Mid-Life Rider

rambling through mid-life on motorcycles

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Conversation with Mark Irving

March 6th, 2008 · No Comments

I met Mark on the FJR Forum. I love his story about buying and riding his first bike. I think a lot of us had different versions of the "30 minutes in a parking lot and your a rider" experience. Getting pulled over by a cop in front of his girlfriends house is priceless.

Tell me a little about yourself.

I’m a structural engineer for a smaller firm, designing low & mid-rise building structures (beams, columns, slabs, foundations, etc,) …been doing this about 20 years or so. Before that, whatever it took to put food on the table for my wife and me and pay the college bills as I worked while going to school at night. Before that - the goofball years, doing things my mommy and daddy told me not to do.

I’ve got a wife and three kids (middle school and high school). The wife rides with me about once a year or so up to SW Wisconsin. Except for one little jaunt down to Peoria with son#2, the kids haven’t been on the FJR except for little rides around town.

I’m the only one of my siblings or local friends that rides a motorcycle. My dad didn’t want me to buy it…my mom had no problem with it. She had six brothers (perfect Nebraska farm family. Lots of kids to do chores…) all of whom rode motorcycles. She got the first ride.

What was the first bike you owned?

My first bike was a brand new Honda CB 550F - purchased two months after high school with a small loan from the bank. No rider safety courses in them days, so a friend rode it from the dealership to a parking lot and showed me how to use the controls and watched me as I got acquainted with the bike by doing parking lot drills.

The next day, he wasn’t available to do that again so, being antsy, I rode the bike (w/o license) over to the girl friend’s house to show it off. As I’m about there, a police car following me puts on his lights and pulls me over right as I park in front of the house.

Yeah…a little embarrassed - okay, mortified - as her dad is mowing the yard and giving me a glowering evil eye. (He never did like me anyway). I got a nice chat with the police officer…and then had to call my friend over to ride my bike home. Talk about throwing a wet blanket on the whole day! HA.

How many bikes have you owned?

FOUR: 1977 CB 550F, 1979 XS ELEVEN Special (Stolen), 1980 XS 850 Special (Insurance money), 2004 FJR

What do you own now?

2004 FJR

How many miles do you expect to ride this year?

10-15k (no commuting)

Riding gear (street) of choice?

If I had enough money right now, I would buy a good kevlar armored riding suit like Madmike. In the meantime, I will wear what I’ve accumulated since getting the FJR: Oxtar boots/shoes, kevlar jeans, Joe Rocket leather & mesh jacket with liner, Held gloves, full face Shoei, earplugs. Underwear of course.

What attracted you to motorcycling? Why do you ride?

My main reason for having a motorcycle is to see as much of this land from the seat of my motorcycle as I possibly can before I die -whenever that is. It doesn’t always have to be a curvy road…but it does have to be off the interstate 99/100.

I like to travel as if I have no destination in mind…just soaking up the wind, the view, the smells, the people by the side of the road that wave along the way. I prefer to go on roads I have not been down before when touring…and I prefer county roads -if decent- to State roads to US routes. The less straightening out of the hills and curves the better.

If I am touring, I am usually alone unless some like-minded person is available. That rarely happens but has had a better chance of it happening since joining the FJRForum.

Since getting my FJR in the Fall of ‘03, I have met some great individuals from the online FJR and STN forums. They have showed me some pretty spectacular roads and provided some great company at the various gatherings I’ve been to. It has increasingly been more about the people I’ve met and will meet - old friends and new friends yet to be. I have also increasingly enjoyed the twisty roads and have looked forward toward trips linking them together as I hear about them.

How does your wife feel about your riding?

Although I’ve had motorcycles previously, the FJR was something that appeared at home one day. My wife and I were never both going to be of the same mind regarding that regarding finances, etc. I just felt that I was gonna bust if it didn’t happen…so I had to take the plunge and hope that the consequences weren’t too dramatic.

After a frosty period, my wife has come to fully accept my FJR riding and trips - though she would probably rather that it never be.

Does she ever ride with you?

She does take a yearly trip - but has extreme pain with earplugs and though she can get the helmet on…it is too tight and causes alot of discomfort…therefore she is doubtful as a regular rider untill those two things are fixed…and a good music/comm system. However, she would rather not spend the money now to fix something that she would use only once a year or so anyways…so that is for when the kids are gone/or dollars float down my way.

What do you think about when you ride?

Everything…and nothing while lasily touring, proper technique and scanning when sport touring through curves.

This is perhaps an indelicate question, but how do you think about the "dangerous" part about riding?

I do my part to be safe…and leave others to themselves. I try to make space…so if someone is going to make a mistake that hurts me…it is me and I can control that and not them (whom I can’t control).

What one piece of advice would you give to someone coming to motorcycles for the first time? I’m thinking about the "mid-life" rider now?

Take it slowly…pick your spots to take your chances and read up and learn by books and practice up your drills when coming back from a long layoff. Riding classes are a good option these days.

What bike would you recommend (and why)?

Any bike that you like that you can safely control. It’s about personal choices…I chose an FJR.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done on/with a motorcycle?

Touring and sporttouring…for me there is nothing better.

If you could pick one place you’d recommend as a riding destination / experience, what/where would that be?

Can’t really recommend one over another yet as I’ve not visited the West yet. But I can recommend…SE Ohio, SW WI, WV, MO/AR, Appallachians and upstate NY/VT/NH.

If someone handed you a blank check and said "go buy a motorcycle you’d enjoy riding (not just collecting), what would you pick?

Sorry to be boring but the FJR is it for me. It does what I want and does it beautifully.

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