60 is Truly Just A Number

Over the years, I have stopped worrying about birthdays—mine, or anyone else’s. Really, you are just another day older on your birthday and that is hardly worth getting excited about, even on an annual basis.

However, I did pass a milestone in October that caught my attention a bit, as I turned 60. None of my birthdays since I turned 21 really had any impact on me. Sure, when I turned 35 I was able to run for President, but I wasn’t ready to avail myself of that opportunity anyway.

Editor's Letter: For this Motorcyclist, 60 is Truly Just a Number
60-year-old celebration – riding a Honda CRF450X.

Still, 60 was different. Three of my four grandparents didn’t make it out of their 60s when I was a kid, so as a youngster I associated your 60s as the age at which you die.

While I have shaken that off, as my mom made it to 75 and my father far exceeded expectations to make it to 87, there’s still something about turning 60 that hints at my mortality.

Having my odometer click over to 60 certainly isn’t what I expected as a kid. My grandparents seemed impossibly old to me, and I definitely don’t feel that way now that I’m their age. To be sure, my grandfathers and dad were not riding motorcycles in the 60s—not even close.

To “celebrate” turning 60, I went for a ride on the 2017 Honda CRF450X—the final carbureted version of the CRF450X. Although it is being put out to pasture, I am not.

Going on a solo dirt bike ride is frowned upon, but it was a weekday and there were no riding partners available. I told my wife where I would be, and off I went to pound the trails.

Hitting the start button also ignited a spark in me, as it always does, and I was ready to go. I headed out on the single track and noticed something immediately—I felt awesome. I was hitting my marks on the trail, and going a bit faster than usual and feeling completely confident.

As I was traversing a tricky mountainside trail, I realized that I felt exactly as I did over 48 years ago when I first rode a motorcycle—in that case, a Honda Cub with a knobby rear tire. Nothing had changed, except that I was on a far more capable motorcycle and riding much faster than I used to.

I have taken pretty good care of myself, and I don’t suffer the chronic aches and pains too many of my contemporaries complain about. When I wake up every morning, I feel great. I’m rarely sick and, except when I get injured, I pretty much live my life outside of the Medical Industrial Complex. I’m not on any sort of medication; I even avoid the over-the-counter stuff. Smoking, drinking, and drugs have never been part of my life.

The trail ride itself was uneventful, though I did go down once when a branch grabbed my clutch lever—Honda doesn’t believe in handguards on its Xs. I just picked it back up, and off I roosted, getting some air here and there, as the terrain allowed.

A few weeks later, I indulged in my longtime hobby—observed trials riding. I hadn’t entered a local Southern California Trials Association event in a couple of years, but I loaded up my Beta Evo 300 SS and decided to see how it would go.

As someone who carefully manages risk, I’ve been an Intermediate class rider over half of my life—literally. Still, I had turned 60 and I remember what the sexagenarian trials riders looked like to me when I first rode an SCTA trial as a teenager. Dropping down classes is inevitable as you age in trials, so I was interested to see if my days of Intermediate status were in danger of ending.

The event, put on by the San Diego Trials Riders club at Gary LaPlante’s excellent MotoVentures facility in California’s Inland Empire, was highly technical, physical, and temperatures were knocking on the door of 90 degrees. That sounded like a good test, and it was.

As it turned out, I finished first in my class. Yeah, instead of charting my demise, I actually rode about as well as I ever have. I was always able to put the motorcycle where I wanted it to be, patient when necessary, and generally pulled the trigger when I needed to be aggressive.

I put myself through two tests after my birthday, and even I was surprised at how easily I passed them. My single-track skills and my trials skills are truly undiminished. It’s not like I was a great rider in the first place, of course. Instead, I’m highly competent with a healthy sense of self-preservation. My riding skills have grown with my knowledge base, so I can still ride at a good clip safely and with confidence.

Back in 2011, the Daily Mail ran a story on Reg Scott. At age 94, he was touted as “Britain’s oldest motorcyclist.” He started on small motorcycles, moved up to superbikes, and was still on two-wheels at 94, and on a Honda CBR250R. By my calculations, I still have at least another 34 years of motorcycle riding ahead of me.

It turns out 60 is truly just a number.