So, Your Baby Wants to Ride

Nov 27, 2014 View Comments by

So, Your Baby Wants to RideYour “baby” is your son or daughter of 16-plus years of age—who will of course, be your “baby” forever. You feel very protective of them, and that’s natural. Unfortunately, you know too much about riding, and all the bad drivers out there just waiting to ruin their day. In your mind’s eye they are still the kids who put Legos up their noses and shaved the cat with your new electric razor. (Did you ever find that cat?)

They are also the kids that you bought the safest car you could find when they started driving. You remember—it’s the one that they totaled two weeks after getting their license. Only now, they want a motorcycle that offers no protection whatsoever. No worries … right? Wrong! You are going to worry about everything until you’re dust; it’s in our DNA. Let’s see if we can make it a bit easier on ourselves.

First, what’s the reason they want to ride? Is it because they want to experience the wind-in-their-face freedom that they see you enjoying? Excellent! Or, is it because their friends all have bikes? That one is a bit weak. It smacks of peer-pressure, and as such, will be short-lived and dropped as soon as the next “cool thing” comes along. If the urge is legitimate, then what can we do to make this entire experience safe, yet satisfying?

Well, the first thing you have to do is convince them that they have to “crawl before they walk, walk before they run” (meaning the bike size they start with). They want a crotch rocket able to hit Mach one; you want a moped just about able to get out of its own way. Personally, I really dislike mopeds. The ones I have ridden were ‘”snaky,” and all over the road with just a twitch of the handlebars. The wheels were small and seemed to grab at every tar strip and road crack. Don’t believe me? Go to any junkyard and see how many mopeds there are, wrecked with less than 300 miles on them. For what it’s worth, I think a good, used 175 or 250cc bike is a perfect starter machine: enough power to keep up with traffic, and with respectable handling. The Internet is full of these for sale at reasonable prices. If you need help selling this idea to the “fruit of your loins,” show them what the insurance on a crotch rocket will cost them.

The next step is the most important. Get them enrolled in a good rider training program; both dealerships and numerous technical colleges offer these programs. It is the best investment you will ever make. In fact, maybe this should be step one. They might not even like riding, and then you’re not stuck with another bike, and your wife telling you, “I told you so.” My next suggestion will, I am sure, get the most replies—helmets. I have been wearing one since I started riding in 1966, and I still have the same one (long retired from the road). We, here at RoadRUNNER, always wear helmets, mostly full face ones. Harley-Davidson requires that anyone riding a company bike wears a helmet. You can’t spend too much on one either. I have spent more time than I ever wanted to in the hospital this past year, and I can tell you that seeing a young person with serious head injuries, trying to learn how to walk, talk, and feed themselves again is a heart-wrenching feeling. I can only imagine what it must feel like to be their parents.

Nothing makes me crazier than to see someone riding in shorts, a T-shirt, and flip flops! You don’t have to put your kid in full leathers as there are all kinds of options and styles available. Style aside, a good pair of riding boots would be a great investment, but you already knew that.

This whole thing is not going to be easy as you can’t be with your kids every minute of every day. They will make mistakes. You did, didn’t you? All you can do is give them the proper tools and a good example. Then pray. Just think how much fun it will be when you can ride together. Think about it—you’re still here. They must have gotten their smarts from somewhere!

Ride on.


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About the author

A Wisconsin farm boy, I learned how to ride a cow, before a horse and way before a motorcycle. I first started riding on my 16th birthday and I took my first real ride at my party: I pulled a wheelie and dug a trench in the lawn, which sent the bike in one direction and me in another. I was irrevocably hooked!