Lieback’s Lounge: Ghost Eyes, Wet Leaves, and Night Riding Romance

Lieback’s Lounge: Ghost Eyes, Wet Leaves, and Night Riding Romance
KTM deep into wet-leave Territory just before dusk.

Lieback’s Lounge: November 2019

Many East Coast riders have already put their motorcycles to sleep. The main attributes of such a horrific act are the colder conditions and weather that can change in minutes.

Many of these types won’t ride during a 50-degree foggy day, never mind a 40-degree foggy night when visibility is low, the leaves are wet, and hunting season has animals scurrying everywhere—especially near the edges of the road.

Lieback’s Lounge: Ghost Eyes, Wet Leaves, and Night Riding Romance
KTM deep into wet-leave Territory just before dusk.

For me, the latter situations are pure romance. As part of my productivity habits, I dedicate every Wednesday evening to completely getting away from it all. Ninety percent of the time, this downtime involves motorcycles, whether piloting the KTM 1190 Adventure R to a local fishing spot (I rarely fish—it’s more just the beauty of the landscapes near rivers and lakes), or the Ducati Multistrada on some of the best back roads I have experienced in my years of worldwide motorcycling.

During the spring, summer, and fall, I ride deep into the evening. Rain or not, the act is lethargic. If I’m not throttling a motorcycle on Wednesdays, usually when it’s icy and/or snowing, I use that downtime to wrench on whatever moto project I have. This year, I’m restoring a 1973 Honda CL125S and overhauling the suspension on the Multistrada.

Come October and November, though, and the romance for night riding in Northeast Pennsylvania becomes intense. There’s an edgy and sometimes seriously spooky feeling of touring the local mountain back roads during the cold fall nights. It’s what I envision as motorcycling within the setting of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

I travel deep into the woods via fire roads along rivers, and through some higher mountains where fog is constantly present between dusk and midnight.

During this time of the year, the animals’ eyes appear like ghosts running from you when they creep into the trajectory of the headlights. Wet leaves create smells like no others, along with exciting conditions that keep the rear tire spinning through some corners and that front-end slipping while off-road.

For some unexplainable reason, that’s romantic.

Sometimes those animals, though, can scare the bejesus out of an evening trek. Just last week, I came upon a bear and two cubs on a dirt road. The cubs ran, and the big one stayed frozen in my lights about 15 feet before me. I thought I was going to get charged, but I beeped the horn and the bear ran.

I won’t lie—that was the scariest moment of riding this year. It’s amazing how you can hit 170+ mph on a racetrack, and nearly get tossed off the road by a veering 18-wheeler (not once, but twice), and the scariest moment arrives from some beast of nature.

Is it entirely safe for motorcycling during these foggy and wet fall nights? No.

But neither is riding between NFL and college football game times on the weekend when there are more drunks on the road than usual—well, at least in my redneck area of the state.

Do I condone this romantic evening journeys to the, um, unseasoned rider? No.

Again, many motorcyclists I know have already put the wraps on their bikes, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’m just one of those obsessive motorcyclists who goes gonzo without weekly seat time. I keep one bike prepped for winter (El Mule!), and the only time I’m not riding is if the roads have ice or hard-packed snow. All else is go time.

night riding ultimate motorcycling ron lieback
Multistrada about to embrace a foggy evening ride near the NY/PA border.

Some winter days do suck, even if it’s a short trip to the grocery store for some food and vino, but the time is still better than nothing. This is why the moto gods invented heated grips and seats, and gear that’s comfortable for a rider and can keep a snowmobiler warm. I’ll embrace the cold moments and truly embrace this thing called life.

The only other option is moving out west to ride all year long. Scrap that; I’m an East Coaster to the bone, regardless of how frigid my bones get while riding in the colder temps, or how much fear is instilled in my bones when coming face-to-face with momma bear 10 miles away from humanity. My area is the perfect backdrop for fall moto-romance, and I’d miss it dearly if I fled.