I was recently thumbing through a copy of Idlewood, which is a zine that I contribute to featuring local ladies who skateboard, ride motorcycles, and essentially get up to random mischief, when I realized that I had the gift of prophecy. Several years ago, I had tampered with a photo of myself by adding a drawing of a dreamy bearded man riding ‘bitch.’ I had also been quoted in Motorcycho magazine that I believed a real man was a guy who would ride on the back of my bike and hold me tight. I honestly just think that if a guy is pumped that his lady rips around on motorcycles, and is even willing to position himself in a passive, traditionally female role of being the passenger, then he’s probably pretty rad. He would be the kind of guy who really could care less what others thought of him, and was simply into having fun adventures.
The guys riding motorcycles who are so hung-up on getting “patched” by a local club and maintaining a facade of being badass are pretty boring. There’s no originality in that persona. It’s downright predictable. I figure, the guys who are actually “counter-cultural,” taking risks, and pushing the boundaries of society are the ones who are willing to be vulnerable, to be known, to be a good lover to one woman, to embrace romance, chivalry, commitment and even, dare I say it, celibacy. A man who is willing to wait, to consider others needs and interests before himself is one sweet gem.
Without going into too much cheesy detail, I am happy to report that after enduring the battleground of love for 35 years and coming to a place of total contentment as a single person, I then found that dude and married him.* There was some scepticism and even concerns from various individuals because word got out that my man didn’t ride motorcycles. Horror of horrors. I find this pretty funny because if the reverse had been true, and the wife was the one oblivious to the joys of a motorbike, it would never be commented upon. She would simply ride on the back and support her husband’s passion as a bystander. End of story. For some reason, it’s assumed that a lady biker would latch on to one of her kind from the get go. I understand this thinking to a degree. It’s wonderful to have someone to share adventures and roadtrips with, but I just question that assumption that the person to take the lead in the direction of these outlets is going to be the guy. Just because a dude takes up an activity that his lady pursues shouldn’t make him appear in any way lesser. It’s actually pretty cool.
I joke that it was in our “pre-nups” that Scott must pursue motorcycles, but it was actually something that really interested him. Not all guys get the opportunity to learn mechanics and tinker on bikes with a dad or uncle (or mother!) as a wee lad. It’s not a rite of manhood or an ingrained part of their DNA. That was Scott’s situation growing up in a suburb, so he was pleased as punch to have a wife to initiate him into the world of motorcycling.
After our first week of marriage I took a peek at Craigslist to see what was out there. I figured a light-weight dual sport would be ideal, and at 400cc he could make the cheaper insurance rate. Sure enough, there was a 1980 Suzuki SP400 waiting for us at a very reasonable price. I sent Scott an email with the link to inquire if he could picture himself on this hot red bike? He approved. I called the seller right away, and apparently two dudes had beat me to it but both of them failed to show up! The seller worked in North Vancouver, but lived on Bowen Island. I told him that we would come to the island the next day.
It was a great day. The sun was out, we caught the little ferry from Granville Island in Vancouver to Bowen, and then our friend with the bike was there waiting. I had only tried a bike with a compression lever once before at the High Noon at the Dunes event in 2012, so it took some co-ordination, but it was soon running strong. I did the test run, and we explained to the guy that we were newly-weds and that I was teaching Scott to ride. He thought that was pretty cool, and took off another $100 since the brakes and tires were needing replacement.
By the afternoon, we were the proud owners of a sweet, running dual sport that had obviously been well-loved. The guy commuted on it as his daily ride, but convinced himself he needed a bigger, more modern bike. But, we both sensed that he was starting to regret his decision and was eyeing the bike with sadness. Before I got on the main ferry for vehicles I took it for a few more rips and tried to get the sequence solid for kicking it over. I always dread that feeling when you’re on a ferry, pulling up to port and wondering if your bike will still kick over. Fortunately I got it right and had a little joy ride along the highway back to our apartment.
And then the tutorials began. We started by going down to the parking garage and both practising the kicking-over, compression lever sequence. Scott had a strong kick, so I suggested he take a seat on the bike and get the feel for it. He looked pretty comfortable, and I knew he had the clutch / throttle concept dialed, so I figured he should put it in gear and try it out. Scott was cruising in first gear, totally ruling, but then it dawned on me that I hadn’t exactly highlighted the braking system. On his second lap round the parking garage he accidentally revved the bike and I panicked, imagining my new husband plowing into the concrete wall! It seemed like slow motion, but Scott made the wise decision to lay down the bike rather than collide full force. He was totally fine, the bike was fine, but I felt like the biggest jerk. From then on, we were following the ICBC teaching guide meticulously. Scott also believed it was a good lesson and now had an appreciation for the potential power a motorcycle could unleash.
I had never taught anyone to ride, and Scott was an excellent learner. I would drive the motorbike to a local college parking-lot, which was empty in the summer, and he would bicycle over. We practised the cones and U-turns, and Scott was a total natural. It was hard trying to verbalize something that I had now internalized, and I’m sure there were moments when I was a bit impatient towards him. But, in no time we were out on the streets together, Scott nailed the parking-lot test (even though the bike’s brakes were failing!), and then he was off riding solo.
I still managed to get him on the back of my bike two times, and the reactions were so good. There was one couple walking down the sidewalk, and the woman was just beaming when she saw us. It looked like it made her really happy to see the roles reversed. It was just like the little drawing I had made, since Scott has a super cute bushy beard. And yet, I wouldn’t want to be carrying the load of a passenger on a roadtrip. We had two roadtrips planned for the summer. The first was a mini one to Manning Park, just east of Hope. My friends were driving west from Calgary to Vancouver, so the plan was to meet each other at the park. The ride was pretty fun, and the camping was a blast. After some hiking adventures, we handed over all our gear to my friend. We headed back to Vancouver after a fairly long session of me kicking over my bike at the campsite. Very mysterious.
And then things got weird. I was driving along and suddenly my bike died on the highway, while I was riding. I pulled over and figured that my key chain must have caught the wind and turned my bike off. It seemed to go okay, until a trucker was yelling out at us that my brake light had gone out – probably just a blown light bulb. We then hit city traffic and Scott’s bike started over-heating and stalling, then my bike stalled and wouldn’t kick over for twenty kicks! These bikes were just hurting so bad!
We miraculously made it to our parking garage, and assumed that after cooling down, some fresh gas, oil and a rest, that the bikes would be fine. A week or so later we decide to check in on the bikes to prepare for roadtrip number two, a bit further east towards Nelson. We start with the SP400 and his kickstarter has gone to mush. There is no compression and the lever isn’t co-operating. Scott is heartbroken. He doesn’t want to hold me back on my cherished vacation days, and for some reason feels responsible for his bike’s actions. I start brainstorming and figure that we should do a thorough check, and start with his spark plugs. I would hop on my motorcycle, rip over to the Dirtymoto garage and grab some tools. I get my gear and my helmet, and lo and behold, my bike is dead too! I kick it, the bike rumbles, I give it gas and it dies. The throttle is killing the engine! Nooooo! Over and over I try this, and then the next thing I discover is that the compression in my kickstarter has turned to mush as well. What a bummer. But, at least it wasn’t one person holding the other person back. Both our bikes have some serious issues.
So, now I’ve got a motorcycle maintenance partner. I feel like our marital vows should have read something like, I vow to stand by you in sickness and in health, during the highs of roadtrips and the lows of restoration, through blood, sweat, tears, grease and engine oil, etc. In our first six months of marriage we have stripped two bolts together, busted a bolt for the oil filter cover, I accidentally allowed the bike-lift to drop his bike and chip the motor, and he has witnessed me curse my bike and had to intervene when I felt almost crushed with defeat over something simple. We have also successfully swapped out the old drum brakes, done multiple oil changes, and adjusted the valves.
I learned that the Triumph T140 is one of the only bikes where the intake valve clearance (.008) is larger than the exhaust valve clearance (.006). I began the process of checking and adjusting the clearances and my kickstarter compression is back! It also appears that my bike won’t charge the battery while riding. Boo! Still a fair bit of work to do on Scott’s bike, as I suspect his carb has never been cleaned, the rear swing arm bearing was shot, the sprockets were worn nubs, the chain needs replacing, and on. We did have a buddy, Stephen come by to help us replace the worn tire, which was a relief since I had never done that before! It was quite the battle, even with three tire irons and an expert helper.
I’m grateful that Scott is so patient and open to taking on these projects. We actually decided to call the dual sport “Scotty P” and pretend that he had taken my last name… “Porter.” People keep asking me if I’ve taken Scott’s name, and it sort of grates on me. I feel comfortable with my name, and it’s not like I’m a teen bride without a history. I just don’t understand certain traditions and roles, and fortunately Scott isn’t hung up on them either. I still can’t believe I found a guy who is perfectly content to cook me dinner, do laundry, keep the home respectable, share domestic duties, and be open to pursuing my dream. And yet, it’s strange that this relationship should feel like such a novelty because shouldn’t all partners share like this and ensure balance?
Scott nailed his final driving test and got his full license in October. I’ve also benefited since Scott got me set-up with a great touring bicycle, and we had two epic camping / bicycling trips during the summer as well. It’s good to have options. And, it was actually Scott who first noticed the drawing in the Idlewood zine as he exclaimed that it looked like him! Maybe Idlewood should start offering horoscopes? So rad.
*A special thank you to Lyndsay Sung and Christa Min for the “arranged marriage” (hehe!): http://cococakeland.com/cakes/life-rad-wedding-cakes-scott-natalie/