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The slippery slope of a re-entry rider

Sunday, November 5, 2017   (17 Comments)
Posted by: Walter Eisenbeis #139060

The last time I rode my own motorcycle was about 35 years ago. I really enjoyed that BMW R 69 S. Unfortunately, I had some issues with it and making a foolish decision, sold it. I have always regretted that decision, and whenever I saw a motorcycle on the road I missed my BMW.

Fast forward to the 21st century and here I am once again thinking about motorcycles. My brother-in-law has a couple and we do talk about riding when together. He tells me how much fun it is and I tell him how much fun it was. He has modern technology and creature comforts on his bikes and I tell him he’s a wuss. In my day, if it rained, you got wet; if the crud came up off the road, you wore it. We had no radio, cell phone, GPS or heated riding gear. I lie about how tough I had to be to ride without all this sissy stuff. Not only that, I didn’t think I was hard up or deprived. I got where I wanted to go and back and had fun. That was just the way it was. It was fun recalling those rides.

In 2003, I was once again visiting the wuss-in-law. As I walked through the garage to the house I saw a BMW motorcycle which all of a sudden became the theme of my visit. He showed me the motorcycle, of course. He rode it around the block so I could hear it and then he let me ride it. It had been over three decades since I last rode a bike and this one was radically different from mine. This was a BMW R 1150 R and there was no comparison with my R 69 S except for the BMW logo.

It’s here that I should point out that thinking about a motorcycle is like the thin edge of the wedge. I knew I couldn’t get one, yet I found myself thinking about them, noticing them on the streets and walking over to look at parked ones. It is like an itch that has to be scratched and the harder one tries to ignore it, the itchier it gets, especially for a lapsed rider. I would even have dreams of riding my old R 69 S.

I call these things gradient responses (GR) — little graded steps in thought, idea or attitude building up to a sometimes unknown conclusion. An example of a GR in 2005 was going to the Toronto motorcycle show with a friend. I had no reason to go, but I did.

After my visit to the wuss-in-law I noticed motorcycles more often and began talking with my wife about them (GR). She has no interest whatsoever, but since I do, she listens. She’s kind to other dumb animals, too.

One day my wife and I drove from Mississauga to Kitchener and back. I thought, "If I had a motorcycle I could have ridden this distance with no stress.” (GR) I had a similar little bike thought when we drove to Stratford and headed home in mid-afternoon, a round trip of about 250 kilometres. It was a nice outing and much appreciated by both of us. We saw about 10 motorcycles that day. That was a bit surprising considering the temperature, but it was sunny and I could have been riding if I had a bike, especially one set up for touring with a fairing (GR).

In 2006 my wife and I drove up to Big Chutes in Ontario to see the marine railway lock. It was quite interesting and we were able to see it in operation as it lifted boats out of the water and took them to the next lake on railway tracks. There were all kinds of people there, including four seniors who rode motorcycles from Lindsay, Ontario. See what I remember from that trip? Motorcycles! (GR!)

In September, we stopped for some gas on the way to visit the Wuss, and as I came out of the store I saw two guys with motorcycles. I stopped to talk and they were riding a BMW R 1150 R and a Yamaha FJR, the same bikes my wuss-in-law had (until he sold the BMW). They were going up the coast to Minnesota Highway 1 and taking it to Ely. They said the road was great for motorcycles — hilly and twisty. Sounded very nice to me (GR).

The next day my brother-in-law and I went for a short ride on his motorcycles. I was very intimidated by the bike and its power, but plucked up my courage and rode. I hadn’t ridden since my last visit and it turns out the 85 horsepower BMW was touchier than the Yamaha FJR. I am pleased to report I didn’t fall off. I really enjoyed the experience (after a while) and it was the first time I’d ridden a bike with a full fairing. It makes quite a difference in comfort. (Big GR)

We went out for a second, longer bike ride. The weather was excellent and we rode for a couple of hours. We even went on the interstate for a bit and I was able to handle it, pleasantly surprised at the stability of the bike when passing a big truck. At one point, we stopped for a break and I suggested the ride be extended. "Wow, I could get back into motorcycling so fast my head would spin,” I thought (GR).

We immediately planned a much longer ride for the next day, Sunday morning. Unfortunately, this failed to happen because the Honda Gold Wing had a nail in the tire and it couldn’t be fixed until the next day when I was leaving. Too bad, but better safe than sorry. We could always ride another day without any risk. (GR)

December 2006 and Canadian winter — I’m talking with Robert, a former motorcyclist, about going to a motorcycle show. At the same time, I’m thinking, "Why go and look at something I can’t afford and don’t have?” We went. (GR)

A year later and for more than a month I’ve been almost mental about motorcycles. I even emailed someone selling a BMW R 1150 RT (GR). He is willing to sell, but since it needs brake pads and a new front tire, I’m not ready.

In addition to this, there is the motorcycle show starting today in Toronto. I thought I’d like to go (GR), but have the feeling I’m not going to make it. When asked why not I say, "It isn’t pretty seeing a grown man cry.”

I continued to spend time looking up BMW motorcycles for sale (GR). I found several K and R models that I could afford to buy. However, I’ve yet to go and look at any of these machines. Robert thought I should consider the K 75 police bike up for sale. He felt it would be a well-maintained bike and it had the full fairing and panniers. I may ask him to look at it with me (GR).

The next week I'm still thinking about buying a BMW (GR). I have some leads that might be viable, but I haven't really set out to look at anything yet. There is one K 75, a 1980 R 100 RT and a 2004 BMW R 1150 RT for sale. It’s a fair drive to see any of these bikes.

My wife and I went to see the ex-police K 75 RT. It was not being kept under the best of storage conditions. It still had a licence plate and it started up with no trouble. There were some chips and a small crack in the right-side fairing near the trailing edge. The gas tank had a dent in it. I was sorely tempted to buy the bike if only to get it into a better storage area than the open shed where he had it. There was snow on the saddle. The poor thing. Do you see the emotional reaction when I should have been coldly objective? Danger zone!

"If you can get this bike for a reasonable price, take it,” my emotions say. "Shut up, emotions,” I reply. I talked with Robert about the bike and he coached me about buying it and what I need to do. I’m not up to haggling over prices or even how to do it.

I remained in the throes of Motorcycle Buying Syndrome after thinking, breathing and talking about one for months. I found one that I’d like to buy but I’m not sure I’m willing to pay the asking price. I think to myself, "emotionally you are already the owner of this bike.” Forget gradient responses, I’m doomed.

If/when I buy it and get it home, I will need riding gear. I absolutely must have a helmet. I’ll also need gloves and boots. I probably have enough clothes that I could ride without buying more riding gear. I may not even need the boots, but these three items are protective gear and it would be sensible to have them. Finally, I need to ride, ride, ride in order to develop my skills, confidence and learn about this bike. I can use the commuter train parking lot on weekends for slow riding practice and in the spring, get into an "update your riding skills” class. (GR)

In January 2008, my friend David and I went to the motorcycle show and I saw a lot of things but bought only a pair of cheap gloves. They probably won’t last very long, but they are gloves. David, another re-entry rider, bought gloves, helmet and jacket.

I talked with Robert that evening and he offered to help me get riding gear at the show the next day. We went — me for the second day in a row. Robert was fantastic! He bombed around the helmets, jackets and boots sections sizing me up and fitting me out. He knows his stuff. He did me a great service.

As you must realize by the fact I bought riding gear, I had also bought the K 75 RT. The bike is waiting in my garage for spring. I’ve already booked a class in preparation for riding once winter is over. In the meantime, I got a BMW MOA membership and I’m reading the Proficient Motorcycling books before re-entering the world of 21st century motorcycling.

Six years* and 90,000 kilometres later, bike and rider are still together and preparing for another riding season. The only problem is I’m starting to think about a GPS.

* Editor's note: Walter wrote this article in 2015.


Michael St John says...
Posted Monday, August 13, 2018
Thanks for your article, I can appreciate your journey back. I've been there and done that... Welcome back, I came back in 2013 with a new K1600GTL for my 60th birthday! Winter of 2017 the "adventure of turning left or right off the pavement caught my attention and so did R1200GS Adventure bikes. While in thew (GR) period I walked into the dealer to get my k1600GTL serviced and they made me a deal on an R1200GSA; my wife laughs to this day... I love being on a motorcycle, reminds of being 10 years old and heading out on a Saturday morning with a group of buddies for a day of exploring... Just makes me smile every time:-)))))
James L. Baker says...
Posted Monday, February 5, 2018
I also am a reentry bike rider from the 80s. I had a Suzuki GS550 while stationed at Macdill AFB and rode for several years then got involved in career journey and family and lost my bike. About 20 years later the riding bug hit me again and would not let up.I ended up buying a Yamaha FZ6 then Kawi Concours 14 and now a BMW S1000XR. I've been on multiple rides to NC, TN, GA. I've reentered bike riding with the desire to do it right with ATGATT, and studying riding techniques with emphasis on safe and fun riding.
Gary Larsen says...
Posted Thursday, January 25, 2018
Here we go again. It's been eighteen years for me and I'm nearly seventy years old. With a little coaxing from my wife I purchased a 2002 GS with 10,750 miles on it. It's my 10th bike. Had it shipped from Salt Lake to Wisconsin. Bike is like new and now winter is killing me. I really want to go for a ride. Wife says later is now and go for it. Got a good one, wife and bike.
Oscar Wijtenburg says...
Posted Monday, January 8, 2018
This story is quite compelling and even though my hiatus was only 7 years, they were long years. I finally bit the bullet last April and I'm loving it so much again, that I ditched my car.
Bryan Whitehead says...
Posted Wednesday, December 20, 2017
As Kevin noted the K75 is an excellent bike, period. Every.single.person. I know who had one regrets selling it. Perhaps the smoothest engine BMW has ever made.
Bryan Whitehead says...
Posted Wednesday, December 20, 2017
As Kevin noted the K75 is an excellent bike, period. Every.single.person. I know who had one regrets selling it. Perhaps the smoothest engine BMW has ever made.
Kevin Weiche says...
Posted Friday, November 17, 2017
If I may say so, you chose the best possible bike in the K75! I would also mention that making a decision over time through your "gradient responses" almost always results in a sound and well-deliberated decision. Good luck.
Daryl Johnston says...
Posted Thursday, November 16, 2017
Similar to Rob Grant's story I didn't ride for 24 years looking after kids. I couldn't forget motorcycling so I started with a couple of inexpensive bikes to ride with my son. We loved it and continue to ride today (now 28). My wife and 2 daughters said that it was terrible and they'd never do it. Slowly they all became riders. My oldest's boyfriend (now Husband) loved the idea and bought a bike to ride with my son and I. Then she wanted to try it and I got her a bike. The middle daughter got interested and I got her a bike as well. Finally, my wife got interested when we reunited with a couple from the time our kids were babies. We now do rides every year with them and she loves it. Motorcycling is a great family activity.
Rob Grant says...
Posted Tuesday, November 14, 2017
This was a great article that in many ways helps to explain what it is about motorcycles that gets into your blood and never leaves you. I stopped riding for 23 years so that the kids wouldn't grow up lusting for motorcycles. I did that for my wife. I took the training course to get my endorsement back and that was all it took. Even those 250cc training bikes get the blood going. Now, nine seasons later the joy of riding is still as strong as it was the first time I zipped across a parking lot on a 50cc step through and I ride every chance I can.
Sarah Elmassian says...
Posted Monday, November 6, 2017
I loved reading this, a wonderful colorful account, and even VERY familiar to this new rider! My husband returned to riding after 15 years off, after we started our family, and then moved to a better location. His return was with a BMW 650. A few bikes of various flavors later, and he is riding one gorgeous 2009 K1300S. Flash forward a few years, and I got the same GR, what if I....what if I....what if I.... and now am the extremely happy, thrilled (I got it BAD!...according to my husband) even addicted, owner and rider of a 2013 F800 GT. It becomes a part of your bone and your blood, a part of your soul. I love that you returned to riding, you could do no less, and love the posted fotos.... do we all pose the same when taking this type of shot? Love it! Thank you for sharing your journey back to the living! Ride safe!
John W. Browning says...
Posted Monday, November 6, 2017
Wonderful story. Having spent 20+ years employed in motorcycle dealerships I have seen this many times. I am so glad you reentered the two-wheeled world. I myself went about 5 years without a bike and regret it very much. But back in the saddle I am and will never be without a bike again. My motorcycle is my zen. Ride on Walter and welcome back.
Jerry Scott says...
Posted Monday, November 6, 2017
I enjoyed reading this memoir. I had a similar experience of riding a bike while fairly young and then going without for about 33 years. In 2006, after moving to NC from northern Va. I bought a used and then a new Suzuki 800cc touring bike. After awhile, I was thirsty to try out different bikes so I have gone through two Kawa Concours 1000, a Honda Shadow, a Triumph America, a Triumph Speedmaster, and now finally my dream bike, a 2008 BMW R1200RT with only 17K miles. I always admired the BMW Rs and now have one all my own. Today, I am taking it to GarciaMoto in Raleigh NC (100 miles) for its annual maintenance. They quoted me $900 for the full service including valve check. I bought it recently from a dealer that claimed to have serviced the bike but since they weren't a BMW dealer, I am gaining peace of mind, albeit at a high price. I am loving this ride and hope to put a lot of miles on her. At 79, that might not be too long but what the hell, you only go around once.
David Stephens says...
Posted Monday, November 6, 2017
Well written sir and thank you for sharing your experience!
Albert Petersen says...
Posted Monday, November 6, 2017
A friend says if he wants something he waits a couple of weeks and if he still wants it he buys it. Keeps the impulses under control. I thought of returning to riding for about six months after driving behind some bikes on a wonderful mountain road on a blue sky day. The idea would not leave my mind so I found an F650GS and that was ten years ago. My young son and I rode two up for a few years on many adventures and now he has an F800GS. We rode our bikes to Alaska and back summer of 2016 as a HS graduation gift. Motorcycles have cemented our relationship.
Patricia Blaskovic says...
Posted Monday, November 6, 2017
I like your comment “Why go and look at something I can’t afford...”. My wife said something similar at the Hamburg Rally in 2016 when I encouraged her to take an F700GS on a demo ride. She said “I don’t want to ride one because I can’t afford one.” A year later she was the owner of a 2014 model with only 1500miles on it! For her GR=GS!
Jim Nielsen says...
Posted Monday, November 6, 2017
I enjoyed learning about Gradient Response. Thank you. I had a similar experience in my return to riding. My hiatus was about 30 years or so and I returned to riding on a used '86 K75 in about 2013. I loved the sound of the sewing machine. I enjoyed your writing. Thanks
Charles E. Gajda says...
Posted Monday, November 6, 2017
I went through a similar situation. in 1987, I was the proud owner of a K75. I took that thing everywhere. My friends called it "the sewing machine". My machine was stolen right out of my front yard - cops found it a month later in a lake. Not salvageable as the bike had been running when the hoodlums dumped it in the lake - yea to hydrostatic lock damage! :/ Fast forward to April of 2017, after my 30 years hiatus, I purchased a used 2005 R1200GS. The bike was in great shape and came with a full set of saddle bags - tour ready! This past August I drove from Tucson to Jackson, Wyoming and back - I caught the total eclipse, took in some fly fishing and made some more great memories on a BMW motorcycle. I really don't know what took me so long to replace my bike, but I sure am happy I did...happy trails!

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