This year, my wife and I spent the holidays with my brother and his wife and their two-year-old son in Columbus, Ohio. Naturally, the holidays would not be complete without a visit to the local motorcycle mega mall.
I tend to prefer good old single-marque ma-’n’-pa dealerships, but turning an old Kmart into a motorcycle dealership is a mitzvah on par with transforming a toxic waste dump into a public green space (without the potential health hazards)—it satisfies an aesthetic preference, if not a moral imperative. Iron Pony Motorsports outside Columbus is just such a place.
Plus, it’s only a short drive from German Village and Schmidt’s, the landmark emporium of German cuisine that’s a required destination for lovers of meat, pale food, and dark beer. No doubt, John McGuinness (noted sausage epicure) would find karmic bliss here, if not indigestion. So, after gorging ourselves on bratwurst, sauerkraut, and doppelbock, we dragged our long-suffering and exceptionally patient wives to Iron Pony.
With Aprilia, Ducati, Indian, Polaris, Triumph, and all four Japanese brands represented, there were a lot of bikes to throw a leg over, a physically challenging feat in our wurst-impaired states. To me, a sausage buffet will always justify the consequent bloating and discomfort. Thank goodness for button-fly jeans. There’s always relief to be found in undoing a few buttons, even if it embarrasses my wife. To be clear, she’s not so much embarrassed by me as much as embarrassed for me. Which is sweet, if you think about it.
Neither my brother nor I are cruiser guys per se, but we found waddling astride the Triumph Bonneville Bobber and the Indian Scout much easier than hoiking ourselves over the Ducati Multistrada Enduro. As it turns out, it only takes a distended belly for cruisers to start making a lot of sense.
The visit was particularly special because my nephew was finally old enough to properly appreciate a Kmart-sized room full of motorcycles. As soon as we walked in, his eyes lit up and he pointed to the bikes with glee. My brother propped him on the tank of a Ducati 1299 Panigale, and he reached for the handlebars, getting that devilish look in his eye that says, “In a couple years, I’m going to be doing wheelies down the cul de sac, terrorizing the neighbor’s yippy dog, and getting on a first-name basis with the local constabulary.” Big trouble, in other words.
My nephew’s first word was “Ducati”—well, the American toddler’s pronunciation, anyway—so he seems to be genetically predisposed to be a biker. Or maybe it’s just because my brother makes him point to his motorcycles every time he walks past them in the garage. Nature or nurture, the chances of this kid not getting into bikes is pretty slim.
Beyond exposure and parental influence, there’s something about motorcycles that’s appealing on a basic level. For one, motorcycles seem more human-sized than cars. Even kids intuit that the way a motorcycle relates to the body alludes to our primacy in the relationship; that our faculties and our physical engagement with it impresses our identities on it in a much more tangible way than it does with most other types of motorized vehicles.
My nephew sat on a dozen or so bikes that day. I could almost see how the shapes of motorcycles were being imprinted on his mind as he was carried from PW50 seat to Triumph Thruxton R tank and then back to the 1299 Panigale.
We apologize to the unfortunate soul who had to polish all the fingerprint smudges off the tanks.
It’s going to be a few more years before my nephew will be old enough to ride a bike, but the seed has been planted. If his childhood is anything like mine and my brother’s, he’ll be spending a lot of Saturday mornings in motorcycle dealerships, dreaming of the day he’s old enough to have his own.
Whether it’s inherent or inherited, motorcycles are the best kind of vice. And much more socially acceptable than, for instance, overeating and walking around in public with your pants halfway undone.