One of the few things that is truly good about aging is finding balance in your life. The passage of time will often give us the gift of being able to balance out our wants, desires, needs, compulsions into a life that has just the right amount of everything important. It's either that or we have learned that many things in life just weren't as important as we once thought. There's balance and then there's balance, as in remaining upright, keeping one's footing, having the ability to walk and move about steadily without falling over. I've never been the most coordinated human being. My mind is so preoccupied and my body sense is so lacking that I'm forever bumping into and glancing off things. Yet for some reason, motorcycling has always focused me like a laser beam to the point of being able to function like a machine. With one exception: Maneuvering from a near standstill.
I've always had difficulty paddling backward on a large motorcycle. Moving forward slowly and turning at the same time can be a challenge. The older I've gotten, the harder it has become. Recently I have dropped my Harley Davidson several times. Once due to tripping up on stuff in my garage, leaving a dent on the tank. Today it was a sharp turn on slippery grass on the lawn while turning at walking speed. I dabbed a foot down, the bike tipped, and lately, that place where I reach the point of no return comes far faster than ever before. A combination of declining balance and strength. It was embarrassing, but no harm to either me or the motorcycle. However, it got me thinking. Maybe it is time for more wheels and more stability.
Friends just a couple years younger than me have made the switch from two wheels to three. Their three-wheelers were designed from the ground up to be three-wheelers, not some add-on "trike" kit that is adapted to your motorcycle. Their three-wheelers have stability control and all kinds of anti-roll mitigation electronics that are beyond my limited comprehension. It works quite well and these veteran motorcyclists love the transition that they've made. With hundreds of thousands of miles behind them, I trust their judgment on these matters. I just don't find the three-wheelers appealing.
For several years I've had my eye on sidecar rigs. I've ridden a sidecar rig once and enjoyed the experience. It was properly set-up and I rode it at a Ural dealership where they sell motorcycles with sidecars built that way from the factory. The Ural factory is in Russia and the motorcycle is essentially a World War II vintage BMW that is brand new with some upgrades and a metal sidecar. Some models have two-wheel drive and can be ridden year-round in the snow, rain, sleet, and sun. They are slow but I like them and they suit my current riding style. I may opt for a used Ural or I may not, but I am fast approaching a crossroad where two wheels are not enough any longer.
I rode a few times with former Springfield, Vermont resident Bob Young when he was in his mid-seventies. He had a BMW with a fiberglass and metal sidecar. Other than needing ballast, it was a great riding rig and he put thousands of miles on it. It is important to note that motorcycles with sidecars no longer ride like a motorcycle. They ride like a motorcycle with a sidecar that is unique and unlike a trike or a three-wheeler. It has quirky characteristics that must be learned to be ridden safely.
So I am willing to relearn riding on a radically different device all for the sake of balance in an attempt to maintain a certain balance in my life. I love the freedom of motorcycling and do not want to give it up. I have a couple of convertible sports cars to play with but they are not the same thing. So the pursuit begins. For balance!
The Morning Almanac with Arlo Mudgett can be heard Monday through Saturday mornings on radio stations Oldies KOOL FM 106.7, 96.3 and 106.5 and over Peak-FM 101.9 and 100.7. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.