Transitional Objects of Play: A Man and his Motorcycle

Summer weather has again brought an influx of motorcycles onto roads and highways. Seeing men and women enjoying a ride on everything from a small scooter to a big Harley V-Twin inspired me to think about when I graduated from my old Columbia to something with more oomph. Growing up in the 1960s, when motorcycle films enjoyed a peak in popularity, it seemed a very natural thing for some of us to move on to motorcycles after we outgrew our bicycles. My introduction to real motorcycling, tame though it was, came in the form of a neighbor’s Honda 90cc with an automatic transmission. What could be easier? Just sit on it and steer. A glorified scooter, really. But what a genuine thrill to take that baby up the hill and down the dale! From then on, my best friend Phil and I could not stop thinking about scraping together enough money to get ourselves a street bike.

While working on nearby farms and at the local ski area, Phil and I managed to save up a few hundred dollars each; not much by today’s standards, but enough to purchase a used machine back then. My first ride—that’s biker talk for “motorcycle”—was a broken-down 125cc Yamaha. I bought it not because it ran, but because I thought my dad could fix it so it would. He did his best, but it never did run right. It did last long enough for me to develop a few basic skills while readying myself for more rewarding wheels. Soon, I was saving again, this time for a more reliable scoot (that’s also biker talk for “motorcycle”).

I’ve had better motorcycles since those first youthful rides. (I imagine my saga will end with me in a wheeled chair someday, but I promise not to bore you with that tale [working title: A Wheezer in His Wheelchair].) Since my teen days, motorcycling has become one of my passions. As a boy, I loved how it felt to cruise down the back roads on two wheels; first on my bicycle, and then with the sensations intensified by the addition of a motor to the frame. Higher speeds today certainly elevate the risk, but they also boost a rider’s adrenaline level and enhance the thrill of the experience. When the ride ends, motorcycle enthusiasts generally find themselves enveloped by positive emotions and feel more in tune with the world.

This rush and the mastery of the machine results in an exhilarating and satisfying ride every time. Skill and confidence, which come only with experience, make truly enjoyable motorcycle riding possible (as does a sunny summer day). Give it a try; you just might find you like it as much as I do. Be sure to take a lesson or two before you pull out into traffic. Until then, stick with toy versions like the motorcycles in The Strong’s collections.