Lieback’s Lounge | Motorcycle Commentary

Some moto memories continuously resonate, especially those from the “newbie” days of riding.

I have two that will proverbially go to the grave with me—pushing a broken dirt bike three miles alongside the railroad tracks to a friend’s house, and my first mountain ride on my first street bike.

The broken bike was a 1985 Honda XR350R, and I was 12. Yeah, many of us Pennsylvanians started on seriously big machines, which explains why some went into football or baseball. It was tough work, something I didn’t realize until I first rode an 80cc dirt bike in my 20s.

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As youngsters, we rode mostly culm dumps, which are huge areas of endless black ground from coal-mining areas past. The easiest way to these areas was alongside railroad tracks that were built a century ago to transport coal from these once bustling areas.

Ron Lieback in Ransom, Pa
Author aboard  Duati 1198 on a favorite country road

I always liked to explore alone, considering some of my friends from that era were not too adventurous—those were the ones who ended up playing ball over cranking throttles.

While about three miles from the house where the dirt bike resided—I wasn’t allowed to own one—I took a semi-nasty spill. What I later learned was typical of Honda machinery, the XR quickly fired to life. But there was no shifter, and the clutch cable snapped. I was too young and inexperienced to do a fix, so I panicked and began pushing.

The bike was about as tall as me, and I had to push it while holding in the clutch. It seemed like a T.E. Lawrence adventure, and it was definitely 110 degrees in my mind.

When I finally got the bike into my friend’s shed, I was pissed. First, I had just pushed an XR home like three miles. Now I had to ride my GT Mach One pedal bike another three miles or so home.

Days passed, and the subconscious absorbed the pain. I missed riding, and returned to that shed. Things were fixed in a day, and I was back on two—this time a bit more aware of not target fixating on side-path trash such as the rusty cabinet or whatever the hell it was that made me crash.

The other “newbie” memory I have is when I bought my first brand-new motorcycle, a 2001 Kawasaki ZR-7S that forced me to master carburetor tuning.

When picking that bike up, I donned a fake leather jacket and an oversize HJC lid I bought from the sales rack. The dealership was a joke; they didn’t even know if I could ride, and simply handed me the keys and I was on my way. I didn’t even get a walk to the bike or run through of anything. That’s likely where I learned to disrespect low levels of customer service.

Anyway, up until then I always dreamed of riding a few certain mountain passes in Ransom, Penn., where in my high school days I used to illegally race cars during the day, and illegally party behind the wheel at night.

Some roads were canopied by trees, and continuously put me into a dreamlike state. Being on a motorcycle intensified that romance, due to being in open air, and experiencing the smells only riders know exist.

I rode and rode that day, and replicated the same ride six-days straight that week, going through four tanks of gas and falling more and more in love with mountain rides—ones that didn’t involve any intoxicating substances like in my high school days.

The madness continues. I have replicated that ride every year since, and I never got bored. Not once.

Back to 2017, and I now have 17 years of serious street riding under my leathers, which includes cross-country solo trips and my daily (snow pending) “lunch” ride to clear the head from work. Sometimes you simply must ride a motorcycle to get away from writing about motorcycles.

These trips resulted in thousands of unique memories, which can explain why my ADHD intensity levels ascend when talking about bikes. Still, the two memories above will always stand out because they occurred when this motorcycle thing was all new to me, long before I made a career out it.

Story is from the May issue of Ultimate Motorcycling Magazine, which is available for free on the Ultimate Motorcycling interactive app for iOS and Android devices.