July 11, 2008

First Person:
By Al Carlos Hernandez


For those who don’t know, a rat bike is a motorcycle that still runs that looks terrible, any parallel to folks running for office is purely coincidental. One of my sons has had this burning desire to ride motorcycles like Pops, but I didn’t believe him. Becoming a motorcycle rider can be a life or death decision. Life if you master the riding ability, a slow boring death if you never experienced the freedom of wind therapy.

I cannot and will not teach anyone to ride on one of my very custom 2 wheelers, letting a novice ride your bike is like letting a raggedy broke feral ape play with your computer keyboard.

He, the son not the ape, persisted I agreed to fund the Highway Patrol certified Motorcycle Training course, this course is a must for new riders, they teach you what you need to survive, ride safely and at the same time humiliate you by making you ride Honda250 Nighthawks. Nothing takes the place of common sense and personal discipline when riding and for that matter, living.

We were proud to know that he passed the class with flying colors, and now I had to find a practice bike for him, that wouldn’t break the bank while he was learning, no doubt occasionally bruising his buns. There is a biking axiom; there are two kinds of riders, those who have fallen off, and those who will fall off. Never buy a new bike for a novice, if he buys his own bike then he has way too much money and you should raise his rent.

Fortuitously, and surreptitiously though the hook up, (just because I’m a biker doesn’t mean I don’t know lots of big words), My son knew a guy who had a sport bike that was given to him, that he had only ridden once or twice. The bike is a high miler CBR 600 café racer, which was used as a stunt bike for shows, it was loud, flat black, covered with lots of product placement stickers and no seat, and any parallel to anyone running for President is again purely coincidental.

Urban Bidding for the bike started at 18 Hunnad, then 15 Hunnad, then tosses me a G and take the Hooptie off my lawn… I countered via urban interpreter with, when ya’ll need half a rack, (A rack being one thousand dollars) I’ll come though, straight up cash money cuz.

We went to see the bike, it looked terrible but started once, I could look though the faulty cosmetics and see the beauty and the potential of the beast, and did I mention I used to help run a Night Club?

The bike soon died out, would not start up again, and at my age I can totally relate to that type of behavior. I told them once we can test ride it, see what it can do, it’s a deal; my word is still my bond.

The bike owner waited a week before he got it dialed in, I brought the tattooed Oakland biker son in as a consultant, they asked him if knew how to ride, he sneered then proceeded to wheelie the bike up the street, an apple doesn’t fall far from the three, he rode to bike back to the house on empty, with pink slip in hand.

I love going to cycle salvage places, shopping on eBay for parts and accessories for add on pieces to make the bike uniquely our own. Took the bike to the old shop I used to own, the mechanics put on one new tire and a free take off one, they juiced it up, and I rode it home, all the while the novice rider son was following me in the car watching me do what I do.

We have been practicing, I have him go up the street around the block practicing his take offs, panic stops, and pretending not to be scared. In order to be a safe rider one has to have a healthy fear and respect for the beast between your legs, (socio-cultural reference inferred).

Last week I had him follow me on the rat while I rode my street bike. I would pull up beside him telling him when to shift gears, when to accelerate, how to lean and guard your place in traffic.

Men need to show their sons the way by example, those boys who try to learn how to negotiate the hard and dangerous things of life alone usually crash.

Metaphor intended.

Al Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood

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