Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: Dirty motorcycles have character. Make yours filthy. (And Happy New Year, too.)


Dirty motorcycles have character. Make yours filthy. (And Happy New Year, too.)

You'll see them at every powersports convention: super clean and shiny bikes with not a single scratch, ding, dent, or imperfection, out for display for the world to ooh and aah over. The shine attracts a crowd faster than the mini taco sample table at a Costco. And yet, despite the beauty of new paint and accent lines, the reflective properties of layers of wax and detail spray, they're still a blank canvas with no expression.

When I see the newness of these polished creations, the first question that comes to my mind is, "How much time did that person waste to make those rims shine like the top of the Chrysler building?"

Now I don't imply that I'm not a clean person. I do bathe frequently and wash my hands after using the bathroom and before preparing food. However, there comes a revelation to quite a number of motorcycle riders that there's really no point to keeping a bike clean when you're using it every single day. When I put on the gear and jump on my machine, I've just put on my play clothes. And when you play outside, you're bound to come back with a few specks of dirt. Spend enough time outside and there's usually no energy left to hose off the machine and give it a good bath...or any motivation to do so.

A rider attached to a motorcycle is the start of an exciting story of exploits both near and far. As I understand that there is a sense of pride in having a clean machine to jump on, there is also an overwhelming allure to leaving the comforts of the garage and venturing out into the world and all its obstacles both on the road and with the weather.

So how many stories can your motorcycle tell? I think about that first glowing splotch on my windshield when I struck a firefly entering Minnesota. When I see the gash on the right hardcase I think about the green Jaguar that decided that it needed part of my lane on the 105 West freeway near Hawthorne, CA. There are stickers from places such as Chicago, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and Ontario, Canada that line my bike like an unofficial passport. There's that scratch on the front fender from a bird plinking off of it en route to Sandusky, OH. The list goes on and on. For me, there is an intangible value of a bike that goes beyond its engine and its accessories - it is the unspoken worth of where the bike has been and where it will go in its lifetime.

As 2011 comes to a close today, I take a couple steps back and admire the stickers, scratches, tarnished rims, carcasses of insects that line the front of my beloved FJR1300AWC, and the over 121,000 miles that we have ventured together in the last 4.5 years. As I write this, she sits out in the rain in a futile attempt to make itself more presentable before I take it puddle hopping down a street. Again.

If I were to offer a suggestion to start the new year, it would be to keep up the good work with your filthy two-wheeled beast. Pile the miles. Explore the world. Step outside of your comfort zone. Take your chances and discover what you and your bike can do together.

To all my readers, best wishes and great rides for 2012 and beyond. May your motorcycle proudly display every type of road (and off-road) grime imaginable and speak of your crazy adventures through them.