Cafe Racer Begets C.A.F.E. Warrior
Many years ago, when I lived in New York City, my only form of personal transportation, besides shoe leather, was a motorcycle. Cars in the Big Apple were a curse, with garage space costing as much as a suburban apartment, and street parking requiring that one’s whole life revolved around arcane alternate-side-of-the-street rules, meter maids, and the ever-prowling tow trucks. Before the bike I used mass transit locally and rented cars to escape the land of hot tin roofs and taxi cabs. Then came the bike.
That first bike changed everything; I had, to quote The Who, “Gone Mobile.” The world opened up for me—now I could go anywhere anytime, and I did. From supermarket to superslab to rural America I did roam. As time passed and I moved into the suburbs to be closer to the good riding roads, I became a commuter. I thrived on the daily combat of hustling a motorcycle through rush-hour traffic with all the manic cagers, buses, and cabs. In the days before Rudy Giuliani, and to some respects 9/11, New York was almost a Wild West frontier town. The roads were nearly lawless, especially around rush hour and in the tunnels that go under the Hudson River. Nowadays it is much different, but back then almost anything went, and you had to fight to survive.
I learned to ride kick-butt-or-die style in NYC—you just made them other drivers know you were there and they better give you space, or forgettaboutit. Of course, it did not hurt that back then everyone bought the Hollywood B-movie crap that bikers packed weapons and were more dangerous than a herd of woolly mastodons. One good scowl at a driver at a tunnel merge, or a glove-fisted tap on their window, was all it took; no horn needed, just yell at them.
I also insisted on running all my errands on the bikes. The dresser could haul enough groceries for a week, and any excuse to ride was welcomed. Heck, I brought a sewing machine home from the mall once, with a passenger to boot. I even brought home a completely decorated Christmas tree on a 650cc cruiser, riding the length of Manhattan, but I digress. Suffice it to say that I used the bike for every errand or trip that I could. That is, until one day.
I had just returned from a three-week, almost 9000-mile trip from New Jersey down to the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, across to L.A, up to Vancouver, B.C., across Canada and then back home to N.J. All those miles were covered uneventfully. I woke up the next day and needed to go to the store; my poor other bike had wasted away for three weeks without being ridden. Off I went, and two miles from the house a yuppie lady in the left-turn-only lane with her left-turn signal blinking suddenly made a right turn; she was headed into a gas station to ask for directions. Unfortunately for her, there was no one there since they were closed. Unfortunately for me, I was in the right lane at the time. No amount of safety training could save me from her mistake and the laws of physics. She clipped me. What is it they say about the first five miles from home being the most dangerous?
Well, by the time I had learned to walk again and the bike was repaired, I had decided that I would just use the bikes for pleasure and not for little trips to the store where the mindless and lost wander comfortably in their minivans. That is, until recently.
My bikes get between 35 and 50 MPG, the highest-efficiency vehicles in my personal Citizen’s Average Fuel Efficiency (or C.A.F.E.) rating. Since we have been getting &%^$ lately by the combination of OPEC, hurricanes, Big Oil, and environmentalists preventing the building of new oil refineries or new domestic oil production since the 1970’s oil-embargo days, I have decided to brush off my old NYC biker armor. I am riding my bike on every errand or trip that I can. I am also telling everyone who will listen that I am fighting back by riding and doing my part to lower the demand for fuel. So look out SUV America—that woolly biker is roaming into the war zone of the supermarket parking lot. You might want to do the same and tell EVERYBODY. Maybe we can make it a movement, to paraphrase Arlo Guthrie: an entire two-wheeled Motorcycles-Are-Everywhere-Saving-Gas Movement. Bikes and Bikers Rules!