Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


Motorcycle TourMagazine

About Free Wheelin'

Publisher Rathjen weighs in on different things pertaining to motorcycling. Sometimes a bit hard to the point and slightly abrasive, his Free Wheelin’ column is not afraid to make a stand on issues that he feels are of importance to riders and riding.

Name: Brian Rathjen

Current Rides:

Kawasaki KLR 650, BMW R1200GS

Favorite quote:

If you think you can or you think you can't, you're probably right.

- Henry Ford

Protective Relationships

We recently had a couple of riding friends over for a visit and one was sporting a brand new helmet – it might have been her first ride with this helmet.

When you purchase a new helmet your paradigm changes and you get defensive about it – new bikes for that matter as well.

It is almost like a new romantic relationship.

You will try to protect and nurture – but eventually helmets and gear get dropped, scratched and bashed and either survive and still work well, or simply fail.

Just how personal relationships can work or not work.

After parking her bike in our barn she took off her helmet and carefully, with both hands, carried it over to the workbench – handling it so precisely and carefully. She reminded me of a priest carrying the host and chalice to the altar.

Her riding suit? Casually tossed atop my filthy KLR in a carefree manner. Who cared? She didn’t.

FWHelmetBut, the helmet, it was carried like a newborn child.

“New helmet, right,” I asked?

“Oh yes,” she replied… “Isn’t it beautiful?”

Indeed it was.

“I am trying not to scratch it.”

I thought about suggesting that she scratch it. Let it drop and get that first eventual mark. But thought better of it. Let the ‘Helmet Gods’ – Arai, Nolan and the rest, call when this would happen – and it would happen. It always does.

About a week later we were just finishing up our Spring break Rally and were getting ready to mount up – all quiet as everybody was busy getting the gear, bikes and minds ready for the day.

Then we all heard it. A clear and loud…. THOCK!

Oh oh! The sound is unmistakable to us. Non-riders would not understand. But, we all did.

Heads spun around to see whose helmet was chosen this day by the gods.

Indeed it was herself’s new helmet.

She stood for a second frozen as her new pride and joy began to pinwheel down the incline of the parking lot as helmets always seem to do.

Snapping out of her petrification she snatched it up before ‘IT’ happened. ‘IT’ being what we all really fear when a helmet hits the ground - the face shield getting scratched! This time the scar left from this minor drop was on the back of the helmet – and not all that bad either.

I was told years back – chicks dig scars.

We all watched silently as her face ran through a gamut of emotions like the 7 Stages of Grief in 60 seconds.

Shock to disbelief to anger and so on… and then she just shook her head stared at the now not perfectly perfect new helmet, shrugged her shoulders and looked at all of us and said…

“Glad that is f@#cking over – Let’s ride!”

Jump forward to our Fall Fiesta Rally.

Shira and I were making our way south to Altoona, Pennsylvania from our morning start at the Lackawanna Station Hotel in Scranton.

We had just finished lunch and were snaking along some smaller roads and occasionally non-roads. We came over a crest and would be making a sharp right at a T intersection. Right alongside the road a guy was mowing his lawn – headsets on and oblivious to us.

The turn was not easy. No technical disaster, but tight, running back on itself and off-cambered with the road angling sharply down to the side.

I looked to the left and the road disappeared quickly around the curve.

Anyone coming the other way would be problematic.

I looked and then checked again before I rolled into the turn accelerating to the west.

About 3 seconds later I heard Shira yell and curse. She was down.

As she rolled into the turn a pick-up came barreling around the curve, slammed on his brakes, then rolled around Shira who had made a quick and controlled stop, putting her right foot down onto… nothing.

Like Buffet sang… “Oh, watch out for that Gravity Storm – it don’t give no warning signs.”

Up until that moment her bike was pristine.

Unlike our other female friend, it took Shira a little longer than a minute to shake off the shock and guilt of dropping her new bike.

But, by the time we got it to the hotel she had decided it now had real world character.

This lasted for about five minutes until she found that her other love – her pristine Honda 919 that she had loaned to a friend from Florida so he could attend the Fall Fiesta – was no longer pristine… having fallen over in the steep parking lot of Bill’s Bike Barn.

Oy vey – who said relationships were easy?