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GS = Get Started!

Sunday, June 3, 2018   (5 Comments)
Posted by: Erik Willie #208606

I will never forget the first time my girlfriend Paige pulled into the driveway at my parents’ house on her motorcycle. It was a silver 2004 BMW F 650 GS. The way it looked, sounded and glided into the driveway mesmerized me. I was new to the world of motorcycles at this point. The minute she dismounted and removed her helmet, I was barely able to utter the words, “Can I ride it?” To my surprise, she said yes, but she was wise enough to make sure I understood the basics of a motorcycle before letting me take off like a wild banshee. I didn’t have a helmet so I agreed to stay in my yard and away from the pavement. After several minutes of going over the basics of the clutch, throttle and brake usage, as well as emergency shut down procedures, I thought I was ready.

Sitting on the motorcycle for the first time, I was a nervous wreck. The last thing I wanted to do was drop my girlfriend’s motorcycle. That wouldn’t have left a very good impression with her parents. She found neutral for me, started the bike and stepped away. For as long as I live, I will never forget the next few moments that unfolded. The very instant I eased out on the clutch, nudged the throttle, and picked my feet up, my life changed. From that very moment I knew that I wanted one. Not just a motorcycle, but a BMW GS. In that moment, a new obsession was sparked that I had to satisfy. I had to have it. I had to ride.

In the following months, my obsession grew with each passing day. I researched many things about motorcycles: the gear, the lifestyle and just what was it like to experience the world on two wheels. I wanted to know how, where and when to ride. The more pictures and stories of trips that Paige shared with me, the more interested I became.

On top of the Ozark Mountains overlooking Oklahoma on a five-day, 1,700-mile ride.

Paige is a twin, born into a family who loves motorcycles. Her parents are both MSF instructors. Her older brother rode dirt bikes and had street bikes, as did her twin brother. Her parents participated in countless enduro races, motorcycle rallies, long distance touring trips and of course teaching many students over the years. When Paige and her brother were 10, just one of their trips was a three-week trip on their Honda Gold Wings up the east coast to Nova Scotia and back. She grew up in the world of motorcycles. All of these stories and memories that Paige was sharing with me were just adding fuel to the desire to want to ride. She convinced me to sign up for the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) BRC (Basic Rider Course), which would allow me to better learn the basics of operating a motorcycle in the real world, not just my back yard.

In September 2012 I did the MSF BRC. I wish states would make this class mandatory for all riders before they can receive their motorcycle endorsement or license. I didn’t think there was that much to learn about riding when I went into the course, but was I ever wrong! The course teaches much about safety and risk management. It even taught me how to drive my regular vehicle in a safer manner. It was an awesome experience and I had a pair of awesome teachers as well. A few days later, I had a license and riding gear, but I had no motorcycle of my own.

For the next three years Paige’s family was kind enough to let me ride that marvelous silver beauty that started all of this in the first place. I enjoyed every minute on that GS. Being on it was like having an appetite that I just could not satisfy. Paige and I would take occasional rides on the weekends and around home with her parents every now and then. My desire kept growing, and the obsession became more concentrated on somehow getting my own bike. At the time, I was in college and had a minimum wage job. As time progressed, so did my career placements, and finally in February 2016, I decided to seriously shop for a motorcycle.

I had to have a silver BMW GS. After some advice from Paige’s parents on places to look, I set out on an unexpectedly short, yet successful expedition. I spent several days on the typical online markets with no avail and then began browsing around at the local dealerships. There were a few heavily used GSes around town, but none of them gave me the confidence to take them home. Not that they weren’t well taken care of, I was just uneasy about a motorcycle that had so much wear on it.

Erik and Paige traversing some gravel roads one weekend on the hunt for the perfect pizza.

Early one Friday morning a bike that wasn’t a BMW caught my eye on a local dealership’s website. I called and ran over to them to check it out. He said they would have it on the floor waiting for me. I walked in to meet the friendly salesman, he walked me over to it, and there it was: a 2010 BMW F 650 GS Twin. (What can I say? I have a thing for twins!) It only had 9,000 miles on it, and it looked like it came straight from the factory. Luckily I remembered to bring my gear with me to take it for a test ride. They moved it to the parking lot for me, cranked it, showed me the controls and I was off.

It’s funny how sometimes events in your life can repeat themselves. Here I was (again) on a silver GS, trying something out to see if I liked it, to see whether or not I was really serious about this. I eased off the clutch, nudged the throttle, picked up my feet, and it happened. I was instantly brought back to that moment in my back yard when I first tasted two-wheeled freedom. I knew I had to have it; this bike was made for me. Just one week later, I rode that GS home.

My obsession continues to grow. I constantly come up with excuses to get on my GS and ride. I take the long way to and from everywhere. I’ve had the privilege of taking many solo rides on what is now my primary mode of transportation, many rides with Paige, and a few great rides with her parents and a group of friends. Since purchasing the GS I’ve added many farkles to make a good riding bike great for me.

I’m 6’3” and about 220 lbs, so the notebook-sized windscreen didn’t cut it for me. Neither did the idea of having to stuff all of my belongings in my jacket pockets. I’ve added racks, bar risers, LED headlights and some miscellaneous electronics. I’ve become so attached to my motorcycle that when I show up to places, people no longer react by saying “Oh! You’re on your bike today!” They’re used to that. Everyone acts more surprised when I show up in my pickup truck. I have had the bike for about a year and a half as of writing this and I’ve logged right at 24,000 miles on it. Looking for many more to come!

Erik and Paige out for a summer ride on the CS and GS that started it all.

There is a whole different point of view gained when you are on two wheels, out in the environment. Riding gives such a different state of mind, like you don’t have to worry about where you are going and when you’re going to get there.

Thinking back on how my life has literally been changed by that defining moment when Paige allowed me to ride her GS, I think of the many opportunities it has opened for me. I’ve gained many friendships, strengthened some relationships, I’ve been given new opportunities to pursue things in life, and many chances to share my story and even share my faith in the Lord with people I come in contact with. There is an entire worldwide community of fellow riders out there who are willing to help out if you need something, or if you just simply want to shoot the bull about two wheels. This was astounding to me when I first got involved. It’s a sense of community that feels more like family.

Don’t let anyone tell you it’s too early or too late to get started on doing something you love. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to complete the training and become a certified MSF instructor this past year, and am now working with the Louisiana Department of Public Safety Motorcycle Safety Program. Now I can really share my passion with folks who are interested in learning about safe and effective motorcycling.

I wanted to share my experience with you not to brag on how much I’ve been able to do, but to encourage you to do the same. You don’t have to be rich or a rocket scientist to become enveloped in the motorcycle world. Anyone can enjoy the benefits of a motorcycle if they so desire. I started out on a borrowed bike and motorcycle gear off the clearance rack. Don’t let a chance pass you by that may be an open door to many other opportunities. What does GS even stand for anyway? Gelände/Straße, which means off road/on road – but it means so much more for me. GS stood for something else for me – Get Started!

In the back woods of McComb, Mississippi discovering some gravel roads together.


Erik Willie says...
Posted Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Thanks for the kind words! I wrote this a year ago and I thought it didn't make the cut. My bike has almost 46k miles on it now, and it has been a great journey! Working more often teaching the motorcycle safety courses, and many trips planned! Hope to see some of you at the rally in Des Moines next month! Looking forward to a summer of many firsts!
William C. Walker says...
Posted Monday, June 4, 2018
I believe my wife would have a very similar story. Our first date was on my 2013 R1200RT. We go everywhere on this bike. Together we have logged more than 40,000 miles. We have both learned a lot. Me, how to travel with a companoin, her, how to get by without three pairs of
Luciene Moore says...
Posted Monday, June 4, 2018
Loved this story, along with the personal glimpses into the journey that started with your girlfriend on her bike. I too have ridden all of my adult life yet miss that common bond with a spouse/boyfriend. Your article gives me 'hope' of still the possibility of finding that special guy who enjoys mc riding as much as I do. Happy riding to you and Paige! MOA #197178
Mark Butcher says...
Posted Monday, June 4, 2018
Great story! Thanks for sharing. Many happy and peaceful rides to you and Paige.
Ethan M. Powsner says...
Posted Monday, June 4, 2018
Erik. Nice story. It brought back many nice memories. I agree that it is never too late to get become involved in motorcycling. I bought my first bike when I was 52. Ethan Powsner. MOA #211996

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