The training wheels stigma

A beginner bike? I could ride this thing forever
Published November 11, 2008

If you’ve never read Bike you owe it to yourself to pick up an issue (Borders imports them from the UK). I’ve burned through about five issues now and it really is inspiring material for anyone that loves their bike and the possibilities of what you can do on two wheels. I wrote Bike the following letter at the end of October, mostly in hopes of getting a free subscription but also because it’s something that’d been on my mind lately. And for the record, I’ve nothing against upgrading to faster machines–I drive a 400 hp car, but it’s not because I’m expected to.

The Letter

No one expected me to upgrade to a turbobrick when I drove a hand-me-down Volvo 240GL, but it seems everyone is waiting for me to toss out my 250cc Ninja and grow up to a 600cc supersport, which will in years become useless and necessarily replaced by a literbike, a ‘Busa, preferably turbocharged.

I’ve now over 4,000 miles on my little Ninja and am still wondering why I’d ever need anything faster. Want something faster? Sure. I’d also love to put a Koenigsegg in my garage.

But I guess a CCX costs a half a fortune and a GSX-R can be had for under ten grand. Which brings me to this loose conclusion: The relatively low cost of entry to superbike performance has bred a gotta-upgrade mentality in the motorbiking community that urges bikers onto faster and faster machines.

While I won’t insist my Ninjette is capable of everything, spirited riding down Skyline to Alice’s and around Mount Tamalpais via the Panoramic Highway reveals to me that a 250cc bike is capable of much more than public roads can safely throw at it.

So what’s with the peer urgency to graduate, as if I’m plodding around on training wheels? Even my dad, who did his biking in the ’70s, manages to quiz me about upgrading every time I get him on the phone. If it weren’t for the seductive Street Triple, I’d be more interested in sampling different sorts of bikes–cruisers, motards, adventure–before moving vertically in the sportbike arena.

Though I find nothing wrong with wanting to go faster, I’m struck that my own mentality is such a minority one. Away from the track, supersports are a waste. So’s a Ferrari, but then no one thinks you’re a girl or a novice just because you’re not driving one.

San Francisco, California