One of the cliché moves for a man experiencing mid-life crisis is the purchase of a car. Usually fast, often a convertible, and pricey. Luckily for me (or, more precisely, lucky for my pocket book), I’ve been employed in the car industry for (far too) many years. In my time, I’ve driven fast cars, convertibles, expensive cars, electric vehicles, trucks, SUVs…just about everything. The allure of going out and spending my hard-earned money on a fancy car to make me feel younger is one I can bypass.
Instead, I decided to get my motorcycle license.
This is something I’d considered for some time, but something stood in my way: my daughter. She thought motorcycles too dangerous and didn’t want me to do it. Fortunately, now she’s older, she’s loosened up and gave her poor, old dad permission to go ahead (I know, right?). So my quest began.
I understand the concept of riding a motorcycle–where the controls are, how to shift
gears, lane dominance, etc.–but the only time I’ve ever been in control of a bike was once when I was a kid on a tiny dirt bike and I dumped it pretty much as soon as I got on it. Due to this lack of experience, I decided a motorcycle course would be the best course of action. Luckily, here in Victoria, we have an excellent course offered through the Vancouver Island Safety Council–the only one in town accredited by ICBC (for those who live elsewhere, ICBC is the provincially run vehicle insurance company here in BC).
The course runs over two weekends, so I booked mine for Aug 18/19/25/26. Perfect timing as I had tickets to see Alice Cooper and Alice in Chains during the week between…voila! A holiday!
I went into the course thinking I had this knocked. I’d picked up my equipment–helmet and jacket that coincidentally pretty much matched, riding gloves, and a pair of army boots from the local Value Village. I even bought a bike–a 2016 Honda NC750X–which was conveniently delivered to my place on that first Saturday while I wasn’t even there (many thanks to Jamie Dick and the team at Action Motorcycles). After years of driving standard transmission cars, this would be easy, and I’d look good doing it.
Truth was, those first two days, I sucked. I’d say I was the worst student in the class, but the guy who dumped his bike on the grass beside the HUGE parking lot in which we were training, and then didn’t show up for the second weekend of the course saved me from that dubious honour. Thank God for him.
Those first two days are all slow speed maneuvering: figure eights and slow turns, winding through pylons and–my biggest undoing–U-turns. These things may sound basic and easy to you, as they did to me before I experienced them, but for some reason these little twists and turns caused something in me approaching terror. Whenever we stopped, I’d take off my jacket and find myself drenched in sweat to the point it dripped from my sleeves. I blamed it on the heat (it was a relatively warm day in the sun and a fairly heavy jacket) but the truth was nerves caused all that water, and they were getting in the way of me learning to ride.
The second day didn’t see me fair much better and all I could think to myself was “what have I done?”
It was one thing to spend a few hundred dollars on a class and not figure it out but, between the course, equipment, and bike, I’d dropped many thousands. That wasn’t good, but I supposed I could always resell the bike.
Here’s the thing, though…I’ve never really failed at anything in my life (other than being married), and this didn’t seem like the time to start. So, when my instructor suggested a little extra, one-on-one training during the week before the next session, I jumped on it.
School, driving a car, work, sports, music, writing…through my life, I’ve been pretty good at everything except relationships (FUCK!), I wasn’t going to let two wheels, a motor, and a set of handle bars get the best of me. Off to private lessons I went.
That two hours made a world of difference. When I returned to class the next weekend, with Alice in Chains and Alice Cooper still ringing in my ears, I might not have been the best rider in the class, but I was at least competent. I passed the course without incident.
I followed that up with a traffic course–no problem there–and then my road test. Passed with no trouble and, as of the first week of October, I became a fully licensed, restriction free motorcyclist.
The more I’m on the bike, the more comfortable I am, and the more I want to be out riding. It really does have a calming effect, something I had heard about through a series on Youtube by a fella who calls himself Dan Dan the Fireman. He has opened up very honestly about dealing with depression and how riding a motorcycle has helped. It’s almost counter-intuitive to think it’s a good idea to partake in a potentially dangerous activity when dealing with depression and anxiety, but I can’t even begin to express the feeling of freedom, of letting go, that comes with riding.
Plus stop signs and speed limits are really just suggestions for motorcyclists, right? The perfect antidote to a bout of mid-life crisis.