Columnist graduates to a big girl bike

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Cathy Best

Cathy Best

By Cathy Best

Nine years ago, I graduated from driving a moped to riding passenger on a Ducati Multistrata 1000 DS motorcycle with my husband. The moped is a Mother’s Day gift from my sons and husband; I take it on spins around the farm and throttle it up to run errands. In nice weather, my husband and I ride the moped, two-up, around town and on local back roads. Yes, it looks just as goofy as it sounds. Wave when you see us.

Our family is deeply entrenched in off road enduro and trials motorcycles so the thought of two wheels on pavement was somewhat intimidating; safety variables increase ten-fold. Traffic, unforeseen inclement weather, cars pulling out on you, darting dogs, wildlife, and potholes are just a few of the dangers that pop up on road bikes. The moped isn’t as nerve-racking as a full-size bike; it’s rather like training wheels for the real thing.

After returning home from an anniversary trip, where motorcycles outnumbered cars, I found myself thinking, “I’m ready to graduate to a padded jacket, boots, full-face helmet, and gloves. It’s time to ride like a big girl, on a big girl bike, in my big girl attire.”

We purchased the Ducati and laid down a few road rules:

Stay off the interstate and four lane highways. Ride two-lane back roads whenever possible.

Ride only during daylight hours– before dusk.

Stay off wet pavement.

Stay out of cities.

Always wear protective gear.

The beauty of our road-tested rules is that we end up riding two-lane back roads on beautiful days. Along the way, we take time to stop in quaint small towns and amble through lakeside parks and points of interest. Back roads are either the long way around or the shortcut; either way there’s more to see than taking the interstate from point A to point B. As a passenger, I watch the road and enjoy the view. We meet big Honda Goldwing cycles with driver and passenger wired to headsets talking and listening to music. Not us, the best part of riding is quiet– no phone, no radio, just wind.

Last summer, we traded the Ducati for a BMW R 1200 GS. Like the Ducati, it’s versatile both on and off-road; this model sits among the top performers in the adventure touring category. When riding back roads, it’s important to have a bike that you can securely handle on dirt or gravel. The BMW is that bike. At about 450 pounds, dry weight, it’s light enough to maneuver around obstacles and, generating 109 HP, is fast enough to get you out of trouble. Torque-wise, at 89 ft. lbs., there’s plenty to make passing less stressful. But the bike stays firmly planted under you from stop to go. The BMW feels sporty and well balanced, even with a passenger. A comfortable ride, equipped with onboard navigation, makes long distance touring on the BMW easy and enjoyable.

I’m the last person I ever expected to graduate. I was, and still am, perfectly happy taking short, goofy, jaunts on the moped. But for the last nine years, one of my favorite things to do is pack the saddle cases for a road trip, or take the big girl bike out for a Saturday excursion. Until next week… happy trails.

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