I got my first bike at 50. The big five-O, lots of ideas change. I had good reasons for not starting earlier. I'm a surgeon and I've seen motorcycle wrecks than I can remember, many of them fatal. I used to hate the things. My partner still hates them and thinks I have death wish. Go figger.
The thing really started one winter day when I was at the top of our local ski hill looking over at the Grand Teton. I told my wife that I wanted to climb that before I got to be fourty. That idea passed without any commitment or concrete steps to make it happen. But as fourty was put astern I started thinking about what I really wanted to experience in life, and I recognized that I needed to get busy. I learned how to climb in my 45th year and have been doing so ever since, although it takes a lot more effort to get up the hill at 56. I made my first attempt at the Grand Teton at 46 and failed to make the summit. I felt terrible because the climb was such an extreme effort for me and I felt that I might never make it up there again.
Fortunately, I persisted. I got stronger and summited the next year with my 16 year old son. Since then I have climbed a lot of the major objectives in the Tetons and have been on the summit of the Grand three times. I have had some unsuccesful climbs by the more difficult routes up the mountain, but no more failures. I found out that with time and effort one can learn what is necessary to do difficult, technical exercises with skill and confidence. I no longer consider myself a novice in the mountains.
In a similar way I got into biking. I was in my friends store looking for chemicals for the hot tub. He had a gorgeous H-D Electroglyde on display in the entry way. I wanted to try this bike, but it is a big bike, big bike. I rode it around the parking lot for a few minutes, but when he suggested that I take it home for the weekend, I didn't even dare drive it through traffic to get it home. I had no idea what I was getting into. I liked the experience and asked my wife if I could buy the bike. She told me I was nuts at first, but when she saw that I REALLY wanted it she only had one condition. "Okay, I want leathers." What a gal. And ever since she has been along for the ride.
My first two bikes were Electroglides. Way too big for a first bike, but tons of fun when you learn how to handle them. I went to take my license test and promptly dropped the bike and flunked. The examiner, Tom, was also a MSF instructor and got me into and through the coarse. I rode the Harley for two years and learned the basics.
At this point a friend talked me into riding his BMW. I notice an immediate difference in the way it handled, particularly at speed. I felt the difference in the handling of the H-D and bought a K1200LT, and also an F650GS which I reasoned would be a good bike for my sons to learn on. I still have these two bikes but have sold the Electroglide. My wife and I love to take off cross county trips.
But even after a few years of riding I had episodes where things got out of shape, too hot into an unknown curve, riding out over the center line. I decided that for survival I had to become a better rider. I was also motivated by my friends who would leave me in the dust. So, I signed up for a track experience at Laguna Seca. This was my first experience with a race oriented bike, Honda F4. The thing scared me to death at first, but I went home with some sense that there was a lot more to riding than I had assumed. I was determined to master this too. I bought a Honda CBR954RR and put a thousand miles on it to get the feel of it and then headed back to the track. Each time I learn a little more. My confidence is improving and my ability to handle the big bike is much better. I have had a few scary moments at the track. I took a little fall in the corkscrew. It cost about a $1000 to fix the bike, but hasn't dampened my enthusiasm. I recommend track time to anyone who rides, but with an instructor, not just lap time, until you become comfortable.
I recently had a chance to attend Freddie Spencer's School in Las Vegas. A superb class!
I am finally beginning to feel like I am getting the hang of this sport. I have learned that there is a lot of finesse to the operation of the bike, much more than the basics of the MSF.
Can't wait to go back again. The instructors, including Freddie, are fantastic. Looking forward to trying my most recent bike, an MV Agusta F4, at the new track being developed in Utah.
I had the same type of experience at Jimmy Lewis's class, where I learned how to handle my GS a lot better, and as you know that open's up a whole different world off road.
Looking forward to many more enjoyable years in the saddle. My respects to all of you who share the road.