The Next Generation

A little about Oahu, HI: It’s tight.  Space is limited and land is at a premium.  As such, yards are typically small if they’re there at all, and houses are usually pretty close to each other.  The house I’m renting is actually in the middle of a quad-plex of houses in a neighborhood where everyone lives in quad-plexes.  There is grass and trees, but it’s more communal than anything else.

On the plus side, most of the houses in the neighborhood have garages (which is good news because bike thefts are prevalent in the island) so I have someplace safe(r) to store my Ruckus.

That said, when it’s time to work on the Ruck, the garage door goes up so I can have light, a breeze, and a view of my kids who are usually playing with the other kids of the neighborhood in our yard.

One thing I noticed as I did various projects with my Ruckus is that the kids – aged four to ten-years-old – were always curious as to what I was doing.  I try to be a friendly guy, asking questions about their lives while I’m wrenching away and taking the time to explain what it is I’m doing if they ask.  I even let them help with the easiest tasks that have the least amount of risk in case their parents come by and freak out about the possibility of little Johnny ruining something by over-tightening or dropping a part or tool.

The kids almost always enjoy it and when they come over to play with my kids the next time, they usually talk about what their parents said when they explained the adventure they had working on their friend’s dad’s motorcycle (they don’t differentiate between scooters and motorcycles).

Pro tip for non-parents:  If you ever have kids or are around kids, be careful what you say and do as they will absorb and regurgitate everything to everyone at the worst times.

IMG_4415
My son after helping fix the droopy forward pegs on my Ruckus.

A lot of the stories the kids relayed to me went something like “my dad said he would love to get a motorcycle, but Mom says no,” or “my parents say I’m never allowed to have a motorcycle because they’re too dangerous.”

Typical.

And understandable.  From a non-rider’s perspective, riding is an unnecessary risk that doesn’t have enough reward to justify the danger, but most riders know this is just ignorance on their part.

I try not to counter what parents say.  It’s not my place to tell them motorcycling is as dangerous as you make it, or defensive driving is the name of the game, or something like that.  They’re just kids and I don’t want them to doubt their own parents when it comes to something critical like safety just like I wouldn’t want a parent to counter something I taught my kid about something.

That said, I do explain that motorcycling is dangerous, but a lot of things are and everyone needs to figure out what’s right for them at some point.  Then I ask them to hand me the ratchet or a bolt and help me out.

Motorcycles are something for everyone to tackle individually.  People need to figure out if they want to ride or not.  But by letting a kid help out with a project, you might inspire them to pursue mechanics down the road or they might look at motorcycles more seriously after having some of the mystery taken away by helping re-jet a carburetor or something.  At the very least, they can get their hands a little dirty and go home with a cool story for their family or friends about how they helped build a motorcycle and feel proud of themselves.

You never know.  Sharing your motorcycling passion with the kids around you might help inspire a whole new generation of riders and modders.  It doesn’t take much, either.  Just being friendly has a huge impact on a kid.  I remember being at a parade as a child and seeing a bunch of Harleys ride by.  I gave the throttle motion and a rider saw it, revved his engine like crazy, smiled, and waved at me.  I was on top of the world with happiness and excitement.  Even a wave from a motorcyclist when I was riding a bicycle made me feel awesome!  I’d ride home brrrrrrrrrr-ing to myself pretending I was on a real bike.

Motorcycles and motorcyclists get a bad rap a lot of the time and the only way to change that is by being a positive example to those around us – by being the change we want to see.  I can’t think of a better way that has more impact than by being friendly with the next generation of potential riders.

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