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The adventures of COVID-19

Thursday, July 2, 2020   (6 Comments)
Posted by: Maurice O’Neill #207971

COVID-19 has disrupted the population and the economy and has unfortunately snatched a few good souls. While a resolution is beyond my control, I can certainly fine tune the inconvenience to my advantage.

I’m a strong believer that a half-full glass contains a darn sight more than a half-empty one. My four bikes are gleaming in the garage. I have serviced, detailed and even installed new tires and brakes on one. Tomorrow, I’m putting front and rear video cameras on my GS.

Taking home-projects to an entirely new technical level, fellow MOA member John McLaughlin removed his wheel spokes, powder-coated the rims and re-trued his wheels. What a project!

Like many others, my wife is working from home, and while lodged in the study, I hardly notice her. Instead of her daily three-hour commute to New York City, we now take walks in local parks and, once the parks closed, the streets of adjacent townships. Exploring these streets got me thinking about local roads I have never ridden. New Jersey, the garden state, is blessed with some beautiful motorcycle runs that, with the right gear, offer three riding seasons.

Over the years, owning multiple bikes and having many house guests who also ride, I have visited all New Jersey’s motorcycle landmarks several times, or so I thought. Using Goggle Maps, I’ve discovered roads through private and national parks I didn’t know existed, local lakes and reservoirs I’ve never visited, and interesting roads meandering along river banks. Some of these routes are narrow and are short detours you normally just wouldn’t consider, but by connecting several of them, you get a whole new, beautiful riding experience. Though some of these roads are in appalling condition with rutted tarmac and unmaintained dirt, their condition just adds to the fun by slowing you down to enjoy rural beauty not seen before.

The Raritan River Road between Califon and High Bridge, New Jersey, is rutted so badly in spots your suspension chatters, yet nature’s beauty amply compensates with foamy water, overhanging trees, dancing shadows and the moist smells of a forest. I can almost close my eyes and return to the rugged beauty along the west coast of Ireland, lashed barren by the Atlantic Ocean.

My first motorcycle back in Ireland was a Honda 50cc step-through, three-speed automatic. The year was 1971, and my father had no idea I was borrowing it, until I reached the tarmac. Two years later he upgraded to a Heinkil Tourist 175cc and gave the Honda to me. I toured the country on that bike even though my younger brother called it a sewing machine—rich, coming from someone riding a bicycle!

At 17, the thrill of independence, the freedom to travel and the sheer delight of a motorcycle were intoxicating. At full throttle and riding downhill without a headwind, the speedometer needle bounced close to 60 mph. Because of the leg guards, the engine was prone to overheating, but this could be alleviated by coiling the spring from a ballpoint pen around the oil pipe to improve cooling. My second bike, a single-cylinder, 175cc two-stroke BSA had seen better days by the time I bought it. Poverty mandates ingenuity, so I “machined” the cylinder head with a smooth file to regain compression. I still remember the almighty bang while flogging it up the main Dublin Road. I never found the cylinder head.

Modern bikes only have two wheels and a brake lever in common with the bikes of my youth, and thank God for that. At 64 years young, I just want to throw a leg over and ride as fast, far and energetically as I wish. Maintenance should be an oil change every 10,000 miles and perhaps a set of brake pads every 20,000. But nowadays, you can put 60,000 miles on most motorcycles without a rebuild, and if it’s a BMW, triple that with a smile. The difference between the old bikes of my youth and modern motorcycles is like comparing a dog’s lifespan to a parrot’s. I love the gizmos on today’s bikes, especially traction control to tame my enthusiasm. I’m fine with ABS providing you can switch it off.

COVID-19 is unfortunate, but I have seen more of New Jersey because of it. With most all rallies cancelled, I’m planning a few adventures of my own. A tour around the east side of Lake Erie is definitely in the cards. Camping shouldn’t be a problem, and because I like my beans cold and tuna from a tin, my fine dining is covered. My only need is to plan the dates.

Do I feel like a renegade for riding my motorcycle during COVID-19? After careful consideration I look at it this way. At 64, I am indeed fortunate to be in respectable health. The reality is that this is the closing chapter of my lifespan, and if I can’t spoil myself now, WHEN?

Motorcycling is in my DNA. It is as much a part of my life as my wife. My glass is still half full, and I will keep sipping until it’s empty.

Ride, safe, y’all.


Eric Suhr says...
Posted Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Very nice article, Maurice! I live in central NJ and have ridden all the roads you mention (and then some). Contrary to popular belief NJ is a great place to ride. If you're local to the area check out Skylands BMW Riders (MOA 215) on FB or strike me as a kindred spirit!
Jeff Stone says...
Posted Monday, July 6, 2020
Good article. It brought back memories. I live in Las Vegas now but was brought up in North Jersey. I am 67 and have taken pictures of almost every car and bike I have owned at that exact same spot under the GWB. It is much more impressive than any picture could show. Ride Safely!!!
Wayne D. Landry says...
Posted Sunday, July 5, 2020
Great article. Thanks for sharing the inspiration.
Joachim Wulfers says...
Posted Friday, July 3, 2020
Nice article though Covid-19 and travel restrictions into Canada may through you a curve ball when it comes to riding around the east side of lake Erie. At 64 you are still a "youngster" and thus far from being in the closing chapter of your life. Figure on age 94 and you have only reached 66% of your potential. By the way I have reached the young age of 77. Keep on riding and stay safe.
David Fontenot says...
Posted Friday, July 3, 2020
Nice article. We are all doing a lot of “adapting” but everything will be alright. Stay safe.
Jerry Hill says...
Posted Friday, July 3, 2020
Thanks for the article, especially the enthusiasm. At 60, I've ridden some and want to do more.

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