Tag Archives: motorcycle

Why We Ride

1462840_10151685737181910_101161043_nThis is part of an article I wrote that will be featured in Topwick this fall.

At precisely this moment someone, somewhere, is getting ready to ride. The motorcycle waits expectantly in the cool, dark garage. The leather-clad rider approaches, the helmet obscuring the world as it is pulled on, the chin strap buckled. The key slipped into the ignition, a leg swung over the seat, the rider thrusts the bike forward with his thighs. Now the 550 pounds of chrome, fuel and plastic rests in a fragile balance between the rider’s legs.

The starter button, pressed with the right thumb, makes the engine begin to trill. A twist of the throttle makes the bike bleat, then gulp, then roar. A fire is now contained inches away from fragile flesh. A pull of the left-hand clutch, then a neat press down with the left foot sends the bike into first gear. And thus begins the dance of man and machine.

The first motorcycle ever made resembles a torturing device. The German device, built in 1885 by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, was a wood-frame set upon two iron-tired wooden wheels. A single-cylinder gas engine acted as the power-plant.

Since then, motorcycles have been a staple in the American cultural landscape. In Europe, they have always been seen as a sensible mode of transportation. Here in the U.S., bikes have been a symbol of rebellion, freedom and anarchy. During the 1960’s and 70’s, motorcycle sales ballooned, in part due to the ethos of the time and a new era of experimentation. Then, between 1982 and 1991, annual sales freefell from 525,000 to 178,000.

Now, men from all walks of life are gobbling up motorcycles. From Harleys and Hondas to Suzuki’s and Triumphs, bike sales are at an all-time high. Partly spurred on by popular shows such as Sons of Anarchy and movies like The Motorcycle Diaries, documenting the cross-country trip of a prodigal son in South America, motorcycles are a trendy toy to have in your garage.

But why do we ride? What is the appeal of being exposed to the elements, of being inches away from death? Riding is a pastime defined by duplicities. Take the numbers, for instance: seven million riders against 225 million who don’t ride. Or the peculiar paradox of the faster you go the more control over the motorcycle you have. And the intricate tightrope you walk between fear and exhilaration; between life and death.

The road is constantly throwing tragedy toward the rider: oil spills, gravel, snow, water, daydreaming drivers, chasing dogs. Remember, riders are mortal. Beneath the leathers is tender skin. But it’s the deep affection for riding another mile, and then another, and then one more, that keeps a rider going.

How Hipsters Killed the Beard

Yah, you're hot, Ricki Hall, but there's nothing masculine about you.

Yah, you’re hot, Ricki Hall, but can you change a tire?

I have, and always will, be pro beard. My current boyfriend has a nice, thick beard and the last three before him also had lush face fur. I love running my fingers through a guy’s beard, watching him drip food all over it when he eats, tugging it during sex and daydreaming of all the little woodland creatures that would nest in it.

But something is happening that is killing my lady boner. More and more men who wear pants so tight they look like grape-smugglers have started growing facial hair. Beards are no longer reserved for duck hunters and lumberjacks. They’ve become an accessory amongst urban gents who think fanny packs are an appropriate fashion choice and cats make fantastic pets.

The beard has turned into the pushup bra of masculinity. Sure, it looks sexy, but what is it proving? You can definitely stand around looking all hunky chewing on a piece of straw and wearing a fedora and a bow-tie, but answer me this: Can you change a fucking tire? Do you know what a Phillips head is? Have you ever shot and butchered an elk in the Alaskan tundra?

Look, I empathize. Two thousands years of evolution and three waves of feminism later, you’re no longer allowed to go around with a clever in your hand killing saber tooth tigers. You’re stuck at your graphic design job all day, with no way to release your primal urges to chase shit, kill shit and fuck shit. How are you supposed to assert your masculinity when you’re designing ads for heavy flow tampons 40 hours a week; when you’re stuffing your face with arugula salad and truffle fries while at brunch with your boho girlfriend (whose, BTW, pants you’re wearing). I see the animal lurking behind your horn-rimmed glasses.

But that gives you no excuse to confuse me and my libido. When I see you around town, riding your little Triumph Bonneville’s or leaning slyly against the shaded wall of a bar smoking, my first thought is to burrow into your facial hair. The next thought is never to procreate.

Because if you did knock me up, you wouldn’t be able to build me a house à la Ryan Gosling. You wouldn’t be able to catch a salmon with your bare hands and peel the skin back, revealing the pink flesh underneath. Your hands are baby soft and don’t smell like motor oil. You don’t know what a carburetor is. Our fetus would probably be gay.

You probably would want to have gentle, kind sex. The type you see in Lifetime movies, the kind Sarah Palin has. You would be afraid to offend me if you flip me over, face down on the bed. You’d probably apologize afterwards.

Because men that treat facial hair as an accessory are not by any means masculine. You boys don’t sprout face fur to protect you from harsh climate conditions. You sprout it as a fashion statement. I mean, seriously, you maintain it. You go to stylists for your beard. You groom it with products. Not mud or dirt, but actual beauty products. Such as Jao’s Beard Scent, as the New York Times describes as being:

a shea-butter-based balm that smells of citrus fruits and evergreens

Seriously? Shea butter and citrus? What ever happened to a crummy bar of Irish Spring and some water?!

Yah, you know 15 recipes where kale is the main ingredients. You own a sweater vest and a fixie. Your Boston Terrier enjoys a healthy vegetarian diet. You know the difference between a macchiato and a cappuccino. Your favorite band is Foals. And you’re probably a super nice guy.

But lose the beard.