The what ifs

Years pass. Things change. You become a father. You used to ride a motorcycle. You want to do it again and so you do. But now things are different. There’s the ever present “what if?”

Contributor Doug Bolton tells us what happened when he pondered to that alluring but not always rational question?

Years pass. Things change. A long time ago, you rode a motorcycle, and sometimes you dreamed about it. As time goes by, the dreams begin to recur. You find yourself thinking about it in languid wakeful moments: What if?

Contributor Doug Bolton tells us what happened when he succumbed to that alluring but not always rational question.

Dad Rides Bikes
By Doug Bolton

The What If’s keep creeping in.

Doug story

I’m out riding. The bike’s working but I’m not. I’m fighting it. I keep seeing things that aren’t there. Worse yet, I’m riding timid. Then there’s the What If’s. What if I get hurt and can’t work? Or worse …

I force the thought out and focus on the task at hand. Down the powerline I glide, deep into 4th. This is XR riding, the bike working like magic. It reminds me of an old Honda ad: Mile after mile of red rock canyon unfolded in front of me but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get her last words out of my head. As I came over the ridge I kicked it into 5th and suddenly I couldn’t hear a word she said.

The big 650 single growls its deep monotone as I feed it more gas, long compliant suspension swallowing up every bump. I fly over a small rise and catch some air. Then it smacks me – I’m doing 100 km/h down a goat trail in the middle of nowhere with a pregnant wife and infant son back at home. Could I even explain to her where I am?

What if?

With a little help from my friends

Doug story
Friends help when the going
gets tough.

“I’d feel more comfortable if you went with someone.” My wife has always gotten it. Has never liked it, but always gotten it. After nine years of marriage it’s been accepted: This is what I do.

A quick Google search and a dual-sport message board appears. I attend a meeting. Handles and avatars become names and faces, and then friends. ‘Floored’ is Andrew with two sons, ‘Scotty905’ is a fireman with a three-year-old daughter, ‘Dirtdevil’ is Michelle, an entrepreneur with a couple of sons.

Summer rolls by and I roll up some 3,000 km with my new friends.

I snake through a series of tight bends down a secluded single-track. A large hill looms ahead, I have no speed but a quick consultation of my W.W.J.C.D (What Would Johnny Campbell Do?) bracelet reminds me of the First Truth of Motorcycling: Pin It.

Doug story
Deep in the woods.

Halfway up I crash. Hard. My full 220 lbs falls on my right elbow. The same one I broke playing hockey. I expect numbing pain. Floored runs up to make sure I’m okay. I’m surprised to feel nothing: body armour is for real and I go to work on Monday.

It feels good to take a hit and be able to get back into the game. It feels good to have others around to cover the what ifs.

Love is …

Weeks go by. I’m in the backyard trying to convince myself I can change a tire by hand but I’m struggling badly. This is the fourth time I’ve pinched the damn tube. Anger can sustain you at moments like this, keep you going when anxiety and self-doubt are running you headlong into despair.

My wife hears my curses and suggests I take it to the dealership. My wife has always had poor timing.

I look at her and realize that I don’t really care when I’m done. This perplexes me as it goes against my nature. I turn to her and calmly say, “Yes, that is a good suggestion if I were trying to get the bike fixed. I’m not. I’m trying to teach myself how to fix the bike.”

Doug story
Foolishness takes many forms.



Another month passes and I switch jobs; the usual reasons, more of a challenge, more opportunity. Also more time to be put in. I’m paying my dues – or some other such nonsense that you tell yourself when you’re doing work you’re not getting paid for. I have to fire someone and hire some others, deadlines loom, and targets have to be hit. I’m a slave to capitalism.

Another three months and our baby is born. Another little boy. I am a lucky man.

The great thing about a newborn is you become too tired to care about the trivial things. It becomes very easy to prioritize. I’m getting better at this and I like it.

I’m buying a bike magazine at a local corner store and the clerk takes the opportunity to launch into a story about how her friend got a sportbike and it could go “like 200 miles an hour” and how he “like, wracked out” and “like got road rash and like the cops came and like he didn’t have a license.”

Doug story
“Wracking out, like”.

“Your friend is an idiot.”

She blinks at me.

“No license, no gear, no clue, no consideration of what he was doing or how to do it well. He’s an idiot.”

I can forgive most of this. What I can’t comprehend is his complete inability to think about the consequences if he made a mistake. It’s a bike. You can fall off.

The clerk’s idiot friend got me thinking about the other end of the possible demise spectrum – the tired “When your time is up, your time is up” argument. In my opinion, it’s the last vestige of smokers and others too stupid to do something to save themselves from their own bad habits.

Doug story
Doug and son #1 (while waiting
for son #2).

But then, is my motorcycle habit the motorized equivalent of smoking? Is gearing up properly like smoking the lites instead of the full pop cancer stick? Is it really going to matter when Grandpa sticks his Buick into your lane?

A nod to caution

When I got back into motorcycling, my wife said, “Why would you buy a bike now?  I thought you had given that foolishness up.” I didn’t know it then, but I do now: trying to force the What If’s out doesn’t work. You can’t force your wife and kids out of your mind; at least I can’t.

So when I sit down to fill out my new benefit package at my new job, I spring for some extra coverage and allow the What If’s a minor victory. Maybe I’ll share my hobby with my boys …

Then again, maybe they’ll be more interested in hockey …

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