Biker Babe Becomes Just Another Great Babe
By Susan G. Clark
I’ve been a motorcycle babe since I was big enough to walk. My first riding buddies were my mom and dad. Later, all four of us – me in front just clearing the gas tank, dad at the controls and little brother sandwiched between him and mom – would line up on a Harley Davidson motorcycle for a Sunday afternoon ride. We would meet other biker families at the local dealership and head out of town toward quiet country roads. Those were the good old days before helmets. You don’t see four people on a bike anymore, perhaps because it’s illegal or because, with the onset of helmet laws, all those heavy heads bashing into chests and shoulders would be too much to bear.
Anyway, I made it through the tumultuous high school years without sitting my butt on any strange bikes, but things changed when I moved into my first apartment. Every guy I met owned a motorcycle – if it wasn’t a street bike, it was a dirt bike. These guys knew how to have a good time, and I wasn’t about to be left behind. Just to be certain, I married one of them.
Mom never said anything, but I’m sure she shuddered as she watched me, sans helmet, head out all those weekends with the boys on their dirt bikes, to ride just off the blacktop to the rock quarry a couple of miles up the road. My young husband was the group leader, trailing immediately behind was his younger brother, then my brother, and, keeping pace on the pavement, was dad on his Harley, the only licensed motorcycle in the bunch. I rode shotgun with whoever would allow. Husband’s brother complained the least, so I was usually with him. The main attraction at the quarry was a pile of dirt and rock three stories high boasting an impressive incline of about ninety-degrees. The boys repeatedly urged their bikes up the hill, paused to revel in their success, and then gingerly rolled back down. I opted to stay at the bottom with dad and cheer.
That Christmas the boys surprised me with a motorcycle of my own. My husband had acquired a small, used Honda for a steal, and he and the boys put it back in running condition. The pictures from that Christmas top any on record, but the novelty was fleeting. I never knew why the boys thought I would want a bike. Maybe they were trying to tell me they were tired of ferrying me around. Nevertheless, their ploy failed. On the way back from the quarry one day my little motorcycle and I took a spill, and I seized the opportunity to feign fear. The truth was I felt more comfortable on the back of husband’s brother’s bike, holding on tightly and inhaling the fragrance of his leather jacket.
Although I eventually bid the bike, the husband and his brother farewell, the pattern continued, and over the next twenty years I dated a number of motorcycle-happy guys. These were not lowlifes, hoodlums or Hells Angels; they were engineers, marketing guys and such. One was almost off the grid: he lived on a sailboat and plugged in at a harbor just outside of San Diego when he wasn’t underway to one island or another – a lifestyle that everyone agreed was way cool, but mysteriously funded and never discussed. He was blond and tanned, and his sole possessions were a sailboat, a motorcycle and a skateboard. I was duly infatuated.
While the guys became increasingly more interesting, the motorcycles were becoming less so. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s quite exciting the first time a girl climbs on a bike with a new guy, but, after one or two rides, I was discovering I’d had enough of the bike. The pavement had begun to appear too close and move much too quickly beneath us, our position in the leftmost third of the lane felt far too near the centerline, and the vehicles with which we shared the road seemed disturbingly large.
I recently had the opportunity to ride with a university professor who is a very experienced biker and owns a veritable herd of vintage Harleys. We agreed on a short trip one nice afternoon. The ride was nothing less than perfect: the open road, the clear day, my coordinated denim outfit and hanging out mid-ride by a country store with a cold one in a paper bag. The next time an invitation was extended, though, I declined. I remembered that I had only been able to enjoy the part of the ride that took place after the beer. Before the beer, instead of being the easy rider, I was the uneasy rider. Even with a guy so skilled I would have trusted him with my cat, my car, or my sister, if I had one, I wasn’t able to completely enjoy the ride.
After a lifetime of viewing the passing world from her tranquil perch on the back of a bike, if this motorcycle babe can no longer enjoy the entire ride, it’s time she hands over her helmet. Thanks, guys. It really has been a great ride.