Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


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About On The Mark

Having piloted a motorcycle for many years, Mark has many thoughts floating in his helmet and he's ready to share them with us.

Name: Mark Byers

Current Rides: 'BMW R65 and R1200RT, Honda Reflex Trials, XR-200 and CRF-230, Suzuki SV650 and V-Strom 650 ADV, Yamaha TTR-230, Beta EVO 250 2T Trials, Kawasaki Ninja 650 and (2)Triumph Street Triple R…

Favorite quote:

If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.

- Winston Churchill

When the Light Comes On

Beth is a photon, defined as “a bundle of pure energy:” she’s a Monster Energy Drink with a side of triple espresso and a Snickers. It also fits because she’s a self-described “dumpster” when it comes to food. I call her my “CEO” or “Chief Enthusiasm Officer” and make a point of having her conduct tours for prospective employees because her enthusiasm spreads like a disease in a Stephen King novel. She’s a brand new Mechanical Engineer of seven months and is a trifle impetuous, so I wasn’t the least bit surprised when she said, “I want to buy a motorcycle.”

I’ve been there before. Everyone knows I’m a “motorcycle guy” and I frequently am asked for advice. I’ve had that go badly, when a young woman asked for advice on a first bike and instead of taking it, bought a way-too-powerful sportbike and gear more suited to fashion and promptly hurt herself semi-seriously. That ended her riding career and began my reluctance to give advice. I’ve spent way too much time trying to help those who either didn’t want it, or who rejected it in favor of a foolhardy path, vis-à-vis the sailor who wrecked his CBR-600 and decided the solution was a CBR-900.

Consequently, I approached Beth’s request with caution. One element was parents who were dead-set against her getting a bike. There’s nothing like bucking the ‘rents; however, the rock and a hard place is that when Beth makes up her mind to do something, she’s going to do it whether you are onboard or not, so you might as well get onboard. As a test, I suggested she take the MSF class at the local community college and within days, she told me she was enrolled. Then, she asked if I would help her shop, which was encouraging.

I met her at the local shop after her Saturday range session. I’d already told the saleswoman that we would be really annoying and sitting on a lot of bikes, but she was indulgent. Refreshingly, even though sportbikes caught her eye, she was realistic about their comfort (she’s tall) and capabilities and gravitated toward some more standard motorcycles like the SV-650 and Versys. She really liked a new-old-stock Versys with ABS in classic Kawasaki green, but once you added tax, title, and all the damn fees, even it was outside her price range. It was a bit of a disappointment, but I came away with a positive impression of her thought process.

Unsurprisingly, Beth passed her test on the second day of range time and the hunt was on in earnest for a reasonably-priced bike in good condition. In my memory was a friend with an ’09 Versys in blue with not a lot of mileage and just a few beginner scuffs. The friend put a fresh battery in it, and after I siphoned off the old gas and replaced it with fresh octanes, it fired on the first button push. After I gave it a quick test ride and Beth had a chance to both ogle and sit on it, a deal was struck and it followed us home. The seller even sprung for a new set of rubber when we found some cracks in the tires at inspection. After all the license and insurance folderol, and ATGATT clad in all my spare riding gear (I told you she was tall), she rode it to work solo. I wasn’t thrilled, but I did like that she chose her timing to miss the morning rush.

After riding with her, I was impressed with her confidence and attitude, but not necessarily her skill: the MSF class is clearly a “parking lot wonder” and barely, if that, prepares someone for real-road, real-world situations. On our first country-road jaunt, she did well enough not to have my heart in my throat. On a subsequent ride, she did drop the bike in an intersection, but to her credit, she picked it up herself using the “butt to the bike” technique and wheeled it out of harm’s way. She did bang her knee a little and decided to have it checked, but there was no serious damage thanks to the padding in the Klim pants. She has been riding on her own a little in addition to some rides with me and I believe that, with some coaching, she is on her way to becoming a good rider. In this case, I think my time is well spent and I love being there when the light comes on.