Sunday, July 4, 2010

Motorcycle Gang

I suppose I was twelve or thirteen the Christmas that Dad decided to get Joshua and I motorcycles. He had taken us to a few motorcycle shops and had us pick bikes we liked just in case he could buy them one day. We were told that he hoped to get them for us at some point, but that he wasn't sure when that would be. I am certain he was telling the truth at the moment. However, after we picked the motorcycles we wanted he decided he wanted to get them for us as soon as possible. So he worked tons of overtime to get them by Christmas.

He didn't want us to suspect that we were getting them, so we had Christmas just like we always did. We got our normal allotment of toys on Christmas eve down to the last present. When I got up on Christmas morning I couldn't have imagined that we had anything waiting for us, much less something that was worth all the rest of our Christmas presents together. I walked into the living room and saw two motorcycles parked under the Christmas tree. I was so surprised that I literally fell to the floor.

About an hour later Joshua and I were suited up and sitting outside on our bikes. Little did I know that it was the beginning of an almost countless number of adventures. I had just started learning how to change gears and get it going when Kevin Miller showed up. Kevin was a friend that we had known ever since we moved to Williston. We had both moved away from the original neighborhood, but occasionally got to see one another.

He was out and about on that fine Christmas morning and happened to see us out playing with our new bikes. I had just stopped and turned mine off when I looked up to see Kevin coming across the yard. He walked up with a broad smile on his face.

“Nice motorcycle!”

“Thanks, I just got it for Christmas.”

“Well, it's awesome! Have you popped a wheelie yet?”

“I don't know how...”

“Nothing to it! All you need to do is open the throttle and pop the clutch.”


Here I have to provide a few details. First, my motorcycle outfit consisted of a sweat suit and a helmet. Second, the seat of the bike was plastic leather or pleather or whatever you want to call it. The result of these two facts was that I was sitting on a very slick surface. However, at the time I didn't consider this at all.

I took Kevin at his word. I cranked the motorcycle and completely opened the throttle. As soon as the engine was running at full RPMs (about a tenth of a second) I popped the clutch. What happened next was one of those things that leaves most people saying “No Way!”

The front wheel of the bike shot up as if I was about to do a wheelie, but it didn't stop there. It pulled up so far that I fell off. Well, I slid off. I guess it would be more accurate to say that the bike shot out from under me. I went from sitting on my motorcycle to standing on the ground in the blink of an eye.

All this prevented me from letting go of the throttle, so the back wheel continued to spin at full speed. It caused the bike to shoot up above my head. I had actually made it do a one hundred and eighty degree arc around my body. I stood there for a moment with my arms stretched up above my head holding the handle bars. I looked straight up into the seat I had just been sitting on and the decided I better get out from under it. I took two steps before the bike had hit the ground. It just laid there completely upside down.

Kevin stood there for a second with a stunned look on his face. Finally he spoke:

“You opened the throttle too much...”

Well, he was right. After a few more tries I perfected my wheelie and never had the bike shoot up above me again. However, I had another wheelie experience shortly after all this. A few days later I headed down the road to show Sam my bike. He was impressed.

“That's a nice bike!”

“Yea, you want to try it?”

“You know it!”

We decided that I would climb on the back and Sam and I would ride back up to my house.

“You know how to pop a wheelie?” I asked. I was my only trick so far and I wanted to share.


“It's easy, just open the throttle and pop the clutch. Just be careful about how much you open the throttle!”

“No problem.”

Again, I have to pause for some description. Sam was actually living just down the hill from me at his grandmother's house. The hill continued down past her house. In fact her trailer was almost set on the ground on one end and on the other it was suspended roughly ten feet in the air, just to keep it level. We were sitting on the high side of this hill when he decided to start our trip home with a wheelie.

Sam started the bike, opened the throttle a little and popped the clutch. The front wheel pulled up and we began to ride along on the back tire. As soon as we were rolling forward, however, we took a slight right and started to slowly head down the hill.

“How do I steer?” Sam yelled above the sound of the motor.

“You can't until we get the front wheel back on the ground!”

“How do we do that?”

“Just lean forward!”

Normally leaning forward will put enough weight on the front wheel to push it back down to the ground. However, that didn't work this time. We had already started heading down the hill so that, from the point of view of gravity, the front wheel was almost strait up. Also, Sam's hands had slipped off the handle bars and he was holding as tight as he could to the top of the gas tank. We couldn't get enough leverage to get our weigh on the front of the motorcycle and drop the front tire.

The bike absolutely refused to put both it's wheels on the ground. We were screaming almost non-stop and were heading straight for a fence at the bottom of the hill. Just before the bike ran into it we started turning to the right. We actually drove around Sam's grandmother's trailer and started heading back up the hill. Once we had gotten to the top of the hill the bike made another right and dropped down on both wheels at almost the same point where our wheelie had started.

“How did you do that?!?” I asked as soon as the bike was stopped.

“I have no idea!” was Sam's honest answer.

Sam never popped another wheelie anywhere near as cool, either on purpose or by accident. None of my wheelies ever touched it either. However, Josh did pop one, quite by accident, that was even cooler and slightly more unbelievable than that one.

It happened years later. Sam had broken my motorcycle (that's another story...) and we had been trying to get it working again. We had been working on the engine for days, but hadn't gotten it started yet. Finally Sam decided that we needed to push start it to clear all the gunk out of the engine.

For those of you who don't know how you push start something I'll briefly explain. All you have to do is put the vehicle in neutral or hold the clutch in and start it rolling. Once the vehicle is moving at a good speed you pop the clutch. This forces the engine to roll over and the vehicle will start.

This was what Sam and Josh were doing with the motorcycle. They would haul it up to the top of the hill and get it rolling down and then pop the clutch. They had been at it for a while with no results. Sam was pushing while Josh rode the bike. Josh was lighter and Sam was stronger, so it was the best way to go about it.

At last something did happen. Sam was pushing away and yelled for Josh to pop the clutch. As he did so the bike shot up into a wheelie. Josh began to fly down the hill on one tire. Sam screamed for Josh to hit the brake. I'm sure that at the moment this seemed like a good idea even though it proved to be otherwise. Because Josh only slammed on the back brakes the front wheel was still free to move. Now, this may not seem like a problem since the front wheel was in the air, however, it turned out to be an issue anyway.

Here it's important to note that the hill he was rolling down was very steep. He was also rolling at a very high speed when he hit the brakes. The results were very remarkable. The front wheel came down with so much force that it cause the back tire to pop up. Since the front wheel was free to spin it caused the bike to kick up into a wheelie on the front tire. Sam screamed for Josh not to hit the break and he took the advice. He rolled all the way down the hill on the front wheel, screaming the entire way. At the very end the road went from paved to dirt. The dirt slowed the bike down and when it finally fell over Josh wasn't hurt at all.

There were many more wheelies, but none of them ever matched those. Little did Dad know what he had actually gotten when he bought that bike. It was a doorway to adventure for us. That was the one kind of door we could never walk past. There are many more stories about that old bike. I plan to share more of them with you time.

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