of A Motorcyclist’s Valued Treasure—The Wallet

Getting sentimental over a fold of leather

Worn leather wallet.
Twenty-one years of wallet leather wear and tear and wonderful memories.Jeff Buchanan

There was just no getting around it any longer. The wallet I’ve had for 21 years was close to expiring. It’s sad. I noticed the subtle hints of distress about a year ago when the stitching began to come apart, loose threads sprouting out like little errant, frayed black hairs. Then, a few months ago I noticed that the main crease was wearing extremely thin and the first hint of a tear was barely visible. I was in denial, pretending I could nurse it through several more seasons of motorcycle trips by being a little more careful with it, being a little more gentle with the daily ritual of sliding it into and pulling it out of my back pocket and in and out of various riding jackets. But, as these things go, once the rip took purchase it escalated with a vengeance.

Author racing at the 2010 BMW GS.
2010 BMW GS Trophy, Swaziland, Africa. The wallet was there.Jon Beck

As my trusted wallet began its rapid decline over the past few months I began to think of everywhere it's been with me. It dawned on me that wallet had been along on every single motorcycle outing and every overseas trip I'd taken in the last 21 years. It had been there on every one of my trips up the Pacific Coast to attend the World Superbike and MotoGP races at Laguna Seca (as a matter of fact it's older than some of the riders currently piloting factory machines on the grid). It has been tucked into the pockets of various riding jackets on myriad motorcycle trips, from arid deserts to cold mountain summits, endured sweltering heat to frigid cold. It has been through the rugged Baviaanskloof of South Africa and submerged in a stream crossing crash in the foothills of California. It crested the Great Atlas Mountains of Morocco with me as well as experienced the sublime serpentine roads of Tuscany. It was with me one night in the Pyrenees when I was caught in a torrential and frightening lightning storm that left it saturated with so much Spanish rain that all the ink-written items tucked away in its folds were turned to unintelligible rivulets of blue ink.

Windmill and motorcyclist in La Mancha, Spain in 2006.
2006, La Mancha, Spain, retracing the route of Don Quixote. And the wallet was there.Mike Quindazzi

That wallet had been taken out and opened over the years at an endless string of gas stations to retrieve a credit card to refuel a multitude of motorcycles. It accompanied me to every domestic and international press launch I've attended during my motorcycle journalism career. That wallet was opened in a hospital in Italy to retrieve my Blue Shield card when I shattered my collarbone and broke five ribs after tucking the front end of a Ducati 999 at speed on the Imola circuit. And, it was my steady and loyal, nonjudgmental partner in crime whenever I had to show an officer of the law my license when caught exceeding the speed limit. It had been there, through it all, without complaint, without demands.

Testing Triumph’s new Speed Triple on a track in Spain.
Testing Triumph’s new Speed Triple on a track in Spain. The wallet was aboard.Courtesy Triumph Motorcycles

Perhaps that walk down memory lane will help assuage any notions of me being too sentimental over a fold of leather. If it were possible to extract them, there are enough experiences imbedded in its grain to produce a fairly interesting novel. All this sentimentality is born out of a simple reality in life; when something doesn’t cause you any anguish it’s all too easy to take it for granted—until it’s too late. Most guys reading this will no doubt consider their own wallets and the fact that these things are our dutiful companions through thick and thin. They are the things that go with us, often at speed, into our two-wheeled adventures. They are the rectangular forms we reach out and feel for when riding—through layers of leather or denim or textile—to ensure we have not left them behind at a gas station or restaurant. They share status with ignition keys and helmets as one of our most important and essential possessions.

The author in Mozambique, Africa.
Enjoying the scenery, Mozambique, Africa. The wallet was in my jacket pocket.Jon Beck

The sojourn with my wallet started in 1991. I stumbled onto it in a fine men’s store while shopping with my girlfriend. It was so wonderfully uncomplicated; a single, thin fold of fine leather with a place for a license and three credit cards. Perfect. My interest instantly waned when I saw the dangling little white price tag read $50. I couldn’t justify spending that for a wallet. However, my girlfriend—a very sophisticated and fashionable woman—said that a wallet was a very important accessory for a man. She proffered that most males sport very little in the way of jewelry or ornamentation (this was long before tattoos were accepted into social norms) and therefore a wallet, like a watch, becomes an important symbol of status for a man. In other words, when you present your wallet it reflects something of who you are. Her words struck me as genuine and true, so I paid the then princely sum of 50 dollars and transferred all the contents of my old battered wallet into the new one. It’s true. Having a nice wallet does make you feel a little classier. Twenty-one years. I wonder what that is in wallet years? Fifty dollars. That works out to about $2.38 per.

Over the ensuing years I watched the wallet transition through various stages. The board-like stiffness fresh from the store quickly vanished. The leather gradually softened with the natural oils from my hands in the daily ritual of sliding it into and drawing it out of a plethora of pockets. It took on the natural curve of my hip and became a comfortable, almost invisible companion. Over time the leather was aged to exquisite smoothness.

Author Jeff Buchanan.
Author Jeff Buchanan. And the wallet was there.Jon Beck

Now, sadly, my dear wallet was finally giving up the ghost. The tear down the fold could be ignored no more. The only thing holding the two halves together was the silk liner with the brand name Bree vaguely visible in a black-on-black design. And so it was, that on a recent press launch to Madrid I finally decided it was time to replace her. I perused the small avenues off the main drags in search of a small shop that just might have a wallet that spoke to me. Finally, after a half day of milling about, I entered a quaint leather shop and saw it; a thin, simple, single fold-over wallet with a license area and slits for five credit cards. It was made of beautiful, soft black Spanish leather. It was on sale for 28 euros ($37).

On the return trip from Madrid I used my new wallet to obtain my boarding pass—its first official duty. I sincerely hope this wallet gets to enjoy the kind of wonderful experiences the old one did. I got to thinking about my old one, which was tucked away in my gear bag in the holds of the jet, and decided I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. Wherever the cow is that gave up some of their flesh to provide the makings of my old wallet can rest peacefully knowing that its sacrifice was put to good use. Since that wallet has served as a kind of trophy for so many of my various adventures in life, it deserves to be on display. Therefore, I have decided to frame it.