Riding the Plank

More from the master of motorcycling self-deprecation.

Originally published in Keystone Motorcycle Press, March 2022

Really appreciate new KMP reader Mark Robbin’s letter in the February issue. He was responding to my piece in the January issue where I noted that my 75-year-old butt had a hard time doing more than 150 miles at a time, so my day-ride radius was limited. And since I’d already ridden most of the interesting roads therein multiple times, I might be getting a little bored. He suggested putting the bike on a trailer, hauling it to and from some distant point in more comfort, and exploring new territory.

Well, Mark, been there done that. In fact, back in 2006 I even did a piece for this paper about such a ride. I’d bought a beautiful, like-new Worthington aluminum trailer, fitted it with a motorcycle wheel chock and fashioned a ramp that even I thought I could safely navigate. (More on that later.) We loaded my Connie and trailered it to in-laws in Connecticut and did a weeklong tour around your state of Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. I noted in that article how the trip home was made in a pouring rain and we were counting our blessings that the bike was on the trailer and we weren’t on the bike.

Now to the part of that story that I omitted, since I was too embarrassed back then to own up to some of the coordination/mental courage shortcomings that were also mentioned in my recent January article. Let’s roll back the clock to the late 80’s when I had a 750 Kawasaki that I wanted to exchange for something a bit bigger. My buddy Dick Sidle decided to have a bring-your-own used bike auction at his Honda dealership near Lebanon, PA, so I took the Kawi.

Seems Dick, always the showman, decided to build a platform about eight feet high. In order to get your bike up there to be bid on, you had to traverse a steep, narrow plank. One by one I watched as the assembled deftly rode their scoots up that board, all the while my own fear built. Finally it was my turn. I really tried to will myself onward, but halfway up I stalled the damn bike and just barely managed a wobbly recovery, a clutch popping restart and an ungainly stop once I achieved the top. All this much to the humiliating amusement of the crowd. To add insult to injury, nobody showed any interest in the bike, which I then had to ride down the plank on the opposite side. Fortunately I accomplished this task without incident.

This is a memory that lives today in that horrible place in the back of my mind reserved for things I wish I’d never done. The kind of thing that flashes out to give me a momentary shudder until I can force it back into that hole. So, forward 20 years and here I was with my beautiful aluminum trailer, having decided to make a trial attempt at loading the bike so I could test out all the hardware before the actual trip. Even though this involved riding a much wider, much shorter ramp onto a very much lower platform, all I could think of was that time on Dick’s plank. To make a long story short, I did the same thing, and in my panic that top-heavy Connie ended up semi-horizontal, with me entangled in it, screaming for help, until my neighbor from across the street came running to my rescue.

Back in 2006, the author loads his Concours on his trailer, finally keeping everything upright.

Somehow I later willed myself into being able to do this task successfully, although never without absolute fear, so we could accomplish our ride. Still, shortly after our return I traded the trailer as part of deal on a used pickup.

Now to the present, and I’ve bought and refurbished another, not quite so nice trailer. I think every man should have a trailer, although I’m about as good at backing up a vehicle with a trailer attached as I am riding a bike on a plank. While I’ve used it for hauling landscape materials for a couple of home projects, I’ve also toyed with the idea of hauling my restored Honda CT-90 to distant off-roading opportunities. Surely I could easily ride that little bike up a plank.

But, Mark, reading your trailering suggestion really expanded my thinking. Pennsylvania, and its surrounding states, have thousands and thousands of miles of great roads that I’ve never seen. I may just take a chance on loading my BMW on that trailer and heading off for parts yet unknown. Of course, before I risk that, I probably should seek some therapy to get that horrible memory of my first plank encounter permanently out of my head.

©2022, David B Bucher

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