Spare Parts: Driven to ride

By Ernie Copper

Motorcyclists who endure winters are a unique breed. Being from the northeast myself, I understand this. There are plenty of places in the States colder than Western Pennsylvania, and I don’t know how they survive. Once, I had to visit Minnesota for work in the winter. They have overhead heaters at some of the bus stops. That’s otherworldly cold in my opinion.

I think cold weather riders are the reason there’s a Daytona Bike Week. So we can all get warmed up. The warmth of the long-forgotten sun on your face in Florida after months of snow, below freezing temperatures, shoveling, ice scraping and pipe thawing is appreciated by riders from the cold in ways only they can understand. We should all probably move someplace warmer but we’re too cold to look.

Because of this, when we get an unseasonably warm day, like we had last Thursday, it seems like bikers pop up around every bend on the road. Last Thursday it was 62 degrees in Western Pennsylvania. That’s 62 degrees, in January. If you’re reading this in San Diego, that probably doesn’t mean much. But we’d just come off a three-week string of waking up to single-digit temperatures and this 62-degree day seemed downright glorious.

Now, it makes perfect sense to me that bikers break out their bikes to enjoy such a unique day. People doing all sorts of nice weather things—washing cars, walking dogs, taking down holiday decorations. Lots of people around here don’t normally take down Christmas decorations until the next holiday comes along. Sometimes that’s the Fourth of July. Aside from the navigational risks of all the residual road crud that served to keep things safe when the roads were icy, it seems like you’d have been a fool not to be out on your bike enjoying a rare gem of a day like this one.

As the bikes thundered past me going the opposite direction, I noticed a pattern. First was the Amber Whiskey-colored Street Glide, followed by the black Softail and then a Sportster. These bikes had nothing in common except that they were all Harleys. As the afternoon passed, the trend continued, one H-D after another. I did pass one four-cylinder rider just before I headed for home. No adventure tourers, no BMWs, no dual sports. Just Harleys except for the one guy on the in-line four of unknown origins. Not one of these riders were what you’d call bundled up. Maybe they did have heated grips, heated suits or heated vests, but I doubt it. Everyone’s face was in the wind and you could see ear-to-ear grins on every one of them! It was also interesting that every bike I past seemed to be clean. No real road dogs in the bunch.

You don’t have to be tough to ride in January, especially if it’s 62 degrees outside. But you do have to want to ride. This is where I think the Harley riders are a cut above. We want to ride. We’re waiting for a chance to ride. We are driven to ride. Riding makes a positive difference in our life and in our attitude. We don’t care if anyone else gets it, or sees us. We need it.

It’s probably the reason Harley riders have more penguin- and frostbite-type rides than do other brands. I’m sure somebody somewhere knows a dealership other than a H-D dealer who has had a ride every New Year’s Day for the last 50 years. My hat is off to you if you do. But in my experience, you are few and far between. The H-D riders own New Year’s Day.

Riders in the cold-weather states must be ready to pounce on that rare 62-degree January day. Batteries must be charged, gas tanks topped off, tires aired up and vacation days saved. Otherwise you spend the whole day getting ready to ride, instead of riding. These are not the folks who “put their bikes away” for the winter. They stand ready for a day like this. Many live for it.

It was a fantastic day to do anything, but an especially fantastic day to ride! Twenty-four hours later, businesses were closing early in anticipation of an ice/snow storm that was bearing down on us. That storm did occur and with it came the return of single-digit temperatures. I observed exactly zero bikes of any make during that storm, or since.

That 62-degree January day will have to hold most of us over for another few months or more, unless you’re planning on going to Daytona. It’s been a tough winter here in Western Pennsylvania. The Steelers didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, it’s been bone-chillingly cold for almost a month and the coldest month is yet to come. But this one Thursday in January 2018 we knew what it must be like to live in Florida. On a crappy day.

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