The following is extracted from an article in American Bicyclist and Motorcyclist, May 4, 1911. I have a thing or two in common with this gentleman as do many others who began riding or returned to riding as older adults. I refuse to admit, however, that being 50+ makes me “past middle age”.
In order to keep the piece at a manageable length, I’ve left out the writer’s experience with buying what we’d call a lemon for his first machine and trading it in for another.
Strange as it may seem, I made my first effort to navigate a motorcycle at a time of life when most men are content to go to and fro in a safe and sane street car and entertain the casual friend with the last bright saying of that remarkably bright grandson. In short, I was within a month of my fifty-first anniversary when I allowed myself to be overcome by the impulse which had been steadily prodding me for something like five years, to take up the motorcycle…
Of course, running the machine proved an easy task, once I had acquired an understanding of sparks, carburetors, throttles, etc., and had learned that roads which looked dangerous could be managed with perfect safety, if the rider kept his weather eye open. One or two falls helped, of course, to make me wise to the art of rounding unknown corners at a conservative speed and to tell when a wagon rut was deep enough to require circumspection in getting into and getting out of it. I presume the younger and more experienced riders who overtook and passed me on country roads, feeling my way along in a gingerly fashion, while they were, or seemed to me to be, traveling at cyclone speed, exchanged a jest or two at the expense of the ‘old guy’ who seemed to be jogging along to a funeral; but I reasoned that a little dust from fleeter riders, in the beginning at least, was better than a week in the hospital.
With growing experience, I acquired greater confidence, and by November, when I put the machine away for the winter after three months’ use, I felt sufficient confidence in myself and it to reel off twenty-five miles or more over good roads. I presume this will seem to your younger readers not much more exciting than a ride behind old Dobbin in the family carryall; but to me it is exhilaration enough, for the present, at least; much more so than a similar speed in a four-wheeler. I bought one of the latter about the same time that I bought the motorcycle, but it has spent most of its time in the barn, while the two-wheeler has run up a very respectable gasoline bill. The only drawback to the pleasure of motorcycling is that my friends, at least those of my own age or anywhere near it, seem to look on this new amusement as something requiring explanation and apology, pretty much as if they had caught me traveling around on roller skates. Why it should be not only dignified, but a sort of evidence of social standing, to drive a four-wheel gasoline vehicle, while propelling a two-wheel one is regarded, at least for a man of mature years, as an evidence of immaturity, a sort of toying with the sports of youth. I do not understand. Ten years ago all ages and all classes rode the bicycle, without criticism; then why should the immensely more versatile, convenient and useful motorcycle be delegated to men under thirty?
I expect, if circumstances are propitious, to make a trip to tide-water this summer, and to have the pleasure of calling at the office of ‘Motorcycle Illustrated’. While I shall not try to break any records, I expect to show that there is no reason why a man past fifty should not travel as far and as fast as any person traveling for pleasure, and not for records.
Ride safely, vrumblesramblingbikerblog.wordpress.com