Community Commentary Lieback’s Lounge: Winter Romance in the Basement

Lieback’s Lounge: Winter Romance in the Basement

Although I love the holidays, there’s one element that destroys the thoughts of this being the most wonderful time of the year.

I call it The Vanishing of the Motorcycles. Every year around Thanksgiving, I empty the garage of all but one motorcycle. I ride the rest around the neighborhood and then place them in the basement (a huge benefit of being an East Coaster—basements for motorcycle storage!).

When I shopped for homes seven years ago, I only had three core requirements: a garage, desolation, and a regular door for the basement entrance. After checking out 36 homes, my current place had all three. The problem with many homes is the use of Bilco doors. They don’t add any value to a motorcycle junkie’s lifestyle.

And I’m certainly a junkie. Sadly, the addiction has to take refuge beneath the ground for the colder winter months. I typically have four bikes in the garage, each ready for action whenever needed. I rotate the go-to bikes every year. This year’s Big Four is the Ducati Multistrada, Ducati Monster 900 S i.e. I restored last winter (in the basement), the Suzuki GSX-R600, and the KTM 1190 Adventure R.

Lieback’s Lounge: Winter Romance in the Basement
The KTM 1190 Adventure R is the ultimate winter bike. This is from last season; this winter it’s shod with Pirelli Scorpion Rally STRs.

The KTM is the only one that remains active for winter. That bike loves cold-weather riding and occasionally crashes into snowbanks. Last year, I only got stuck in one snowstorm. Thankfully, I was only about four miles from home when the slick conditions began. That type of riding is the ultimate training for bigger ADV riding. It’s not as much fun as sliding around some single track during the warmer months, but still fun due to the endless challenges.

If you ever want to learn the true reason big-bike ADV riders are continually standing, ride in the snow. You’ll quickly understand how lowering the center of gravity by standing makes the bike controllable in slick conditions.

The basement bikes don’t necessarily go into hibernation. I have a huge list of to-dos for the winter, including a new clutch for my classic 1998 Honda VFR800, belts and valve adjustments on the Multistrada, and a new Öhlins shock on the Ducati 1198, to name a few.

The basement is as lethargic as the garage, although I wish I could smoke cigars in my basement while wrenching! Those winter projects begin once the first snowstorm hits. There’s something about working on a bike while seeing snow falling outside the window.

I despise snow but have trained myself always to make the best of any situation. I created a seasonal romance with snow while wrenching. The only other romance I have with snow is during long periods of book writing. I get loads of writing completed during the winter months, including my debut book 365 to Vision: Modern Writer’s Guide, because I’m not out riding. If I lived in California, I likely wouldn’t get any work done.

Every winter, I realize just why people like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky were such prolific writers. The cold keeps you inside and focused on your work. Can you imagine being a lover of motorcycles while residing in Russia?

Writing is the loneliest discipline. When set behind the background of sub-freezing temperatures and white stuff, things can get downright depressing. That’s why I always need one bike available in the garage for a quick jaunt, even if it’s only a few miles around the mountains behind the house.

The KTM keeps me from madness during the winter. I don’t know how people can exist without a motorcycle or ten in their lives. I had a nervous breakdown when I was 27 due to too much work, school, music, and madness. After losing three days, my first order of business was getting back on a motorcycle and pursuing some work as a motorcycle journalist. Mixing two passions—motorcycles and writing—was a no-brainer.

I always rode, but music and lack of money during my mid-20s prevented me from riding. No wonder I went crazy.

Never again, though, as motorcycles are part of my daily lifestyle. Even when it’s freezing and snow is falling, I still have my personal time with my machines while wrenching on them throughout the colder months here in Northeast Pennsylvania.

I discussed fleeing out west multiple times, with 90 percent of the reasoning attributed to more riding time. But I know myself all too well, and I’d never get any serious work done. And I’m not ready to go mad again. Well, not just yet, anyway. Give me another 10 years of investing, and I’ll likely kill off that romance with winter and move out west and live life as a true riderholic.

Ron Lieback
Ron Lieback
One of the few moto journalists based on the East Coast, Ron Lieback joined the motorcycle industry as a freelancer in 2007, and is currently Online Editor at Ultimate Motorcycling. He is also the author of "365 to Vision: Modern Writer's Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time).

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