Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


Motorcycle TourMagazine

About Postcards from the Hedge

Always on the cutting edge of the motorcycle industry, Bill Heald’s Postcards from the Hedge provides readers with an exceptional look into all things motorcycle. From racing to design to day-to-day riding, Heald has a grasp on it all.

Name: Bill Heald

Current Rides: Honda VFR and V45 Magna, Kawasaki Ninja 500, Triumph Street Triple R

Favorite quote:

The Wand chooses the Wizard Mr. Potter. It is not always clear why.

- Mr. Ollivander in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

A Quarter of a Hunnerd Years

“Where did you go to, if I may ask?' said Thorin to Gandalf as they rode along.

To look ahead,' said he.

And what brought you back in the nick of time?'

Looking behind,' said he.” - J.R.R. Tolkien

HedgeThere’s been something in the wind about the start of a 25th year of something. Hmmm. Many consider the 25th of something to be a landmark; a point set in time where you can look back and reflect in order to help guide you in the present. Whenever such landmarks appear, I have been known on occasion to go back in time the number of years in question just to see what the heck was going on during year 1. The results are often inconclusive (or even bizarre), and yet always of use in terms of understanding where I am today. Given the current landmark of this publication, I decided to head back to the year 1994 in an effort to find out what I was doing when the presses were firing up, and discovered what a year of transition that was. It started in Brooklyn, NY, and we decided to abandon our apartment in Cobble Hill (back when it was less Brooklyn Heights than it is now) and rent a place in the state of Nutmeggery for a try at a more rural existence. This of course meant moving a couple of motorcycles w/o a pickup or trailer in the dead of winter to the new place, and here’s where I do indeed have some interesting memories. I learned a very valuable lesson on this little moving enterprise, for I managed to move the bikes (one at a time of course. Two at once would have been pretty amazing) safely even though the path was perilous. For whatever reason, the route I took on the trip had me over some of the most diverse pavement surfaces I’ve ever encountered for such a short jaunt, and it was so educational that I actually remember the trip well all these years later. At this point I had been riding and touring for over a decade, so I thought I was pretty experienced on all manner of pavements the traveler might encounter. But I was riding to my new home in two stages on two different bikes, with different types of tires, and one I had been riding less than 6 months so I was not yet fully familiar with all its moods on tricky road surfaces. Lessons were waiting, although I didn’t know it.

Naturally I opted to take a more rural route rather than adhere to the interstate system, and as you who ride the roads of New England know all too well there are endless small towns and municipalities that do the bulk of their local road maintenance on their own, often using well-worn equipment purchased at State auctions. For some odd reason a huge number of communities all decided to share with the passing motorcyclist their latest road projects right when I took my trip, a situation made all the more bizarre by the time of year it was (early March). But there were a lot of potholes, unexpected strips of sunken tarmac (where pipes were laid), cracked and broken surface textures and my all time favorite, scored pavement. To this day I remember the unexpected feel of the new bike’s front tire over the foul surface and how it had a shimmy quite unlike any other bike in my experience. The wider front hoop handled the situation far better than my other machine, which due to its narrower front tire tended to hunt across the grooves and on occasion try to go railroad on me. The way of dealing with this on any motorcycle is to allow the bars to move around a bit, but have enough grip in place to keep yourself on track. This is a grand strategy, but in the real world when you have all kinds of variations, debris, and sloppy work you have to feel your way along in order to stay the course. I have also noticed when you encounter such stretches of road it is often accompanied by drivers that can likewise be freaked out by non-standard pavement and drive even more erratically than usual. All these things confronted me when riding my new red machine, and joined forces with the fact that my mind was racing about the move and the dramatic change in lifestyle to load up the stress circuitry. This trip also meant I was leaving one vocation for another, although I didn’t realize it at the time. All these distractions made for a potentially hazardous situation, and I can still remember the miles rolling by on that trip 24 years later and a few weird close calls. But I didn’t dump the shiny new V4 and scar it or myself up, and the lessons I learned on this journey (the second phase with my older bike was not without incident but safe) on riding discipline on lunar topography have somehow endured. I handle the dreaded scored pavement much more comfortably thanks to the experience gleaned from this non-epic journey, and it has stuck with me, what, nearly a quarter of a century later. The change of lifestyle that made the trip necessary was a leap of faith, and it worked out OK, too. Imagine that. Seeing today’s road is oh so much clearer after seeing yesterday’s, and clearly Gandalf knows a thing or two about the hazards one encounters on the road, yeah? Here’s to 25 more.