Most everyone takes a similar approach to writing about love this time of year, whether it’s our first crush, or advice about how to maintain a successful relationship with a wife. Maybe I’ll take a different avenue all together, and talk a little bit about my love for motorcycles in general, and a little lady named Harley, in particular.
I realize it’s a stretch to suggest anyone can love any machine, but a “love affair” is more about tickling etherial senses than some objective definition. Certain places and things most definitely feel right, sometimes even within moments of introduction. Such was my experience with a Suzuki RM125 at the age of 12. It was no frills, yellow, and a bit beaten up by my buddy and his three brothers. And that Sunday afternoon in rural New Jersey it tossed me around, tested my nerve and patience, but by nightfall, having spit grass and mud in every direction, I was hooked. My father was fond of horses and had taken me riding on a few occasions, so I already understood a little about working in tandem with the “vehicle” beneath me. The RM was inflexible, but not unforgiving, provided I respected her boundaries. The next morning, I was sore and bruised, but I also felt rugged, for lack of a better term. Sure, the combination of speed, power and flight captured my boyhood fancy, but there was also a very real attachment to nature, and experiencing it in a new and exhilarating way.
I rode mostly dirt bikes or enduros for the next few years, maybe an occasional lift on something more street appropriate but nothing memorable, until… One fateful day, my car was broken into. I had a really fun Alfa Romeo Spider, and while parked outside my apartment building, someone moron busted the driver’s side window and stole the stereo. In the process, the canvas convertible top was torn, leather interior slashed, an utter mess. I felt violated, and decided it was time to move on. So, while answering an ad to buy a Jeep, the owner’s FXRS caught my eye. It was black and silver with red pinstripe and lots of chrome, and I couldn’t resist taking it for a spin. It was my first solo experience on a Harley, and something about the sunshine, scenery and my mood blended magically with that motorcycle. It felt like mine. It felt free, and liberating after the vandalism of my car. It was a whole new chapter for a young guy who grew up in a conservative household, whose father had died just a few years earlier, and who fit oh so perfectly in that saddle. It was completely impractical as a primary means of transportation, of course, but maybe that was part of the appeal. In more was than one, I had already been living on my own out in the world. I was working and paying my own bills while also trying to stay in school, feeling like a grownup but not always knowing what that meant. It certainly felt like more responsibility than I could handle, even if I wouldn’t admit it at the time. The Harley gave me something new, something uniquely mine: a new perspective about myself. Isn’t that what love does better than anything else? It gives us a feeling of belonging, togetherness, and inspiration.
Relationships with other people are obviously more intense than machines, be it motorcycle or automobile, but they are also more complicated. That FXRS gave me a lot of grief sometimes, and required as much sweet talk as some later girlfriends, but it also set the bar for every bike I’ve owned since. — Mark Mormar