The baby boomer bell curve was behind motojournalist Philip Buonpastore’s motivation to create Shifting Gears at 50. He says, “I wrote Shifting Gears at 50 because I saw the need for a book that would address the requirements of the older person who wanted to ride motorcycles, and the book was written to try to help steer new riders in this age group around some of the mistakes typically made by a novice. Besides the experience that I had personally acquired over time, I also talked to other riders and simply observed the tastes and riding styles of riders like myself. The choices in the kind of motorcycles, as well as the kind of riding experience that a 40-plus-year-old rider wants, is usually much different from a 20-something-year-old rider. I had not seen a book about motorcycling that focused on new riders who were in this age group and I thought I could address the need.”
Buonpastore has managed to shift into his 50s, but he’s still left in the dust by legendary racer, moto-magazine editor and riding instructor Walt Fulton. Now the lead instructor for Streetmasters Motorcycle Workshops, Fulton has written the majority of riding tips that appear as sidebars in the book. Buonpastore also has enlisted others to write their personal riding experiences as another type of sidebar titled “A Rider’s Tale.” However, the photos are all Buonpastore’s and they are sufficient to inspire people to straddle a saddle and set out to explore America.
This book is conveniently divided into two sections: Part 1, Becoming a Motorcyclist, and Part 2, Traveling by Motorcycle. The first part has seven chapters and then progresses in a logical sequence from learning to ride to traveling long distances. The chapters in between focus on buying a motorcycle, setting up the bike, choosing the right gear, first rides and first tours. The second part is comprised of five travelogues: “The Real Florida,” “The Road Goes on Forever,” “The Road Back,” “North Georgia Colors” and “New Roads, New Rides.”
Those of us who have been riding for a while often forget how overwhelming, if not actually daunting, the learning curve is for new riders. Besides figuring out what is the best type of bike for their purposes/skill levels/wallets, these new riders are faced with making choices about a wide range of gear, accessories and concepts. Try to explain counter steering to a new rider: Yeah, right; turn the front wheel in the opposite direction you want to go… good joke. Tools? Who needs tools? The dealer services my motorcycle. The required air pressure is marked on the side of the tire, right? Simply choosing the right gear is something that many experienced riders have failed to accomplish, so this book becomes a handy refresher course for them as well.
Part 2 begins with the author’s first magazine article, The Real Florida. It includes other articles—sometimes edited and others in original submitted form—written over the years. Every one of them provides incentive to own a bike and, coupled with other rider’s tales, it should give one enough ammunition to justify the purchase of a motorcycle to their otherwise reluctant significant other. Besides, they’re great stories to read during the ice-bound depths of winter. 4