RoadRUNNER Zen Motorcyclist

Bikes and Brothers

Mar 04, 2012 View Comments by

My brother taught me to ride my first motorcycle. Dave had ridden for many years and we had a fairly typical brother relationship; but had decidedly different interests. He’s a hard worker my brother – honest, trustworthy, loyal to the core. When our father died suddenly at just 57 years old the desire to ride started to grow in my brain, partly because I wanted something Dave and I could do together. I think maybe most of the emotions between brothers are unspoken, the good ones anyway. In one of my favorite movies “The Straight Story” the main character says “There’s no one who knows your life better than a brother that’s near your age. He knows who you are and what you are better than anyone on earth.”

One day I asked him: “Do you think you can find me a cheap bike? I think I’d like to learn to ride”. My brother is always buying and selling ATV’s, cars, lawn mowers, campers, you name it. It only took him about a week to find me my ’81 Maxim. Man, I loved that bike. I kept it at my parents’ house because they lived in the country where there was little traffic. I would drive over on weekends and my brother and I would tour around the quiet Nazareth, Pennsylvania countryside together. He stayed close by, always looking back and nodding to see if I was OK.

My brother walked me through the gears, checked the bike to make sure it was safe, and told me about the gas reserve and how to access it. Mostly we just rode together while my brain got used to not thinking about what to do next to keep the machine upright. I remember my first few fumbling rides, “left hand clutch, left foot shift, right hand throttle, right hand front brake, right foot rear brake…” over and over again until they became second nature.

Dave is three years younger than me but, much like a father does, he’s taught me a lot and has never once failed to be there when I needed him. After I got fairly proficient at riding I suggested we take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation safety course together, which we did. Dave was “top gun”, which was announced, much to my chagrin; in front of the entire class as we received our signed permits (everyone knew we were brothers). “You had to tell him didn’t you?  Now he’s got bragging rights forever – nice” is what I told our instructor.

That was 13 years ago. Dave and I still ride together, although he thinks I’m crazy for riding year round, and a couple of years ago he came with a flatbed to pick up my bike after it was crushed by a deer. He pieced it back together in his garage while I healed. So when I think about riding it’s inextricably linked to my father’s death and my relationship with my brother and that makes it all the more special to me. No one can ever tell me a motorcycle is just something you ride to get from here to there. Sometimes they take you places you never expected to go.

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About the author

I have been motorcycle commuting since 1998. I created Zen Motorcyclist (formerly Commuting Motorcyclist) in 2011 and work as a motojournalist, software developer, CAD designer and IT/CAD manager in the Surveying and Civil Engineering field.