They come out in the spring. You see them everywhere. Buzzing around, bothering everyone in sight. No I’m not talking about mosquitoes. Or real estate agents.
I’m talking about a fairly recent and entirely regrettable phenomenon: I’m talking about middle-aged men in leather pants.
Yes the motorcycle craze has roared its ugly head across our noisy nation, and the baby boomers are to blame.
It seems that the phrase “baby boomers” now translates loosely into “older guys with disposable income.” And dispose of it they do. Right into the coffers of every Honda and Harley dealership within driving distance.
An alarming number of boomers shovel their hard-earned cash into the wildly expensive Goldwing motorcycles. These beasts are basically luxury limousines on two wheels. With ergonomically over-engineered seats exactly like the $900 leather Lazy-Boy armchairs. The faring (or windshield for the uninitiated) looks like the front end of a F22 Raptor jetfighter, and it’s impossible to ignore the enormous, brightly-lit chrome back end that looks like silver playground climbing equipment. And all of this plunked on an engine the size of your average two-car garage, packing enough horsepower to launch a space shuttle.
So, at a modest retail cost of about $250 million, you too can be a biker, only without the discomfort of actually experiencing what a real motorcycle is like. We’re talking a looong way from Easy Rider.
There they are — putt putt putting along, perched proudly on their unaffordable two-wheeled Barcaloungers, all decked out in their leathers.
And many have passengers — hard to imagine, I know, but it’s true! Most often it’s the ‘better half’ — because she has been with the old guy for so long she actually trusts his driving. Either that or she wouldn’t dare let him out of her sight to have any fun anywhere by himself. So the brave brides roost in the mini-armchairs behind our fearless motorcycle men, carefully wardrobed in matching leathers, helmets and attitude. Pure motorcycle madness.
My friend now owns and proudly covets the aforementioned Goldwing highway monster. He is determined that I get a bike and join in on one of his ‘big trips.’
I sat on the Goldwing. In his garage. Started it up. I shut it off. That was enough for me. The thought of roaring along a steep and slippery mountain road at 120 km/h on this pile of plastic and metal frankly gave me the heebie-jeebies.
Not that it wasn’t comfortable. A few of the features? Heated handlebar grips, heated seats, forced-air heating fans for the legs, computer-controlled, adjustable hydraulic rear suspension, built-in GPS navigational system, four stereo sound-surround speakers for the AM/FM radio, six-disc CD changer and MP3 player. Cruise control and ABS brakes.
How about a motorized remote headlight aiming system? An electronic reverse gear (apparently in case you’re bored and want to hit the highway backwards?). And, of course, air bags.
Yep, air bags. On a motorcycle. I don’t know about you, but it would seem pretty clear to me that if you crash bad enough on a motorcycle to deploy an air bag . . . well, let’s just say, wouldn’t it make more sense to have airbags built into your stylish leather cycle suits rather than into the motorcycle?
So, I’m thinking, with all of these so-called “safety features” built into today’s luxury motorcycles, why not go the extra mile? Why not add, say, a roll cage around the bike, and maybe reinforce that with, say, steel panels with safety glass to see out of? Maybe add a door to get in and voila — you’d actually have a safe motorcycle!
You could call it something catchy, like The Safety Cycle. Or maybe they could add, say, one or two wheels and call it, oh, I don’t know, a car?
Now there’s a concept for you.
Even I would probably go on a ‘big trip’ in one of those.
Harley Hay is a local filmmaker and freelance writer.