July 25, 2006


Bikers in general -- and BMW bikers even more specifically -- are fiercely independent. Male or female it matters not.

Lest we become complacent to societal labels such as “Generation X,” “Baby Boomer,” and “Middle Class,” an opportunity to spend a few days with 200,000 bikers in Laconia, or with 8,000 more brand-specific cyclists at the BMW Motorcycle Owners Association Annual Rally (held this year in Essex Junction, Vermont), quickly proves such labels pointless.

Touring bikers (especially) are ready, willing and able to jump on their bike and ride a thousand miles or more just for the fun of it. (And should you think that rain would dampen that enthusiasm, it does little more than make these sorts pause for 5 minutes to put on their rain gear.)

Much like a sailor declares “the voyage is the value,” we touring cruisers confess “the ride is the reason.”

A destination is but a dot on a map. And on most BMWs the map is always in view, either beneath the clear top of the tank bag, or on the screen of the GPS unit mounted neatly at the helm. (Forgive me for the nautical term, but as an avid boater, I view a “helm” as the control station for any vehicle I drive, wheeled or otherwise.)

I digress. This story is not about maps, it is about the incredible people I just met at the 2006 BMW MOA International Rally in Vermont. A more bucolic setting for a cycling rally would be hard to find. And a finer group of people from all over the world would be impossible to imagine.

There was Dexter from Washington DC. He had over 112,000 miles on his current bike. It’s his 4th or 5th bike. He didn’t just ride up to Vermont from DC. He was enjoying his ride so much, he went right on past Vermont on the way up, stopping for a night at Mont Tremblant in Quebec before deciding to do a U-turn and head back to Burlington.

There was Anita from “The Bush” of Ontario. She is a mother, a dressmaker, a chicken farmer, a ski racer, basically a Renaissance Woman. She rode into the rally alone, packing only a tent and a change of clothes. She wanted to meet people who shared her same passion for riding. It was a passion that caught her by the throat, and resulted in her ultimately becoming an advanced Motorcycle Instructor in Ontario. Wow.

There was Bob, a fellow who simply exudes the joy or riding. Bob organized a fantastic group ride that about 20 of us enjoyed across Lake Champlain on the Island Route. Magic was in the air, as rain appeared to fall all around us, yet never once upon "us" during our half-day cruise.

There were so many wonderful people that all gathered for a few short days in Vermont. They rode totally different types of cycles. Most were BMWs, but even there one saw the divergence of styles. The bikes were of every style one could imagine, from sidecar rigs to trikes, from classic R’s, to screaming K 1200s, and on to (in my view) the most beautiful of them all, the R 1200 C Chromeheads. What a sight!

Tim, from Ascutney, Vermont, thrilled at discussing all manner of bike equipment issues with more seasoned BMW owners. I suspect he’ll soon be one of Vermont’s foremost touring bikers. Each ride, rain or shine, was a pure joy to him.

Demitri, from Boston, attended his first Rally this year. He is destined to be a fine cyclist. He surely enjoyed meeting all these riders and new friends. I lost him on the way back home when the call of a roadside NH Liquor Store forced him off the highway, much the way it does to most all Massachusetts drivers when headed back to the Commonwealth of Taxation.

Alan, from New Jersey, hosted several real-time gatherings of the Virtual BMA Motorcycle Club, “Chromeheads.” It is an absolute tribute to him and the other managers of that site that the Chromeheads Web Site is such a valuable and enjoyable place for us to gather (virtually of course). We had even more fun riding together.

Dave, from somewhere I sadly can’t recall, helped a new rider deal with the stress of a first mountain ride. For those yet to experience real mountain twisties they are a marvel to embrace. But there is anxiety for a newbie. He or she is worried about what others will think.

Dave took care of this fellow by telling him about “Balls of Steel.” Dave, it seems, always carries two steel ball bearings in his pocket. Whenever some blowhard gives him grief about not riding aggressively enough, Dave pulls out these units and declares, “I already have Balls of Steel, don’t you?”

Dave gave those steel balls to the new kid, told him “You already have Balls of Steel,” and told him to follow his path through the corners. Bravo. This is real mentoring. Dave is an Ambassador of “The Ride.”

I must admit that this was my first Rally as well. It was such a wonderful experience that I suspect I’ll attend many more. After all, there are so many more people to meet: and the ride is the reason.

Friday Chromeheads' Ride Across The Islands

Vermont's Green Mountains and Lake Champlain Islands gifted our Chromeheads' Ride with fabulous cruising terrain at the recent BMW MOA International Rally, held in Burlington and Essex Junction, Vermont. What a blast!