Never too old

Text: Greg Smith • Photography: Greg Smith

We have all heard that lame excuse: "I'm too old for that!" Perhaps it is true for some things. But it is not necessarily true about experiencing the thrill of a motorcycle ride. I came to this realization when I had the opportunity to give my mother-in-law a ride on the back of my Kawasaki Concours.

During a recent visit, Mom expressed a great deal of interest in my motorcycle trips and the stories from my weekends as a Rider Coach, teaching new riders how to ride for the first time. Sensing a great opportunity to bond with Mom and to garner some points, I asked if she might like me to take her for a ride on the back of my bike. Mom enthusiastically responded to the idea, and off to the garage we went!

My wife Vicky gave the standard passenger briefing about where to hold on, and told her to keep her feet on the pegs at all times. I added some information about looking over the correct shoulder in a turn. Vicky then produced her full-face helmet, armored jacket and gloves. Mom suited up while I started and warmed up the bike. You could see the excitement mounting in her face. She showed a slightly nervous anticipation in the kind of expressions anyone might display before attempting a dangerous activity (like hang-gliding from a cliff) for the first time.

I backed the bike out of the garage and got settled, slipping the passenger pegs down. Vicky helped Mom climb aboard and get situated. We snapped a few photos of Mom on the motorcycle, and off we went. It was going to be a short ride, but there are a couple of nice turns and an S-turn nearby. I wanted to give Mom the thrill of a ride but didn't want to scare her. I decided that ten or twelve miles would be plenty for a first ride.

Mom firmly held my waist like she was holding on for her life and slid as close to me as she could get. Rolling down the hill, we accelerated into third gear. I kept it as smooth as I possibly could, but even then Mom's head bounced forward with almost every shift. Shift, shift, bounce, bounce. We rolled into a quick left, and shifted on up to fourth, Mom's head bouncing on my back. I entered the first half of the S-curve, rolling on smoothly and straightening up, then downshifting back to third for the second part. I could almost feel the grin on Mom's face!

Not long after the S-turn, we left the protected area of the neighborhood for the busy traffic of our Dallas suburb. Accelerating up to sixth on the surface streets, Mom's hands slid down as she started to relax. I guess she realized I wasn't trying to kill her or scare her to death. I gave her another small thrill with some high-speed roll-ons to pass slower traffic, and demonstrated some evasive maneuvers, practicing my swerving to change lanes.

Too soon after we began, we arrived at the hotel where Mom and Dad were staying. Mom had relaxed completely by now, and was clearly enjoying the ride. When she saw where we were, she exclaimed, "We're here already?" She had lost track of the time, something I am often guilty of on a bike as well.

Vicky and Dad were waiting for us in the parking lot, and Mom was so excited she couldn't remember how to get on and off the bike. I honestly think she wanted to keep going! After a bit of help from Vicky, she finally came off the back, and began to remove the gear. She was so excited she was literally bouncing! Nervous energy and adrenaline had her so high, she could hardly see straight! She kept thanking me, and finally gave me a big hug. Even Dad could see that she was as giddy as a schoolgirl, and he commented that she was going to want a leather jacket and helmet! Next time they come for a visit, I will have to make time to take a longer ride with Mom.

I know I earned a few points with Mom and Vicky that day. Some day, when a new piece of riding gear or some other trinket appears in our garage or follows me home, I may need to redeem some those points. In the meantime, I earned a few extra credit points by framing the photo of Mom and me on the bike, and printing extra copies from the computer so that she'll have the evidence close at hand when she's bragging to her friends back home.