Each spring when the snow melts I determine that I will get a motorcycle. And each year things come up that require time and money and so each year I postpone the dream of riding. I am not by any means complaining; after all, this is simply what happens in life. This year appeared to be no different when the snow melted: I talk about motorcycles, things come up, and I decide to responsibly wait another year.
And then I was given a gift.
I have been fortunate that I have never had to convince my wife that buying a motorcycle is a good idea-she is already a believer and I sometimes suspect that she is more disappointed than I am when each spring comes and I don’t get a bike. Some weeks ago Lindsay sat me down as we were about to have the “wait until next year” conversation and she said she had a surprise for me. You see, my wife is not only a dreamer, but a planner and she loves to turn ideas into realities. For the past several months she had been secretly stashing away a little money from each paycheque and hiding it under the mattress so that I could buy a bike. Yes, this might be the best gift ever. While I may miss the lumbar support that fistfuls of twenties provide I will not miss postponing the riding dream this year. And there is only one way to repay such a gift. Get a bike and go riding.
If you are me and the last time you rode a bike was your buddy’s dirt bike in high school, you find your brother, who has been riding for years and tell him you’ve got a little bit of dough and a dream and ask him if he wouldn’t mind bike hunting with you. Before you know it you might find yourself at Brent’s house on a rainy spring evening with your arms loaded with beer and motorcycle magazines wondering how to ring the doorbell.
It is through my brother James that I have the pleasure of making Brent and Candace’s acquaintance. It was easy enough to twist those rubber arms for a night of a few beers and bikes. Still, I was a little nervous. After all, few things are more intimidating for a non-rider (or a not-yet-rider) than to “talk shop” with “the guys.” I am an English major and my while my knowledge of Shakespeare may be adequate, my knowledge of all things mechanical is somewhat limited. If you can imagine Frasier or Niles Crane buying a motorcycle you will have a pretty good idea of my situation. At least my brother was good enough to ring the bell and he didn’t see that my hands were shaking a little.
However, my apprehensions vanished almost as soon as the door opened. There were handshakes, hugs and hellos all around and a few moments later I had a beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other and we were sitting on stools in the garage. I don’t know how it happened but suddenly I was in the inner sanctuary…this is where the magic happens. A light spring breeze sighed around us and my eyes wandered around the shop while James and Brent spoke motorcycle, a beautiful language that everyone should hear, and learn to speak if they can. Tools hanging on their places on the wall, engine parts on work benches, bits of bikes leaning up against walls, and, of course, the motorcycles.
There was probably half a dozen bikes in various states of repair. I recognized my brother’s bike -a Honda with some custom work done by Brent-sitting proudly between a BMW and a Triumph. In front of me was a Royal Enfield, leaning smartly against its stand with its front wheel turned in a jaunty twist like a proper Briton. Other bikes I didn’t recognize. Some appeared almost finished and maybe just needed someone to ride them, others seemed so stripped down I could hardly imagine that they might one day be motorcycles. Looking around at the craftsmanship it was clear to me that Brent must be equal parts mechanic and magician: an artist.
I was startled out of my reverie when I heard Brent saying, “Why don’t you go ahead and sit on a couple?"
How could I say no? Do I dare? I had visions of myself knocking down a row of bikes like so many dominoes with all my dreams crashing down with them. Fortunately, no such thing happened. Moments later I was sitting astride a Triumph, leaning over the tank with big grin on my face thinking that this will be a good summer.
By the end of the evening we had talked about my budget (never quite as big as one wants, but enough to get happily started), the kind of bike I might want (a gentleman’s bike: a little less “stick it to the man” and a little more “Good day to you, sir”), and the gear I needed (a sparkly helmet?…at first I didn’t think so, but now I’m not so sure). And we talked about life: careers, marriage, family, and all those other things we love and the intricate and challenging ways these pieces fit together.
More importantly, I was starting to find myself a part of something a little bigger. When the door opened this evening I was wasn’t just entering a home, but I was entering a community. A community of people who love motorcycles and love riding and love life. As the rain cleared and the stars came out that night I discovered that there is both a mechanical and an aesthetic beauty to motorcycles and riding that all riders must share. And I am only just beginning to appreciate the depth of colour and joy that riding might bring to life. Saying our farewells at the end of the evening (how did it get so late all of a sudden?) I realized that Brent is not taking parts and building motorcycles, he is taking dreams and building realities…realities that you can ride.
It’s going to be a good summer.
David Balfour was born in Regina, Saskatchewan and has since lived in Edmonton, Alberta, as well as British Columbia’s Cariboo and Kootenay regions before settling in the Okanagan. David has had a variety of career tangents through the years: he was a roadie for a rock band in the 1990s, he worked on a mushroom farm, completed a Bachelor of Arts degree, owned a small business and is currently completing his Education degree at the University of British Columbia.
David is new to the world of motorcycles in general and MotoVida in particular. However, a love found later in life is better than a love never found at all. He lives in Kelowna, BC with his wife, Lindsay and their four children, Emma, Annie, Aidan and Cordelia, and the Radian, his motorcycle.