Getting Started

I really didn’t mean to start riding motorcycles. It was a complete accident.

A few weeks ago, I took a test ride on the new Can Am Spyder. It’s a cool, new high-tech three-wheeler that Bombardier is putting out under the Can Am brand. It has a Rotax 990cc V-Twin engine, 5-speed tranny, and a whole host of electronic monitoring gear that prevents you from overturning it, or having the back wheel slide away from you in a turn. Since California doesn’t require a motorcycle license to drive a trike, I went ahead and took a ride.

I rode if for over an hour, and it was fantastic. I took it on hilly roads, through city traffic, and even on I-15. It was a blast.

The trouble is, it costs $15,000, which is pretty pricey. And, apparently, the first year’s production run has already been more or less sold out. That kinda makes it hard to get one, even if I had the 15k.

But, that ride got me thinking.

You see, twenty years ago, when I was a young kid in the Air Force, I did ride motorcycles occasionally, borrowing them from friends. And when I was younger, we had a 185cc Honda ATV for a while.

Somehow though, I got away from riding. Probably from moving to Europe on assignment, where not to many people I knew even had a bike, unless you count little 100cc scooters. So, when I rode that Spyder, I thought to myself, why haven’t I done this for 20 years? Why have I been missing out on something this fun?

So, just out of curiosity, I went to the Harley-Davidson web site, to look at prices. And I saw that for a basic motorcycle, it didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

At work, I have a friend who drives a V-Star 1100, and he loves it. He drives it almost 10 months out of the year. And he does it not only because he loves to ride, but because the gas mileage is so good.

I have a new Ram 2500 with the Cummins Diesel engine. On the highway, it gets better than 20 miles per gallon. But with gas prices shooting up, and with me having a 30-mile drive to work every morning, it costs me about $200 a month to drive the truck. The initial reason for even going to look at the Spyder was that it just got a lot better gas mileage–about double that of my truck.

There are some drawbacks to having a motorcycle, the first of which is just getting a license to drive one. You have to go to the DMV and take two written tests in order to get a learners permit for a motorcycle. That allows you to drive during daylight hours, with no passengers, and no highway driving.

To get the full license, you either have to pass a DMV skills test, or you have to take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course, a passing grade on which allows you to waive the driving skills test, and get your full M1 drivers license.

I actually have thought about getting a ‘cycle over the last few years, but having to jump through all those hoops just seemed too inconvenient.

Bu, after riding that Spyder, the inconvenience just didn’t seem important any more. In fact I couldn’t wait to do it. I got my Learner’s permit, and I’m scheduled to take the MSF course on the 29th of June.

So, I started looking at bikes. At 43 years of age (Well, 44, really since my birthday is on the 28th), after not riding for 20 years, here I am wanting to ride again.

Author: Dale Franks

Dale Franks is the former host of The Business Day, ”a daily, four-hour business and financial news program on KMNY Radio in Los Angeles. From 2002-2004, he was a contributor on military and international affairs for Currently, he a publisher and editor of the monthly political journal The New Libertarian, as well as an editor of the popular web log, Q and O. Dale served as a military police officer in the United States Air Force from 1984 to 1993, in variety of assignments both in the United States and Europe, where he also was assigned to the staff of the Headquarters of Allied Forces Central Europe. In addition to broadcasting, writing, and speaking on various topics, Dale has also been a long-time technical training instructor on a variety of computer software and technology subjects. Dale has also long been involved with information technology as an accomplished web designer, programmer, and technologist, serving as the corporate knowledge specialist for Microsoft Outlook at SAIC, the nation's largest employee-owned corporation. Additionally, he is the author of a number of software user guides used for classroom training by one of Southern California’'s premier computer training and consulting firms. His book, SLACKERNOMICS: Basic Economics for People Who Find Economics Boring, is available from Barnes & Noble.