Work to Ride, Ride to Work

From: Wing World 2001
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Author: Nick Hoppner

Work To Ride, Ride To Work

As I write this article in January, I expect soon to be unable to ride my Wing to work (or anywhere else for that matter!) for a month or more. By the time you read this, however, I expect to be fully mended from some arthroscopic shoulder surgery to repair a ski injury I incurred over a year ago. I anticipate it will be a nuisance not being able to two-wheel it for awhile during some of the most pleasant motorcycle commuting weather in the Valley of the Sun. (I can almost here the groans of non-sympathy from readers who've been slogging through another wet, cold winter in northern climates!) Yet, even for these hardy northern souls, the relief of spring riding is coming soon.

While many feel the Gold Wing is at its best as a long distance tourer, I've always found my Gold Wing to be an excellent commuting machine. In all but the hottest months here, one can remain office-fresh on the ride to work in the cool of the morning, and there's a waiting shower at home at the end of the day if the 5 o'clock ride is over 100'degrees, that is.

The Wing's size and presence enhance its visibility in traffic. It's large fairing keeps off most of the bugs, pebbles and other road debris. Its power, braking and maneuverability are more than adequate on city streets and freeways, and the travel trunk and saddlebags are perfect for tossing in one's briefcase, laptop, camera and gym bag if there's a health club stopover planned on the way home.'

As the costs of fuel have been inching up over the past year, I appreciate the Wing's fuel economy as compared to the greater thirsts of my Chevy Blazer, and I like to think I'm helping to reduce the overall pollution and road crowding here in Phoenix.

I wonder how many of our readers commute on their Wings once or twice a week. I wonder how many commute daily?

Part of the reason for my awareness of motorcycle commuting is a package of promotional materials I received last July from my friend Andy Goldfine, creator of the Aerostich riding suit I wear in all kinds of weather. Andy is a philosopher and motorcycle devotee of the first order. A few years ago, he suggested a nationwide Ride To Work Day (the third Wednesday in July) as a grassroots effort by motorcyclists to exhibit their numbers and enthusiasm en route to their places of work. This year marks the tenth annual Ride To Work Day, and I hope many of us can take part in it by riding on July eighteenth, and will spread the word to fellow riders to do the same.

For some time, Andy's company, Rider Wearhouse, has offered a variety of products with his distinctive Work To Ride, Ride to Work ' symbol. And while the bumper stickers and coffee mugs were great conversation pieces, they could not tell the whole story. Not satisfied to have the Ride to Work concept perceived as merely an eccentric sideline in his own business, Andy spun off a separate company called Ride To Work in an effort to spearhead a grassroots movement.

Most longtime Wing World readers know I'm a strong supporter of the American Motorcyclist Association and the efforts made by AMA, ABATE, Motorcycle Riders Foundation and other watchdog groups working hard to protect our rights. I'm certainly appreciative of their energy, skill and commitment to the kind of persistent confrontation with politicians protecting our right to ride must entail. Personally, however, I've no stomach for it, so I'm happy these organizations do the job for me.

On the other hand, the theory, tactics and mission of Ride To Work appeals to me. The group's mission statement is: 'To advocate and support the increased use of motorcycles for transportation, and to provide information about transportation riding to motorcyclists and to the public.'

Somehow, the role of the motorcycle as an instrument of transportation seems to have been overlooked in recent times here in North America. This is not so in many other countries of the world, and is especially not so wherever and whenever economic times are hard. Somehow, our North American society's wealth and craving for comfort and convenience has led us to see two wheelers as playthings of the highways, of little redeeming value in the grand mix of rush hour gridlock.

I've often been tempted to call in to a radio talk show when the hosts and callers are in high whine about our clogged freeways. I'd like to point to the listeners, stuck bumper to bumper in impotent, impatient rage, that the very traffic congestion they are stuck in would disappear if every four-wheeled vehicle containing a single human were magically transformed into a motorcycle.

Indeed, if this magical scenario came true, not only would congestion be relieved. Parking lot capacities would increase, too. Our nation's dependency on foreign oil would drop dramatically. So, probably, would insurance rates, as commuting riders tend to be much more careful than commuters encased in steel and glass compartments surrounded by electronic diversions. Road wear would diminish too, while, at the same time, hazardous road repair methodologies would soon be replaced once their threats frightened more road users. Perhaps best of all, public awareness of the existence of motorcycles on the highways would rise with their increased numbers, and we riders would far less likely to be overlooked, ignored, snubbed or run over.

As a way of changing the public consciousness, I like soft-voiced Andy Goldfine's approach. It's quietly subversive, seeking first to change people's awareness instead of seeking to angrily storm the ramparts of government.

I'm sure there will be lots of critics of Andy's outside-the-box thinking. And there will be lots of pundits who will be convinced the only way to effect change in society is by lobbyists schmoozing legislators, big money luring big business's avarice, saturation advertising bombarding the airwaves, or mercenary demonstrators' disrupting traffic in downtown Seattle.

I guess I'm just na've or idealistic enough to believe we can make a difference one rider at a time. I hope you'll join me by commuting more often this year on your Gold Wing.

Once this dumb shoulder of mine heals, I shall be out there. Will you?

For information about Ride to Work and how to contribute to its programs, goals and resources (including the highly readable 'The Daily Rider' newsletter), contact Ride to Work, Box 1072, Proctor, MN 55810-0072. E-mail or visit www.