Sportbikes are to the motorcycling world what sports cars are to four wheelers. They symbolize youth, speed, a bit of danger and the bad boy, and maybe a sign that you have a little extra money in your pocket, thus the ability to spend on such adult toys. But just the way people sometimes look at middle-aged and older men driving those sports cars as experiencing some form of a middle-aged crisis, trying to hold onto or recapture their youth or appeal to women that are much too young for them, my guess is men over a certain age riding motorcycles are looked at much the same way. Which begs the question. Is there an expiration date for men and sportbikes? Is there an age when we should just sell that crotch rocket and recognize it is our time to go ahead and get on a cushy cruiser and leave the bright colored speed machines to those whose backs are better suited for bent forward riding?
I actually got into riding later than most. I began riding motorcycles when I was in my mid-30’s, after I already had a wife and two kids in the house. And my first bike was of course a sport bike, the Kawasaki Ninja 500. It was a good bike to start out on, a smaller, less aggressive member of the sport bike family, but a sportbike nonetheless. The fact that I was riding that instead of a cruiser was just personal taste. At least so I told myself. And I certainly at the time didn’t think mid-30’s was an odd age to be on young man’s bike. But maybe I was fooling myself.
As the years went on, my taste and preference for bikes stayed with sportbikes. I simply continued to love the feel of the power and speed these bikes afforded. Coupled with my love for watching road racing, especially Superbike Racing and MotoGP, I wanted to ride the street versions of those very special bikes. Riding a cruiser, no matter how cool some of them looked, just seemed too docile for me.
But as the years have gone by I couldn’t help but notice more and more how I looked at guys I saw riding those crotch rockets who looked like they were out of place due to their age. Of course it hadn’t occurred to me that I looked just like them. And yeah, I have to admit, as the body aged a bit, though I was and am still an athletic guy, aches and pains come and remain in a way they just don’t when you are in your 20’s. And riding in a bent forward position was just not feeing as comfortable anymore. So without realizing it directly, my eyes started to notice the cruisers more and more. I gradually started to spend more time admiring sporty but less extreme positioned bikes like the Ducati Monster, which I convinced myself would allow me to still be that sporty guy, but also ride something more appropriate to my age. There was truth and logic in that thinking.
Now that I am in my mid-50’s I have definitely reached that place where even the desire to ride crotch rockets is just not there anymore. I still admire them for their look and performance. But I am quite happy to let the young guys have all the fun with them. Doesn’t mean I am ready to retire or anything. I may still want to put a sportbike on a track for a few hours of fun. But for real transportation in the city or a country ride I’ll gladly opt for the cruiser or cruiser-like bike like a Monster. Those bikes get me where I’m going, in style and with the same amount of fun, while they feel much more appropriate for my age.
Does that mean the 40+ crowd should not be riding sportbikes on the street? I am not saying that. What you ride is of course your choice. But I will say, if you’re going be riding sportbikes into your middle years and beyond, just be prepared to get looks for reasons other than the reasons they looked at you in your 20’s. But riding bikes is about freedom. And if you’re still riding that rocket as the gray hairs start, more power to you. You do you. And don’t worry about anyone else. And hey, while you’re at go show those young guys what you’ve learned through the years.