The Grey Wolf Pack

Like our membership, the older riding community is not exclusively male. We have women members in our club, and among the numerous riding clubs in town there are several all-women groups. In those clubs, like ours, a considerable percentage of the club members are in or close to retirement. At our monthly breakfast meetings or the Saturday or Sunday rides, a familiar theme starts to emerge.

Retirement hobbies, motorcycling“I used to ride when I was single,” the almost-universal story goes. “Then I got married and the kids came along. When they moved out, I got back into riding.” Details vary. In my own case, a friend got a job in California’s Silicon Valley and couldn’t take his motorcycle with him. He left it with me for “safe keeping.” A few weeks later, I mailed him a check. Two years later, I got a second bike, then a third.

For the Retreads, motorcycles are not just a reason to get together with friends on weekends and once a month for breakfast. They are for riding. You can get a used bike that you won’t be ashamed to be seen on for under $5,000, even cheaper if you want to park it behind the house. A new cruiser won’t give you much change from a $20,000 bill and the top of the line Honda Gold Wings and Harley-Davidson Ultras cost as much as a new Lexus with cloth seats. That will get the bike home. Then there are accessories, everything from a chrome cup-holder to satellite radio. One club member was shocked to find out his $25,000 bike had accumulated almost $60,000 worth of chrome, bling and upgrades since he bought it in 2005. Today’s motorcycles are generally low maintenance – gas, oil and the occasional tune-up – with new tires every 15,000 kms or so. In growing numbers, older riders are switching to trikes and three wheel CanAm Spyders, a cure for that falling-over thing.

Riders have to be outfitted as well – helmet, gloves, boots, jacket, pants. The traditional leather is giving way to waterproof, breathable synthetics with built-in soft armour in the places that could hit pavement when that texting soccer mom in the mini van inevitably turns in front of you without signaling. There’s a reason why Retreads prefer longer rides on the open road.
This year’s Retread ride schedule includes day trips to places like Waterton, Banff and Drumheller; overnight trips to Radium, Cranbrook or Jasper; long weekend trips to Montana, Idaho or the B.C. Coast, 10 day trips to Sturgis, South Dakota or Moab, Utah; then there are longer road trips to Colorado, Arizona, Nevada or California. “If you have the time and means,” one Retread said, “why not?”

Among the non-motorcycling public, the answer to that is usually, “Because it’s dangerous.” There’s no way to sugarcoat that; it is dangerous and when you’re an older rider, it’s even more so. Eyesight isn’t as good, reactions are slower, bones don’t knit as fast as they used to. We ride with extra caution, extra care and many take extra training. Still, the statistics are scary – older riders are three times more likely to be killed or injured than younger riders. Numbers like that make you want to quit – quit reading statistics that is.

Retirement hobbies, motorcyclingWhy do it then? Well, there is another old saying in the motorcycle community – “If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand.” Riders know there is no feeling in the world like becoming part of your bike at highway speed, squinting into the sun with nothing around you but the rush of the wind pulling at your clothes, the hiss of speed in your ears, and the 360-degree scenery dazzling around you. Nothing like it.

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1 Comment

  1. Great review! As a member of the Foothills Chapter in southern Alberta Canada for over 10 years it’s been a wonderful experience and have thoroughly enjoyed it!

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