It’s been a couple of months since I wrote anything here, and they’ve not been ordinary months: everything shut down, told to stay home, you know this already. About halfway through, I got a call from the CBC asking how motorcyclists have been affected by COVID19, and I went on the afternoon radio in a dozen cities across Canada, from Victoria to Sydney to Whitehorse, and talked with radio hosts about how it’s been.
These were syndicated interviews, so a central CBC staffer prepared a few questions then told all the radio stations that I was available if they wanted to call me. Only a couple of the hosts actually rode motorcycles, and it showed.
One of the questions was, “With the roads empty, how do you resist the temptation to go a little faster?” You could almost hear the nudge nudge, wink wink. What a stupid question. “I resist it exactly the same way I do when I’m driving a car,” I told them. The truth is, my Harley cruiser doesn’t really want to go that fast anyway, and I’m as happy at 100 km/h as I would be at 200 km/h on a Ninja. “Not all motorcyclists are racers, you know,” I said. “Those are just the riders who stand out.”
You never really get a chance in those six-to-eight minute interviews to justify riding or not riding during COVID19, and most listeners don’t really care anyway. People’s minds are already made up as to whether we should be out riding, enjoying the fresh air and not coming into contact with anyone, or setting a good example for car drivers and staying home to work on our machines.
For the record, I’ve been out and about and enjoying my bike. The main difference is that my destination is always home: I live in the country and I ride in a big loop on rural roads. The only stops I’ll make are maybe at a gas station, where I wear a bag over my hand to pump gas and use the touchpad, and maybe at some out-of-the-way picnic site, where I enjoy a drink and a snack that I’ve brought from home.
A couple of weeks ago, I met another rider when I was stopped for a ginger ale at a group of shaded picnic tables near Burleigh Falls, Ontario, which is roughly a couple of hundred kilometres from my home. We sat at separate tables probably 15 feet apart and he told me that he’d ridden more this spring than in previous springs – about 4,000 kilometres so far this year on his Yamaha Star Venture TC. “It keeps me sane,” said Leon from Bowmanville, who mentioned that he’d only started riding when he turned 50, almost three decades ago.
Leon and I are not alone. There must be at least as many motorcycles on the road now as in previous years, with many, many riders believing, as I do, that there is no reason to not go for a ride. In fact, as I told those CBC radio hosts, there are only two justifications against it and if we’re sensible, they hold no stock: it sets a poor example for others if we do not stay at home, and if we crash, or break down, we’ll be calling on resources to rescue us. But riding a motorcycle in the open air is very different from jostling elbows in a public park, and even if we do crash (and I haven’t crashed in 30 years or needed assistance in the past 15 years), hospitals are no longer stretched beyond their capacity to help.
And in the other corner, the justification to ride? I could wax on about the freedom of the open road and whatever, but Leon put it best in just those four words: “it keeps me sane.” Given everything we’re going through right now, shouldn’t staying sane be one of our highest priorities?