Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Selling My Motorcycle

I love my BMW F800GS. It is the best all-around motorcycle I've ever owned. (Out of ten!) The decision to sell it did not come easily. It started out as what I thought would be a simple financial decision, and quickly turned into something more nuanced. Sure, trying to reduce monthly expenses, to get by what has been a rather lean period in the world of architecture and construction has been part of the background. If that was all there was though I'd probably rationalize a way to keep the bike. There are other factors. 

I was invited by Alex Steffen to take part in the Climate Neutral Seattle unconference on April 3rd, and gave a short presentation on Passive House. I spent the day with passionately committed, intelligent people working toward the same goals I have over the last 20 years, and it felt great and it was totally inspiring.  Many of those folks are car-free. Erica C. Barnett of Publicola made a big impression, in the session she did on car-free living. I've become even more committed to reducing my carbon footprint, and burning fossil fuels as recreation is hard to justify in those terms. 

And even if 350 ppm didn't matter a hoot, I don't see myself taking off for three weeks by myself to do the kind of trip the F800GS is meant for--like the trip I took up to Alaska in 2000 on my BMW R80G/S. If I'm going to take that much time off work I want to at least do something that my son can do with me. Which leaves the motorcycle as personal transportation--still a better choice than cars as far as carbon footprint goes. We've been car-free since last August, so me still having a motorized vehicle has been a bit odd, but still, I can make that work. But the fact is, riding down to Tacoma on I-5 to submit a permit application at Pierce County is really not my idea of a fun motorcycle ride. These days, riding around Seattle running errands is not that much fun either.  I often wish I was on my bicycle instead.

Then there's the safety issue. A good friend of mine--a fantastic, skilled, safe, life-long rider-- was in a couple of random, not horribly bad accidents over the last couple years, one of which left him with some issues that have made it impossible for him to work. He's on disability now. He was a brilliant software engineer. I hope he will be again, but it's taking a long while to heal. Then there's random non-life-threatening stuff that's happened to my riding friends over the last year or so: coming over a rise to find a stopped car on I-5, a spill on diesel at the I-405 interchange, a minor get-off every 50,000 miles, having to wheelie over a log in the HOV lane on I-5, getting run into from behind, and so on. I had a little tip-over on Herb Gudreau's cross-Olympic off-road ride last October (which was a total blast, still!) that kept me off my bicycle for a month and a half with a sprained ankle--and bicycling is my only aerobic exercise these days, which is kinda crucial to me staying alive, it seems. Pretty much all the damage I've done to myself over the last three or four years has been motorcycle-related. I'm a bit tired of that. I have realized, even if I do start riding again (and there's a good chance I could at some point), I want a smaller, lighter bike. I'm too old to be learning to ride off-road on a 500 lb motorcycle! I can buy a 300 lb Yamaha WR250R for $4500, and not have a loan payment, and have cheaper insurance, get practically twice the gas mileage, and do most of the stuff I'd do on my F800GS.  

I've REALLY gotten back into bicycling. I'm signed up to do the STP with my motorcycling friends Eugene, Dani, Helen and Bob. I have a new bicycle. (More on that later.) In the last couple months I've been exploring bicycle culture I've discovered I can do most of what I like to do on a motorcycle on a bicycle. It just takes longer, and is of course physically harder--which is not a bad thing. When I'm riding a bicycle, for the most part I'm extending my life. Riding a motorcycle, I'm risking it. (Have a look at this risk comparison.) I want to stick around to see my son grow up. I came into motorcycling from bicycling, so this is just me heading back to my roots. Thinking about getting a tandem, in fact.... It appears I am one of those dads that is letting go of motorcycling to spend time with their families. I'm not confident enough, nor does my wife enjoy riding enough now, to be one of the dads I admire riding their kids around in scooter sidecars, or teaching them how to dirt bike. I got into motorcycling too late in life for it to be that ingrained in my outlook, I guess. 

I've had a blast with motorcycles over the last 12 years. I've ridden close to 100,000 miles on ten different motorcycles, seen a lot of amazing places and done things I never would have imagined myself doing--say, riding 140 mph down the front straight at Portland International Raceway on my Ducati 916, back tire sliding as I brake heavily into Turn One... Just that, proving to myself that I can be that person, leaned over at 110 mph on Turn Two at Seattle International Raceways, has been worth it. Best of all, I've made truly phenomenal friends.  Now though, it's time for a break. 

I will say, I tried giving up motorcycles once before, and I lasted about three weeks before I got another motorcycle.... We'll see. 


Douglass said...

I like risking hurting myself on a mountain bike much more than on a motorcycle, in part because trees don't turn left into you.

Beau Gunderson said...

Sounds like you gave this a lot of thought! I've often wondered too if I'm risking too much by riding (especially given the accident I was in already).

I think I enjoy the adventure aspect too much to ever let it go completely, but when riding in America I am certainly more vigilant now than I was before my accident.

Douglass said...

I think it is great that you have an ongoing thought process about this. Black and white thinking is all too common as is being stuck in our own past assumptions. Each day includes new risk management and we are all dead in the end. It seems to me that the thoughtful motorcyclists understand this better than the non-riders who imagine their lives to be without risk. Of course, since I'm writing from Kabul some will assume I don't consider risk but I do and I'm very careful.

Walter said...

Understand completely. When I lived in Portland 1978-1980 and used to Hang Glide out over the Hood River, I realized that I was the sole provider for my family of wife and 2 children. So I gave up hang gliding. Returned to motorcycling in 1990. Kids now fully grown and wife loves to ride as much as I do (2 up). Life changes. You will be back on a bike some day.