|Pic © Gerard Pace|
What is it that drives a person to ride, what most people assume to be, the transportation method of madmen and bad boys? I mainly wanted to answer three things in exploring this question; who was the first person to introduce my interviewee to motorcycling, what’s their favourite part about riding a motorcycle, and, like the last one, what was their favourite experience riding a motorcycle. To answer these questions, I decided to interview my uncle, Gerard Pace who lives in Toronto. Gerard rides a naked 400 CC 4-cylinder Suzuki Bandit. It’s the first bike he has owned and it has lasted him about eighteen years and will probably last for many years to come.
Gerard’s entrance into the motorcycling world was certainly an emotional one. His first experience riding was at a cottage owned by his Uncle Barry in Iroquois Falls. Barry had been riding for several years by that time and decided to let him try out motorcycling in his yard at around eighteen years old. All though the ground was sandy and not exactly “Ideal” as a motorcyclist would want, he still fell in love with it. Gerard described the experience to me: “It was strictly in the back of a cottage, so it wasn’t out on a road […] that’s when I got my first taste of [motorcycling] and I was like ‘Woah, this is great,’ it was basically on sand which is horrible on a motorcycle,” Gerard was interested in the prospect of getting his license until his cousin, Paul, had a terrible accident while riding that had left him paralyzed and wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. While riding with his friend, Paul hit a gravel patch and crashed, he was rushed to the hospital and was left in critical care for several hours. After that, Gerard didn’t want to entertain the idea. He didn’t touch a bike again for several years. It wasn’t until eighteen years ago that he decided to take the plunge and do the motorcycling test. He has been riding ever since. That story has clearly had a strong influence on the type of biker he turned out to be. While he pulls a lot of joy out of the time he spends biking, safety on the road is probably the most important factor of riding for him. When asked if he has any rituals before he goes to ride, he said he makes sure to have all the safety equipment ready to go and that it is in good shape. While some may have a “need for speed” and others just a general “want” to ride. I would guess, for a vast majority, there’s some story which molds the type of motorcyclist they turn out to be and could also be a big factor behind what got them into riding.
While the stories are what molds the type of motorcyclist our interviewee becomes, there must be something about it that keeps them hooked. For Gerard, it’s mostly about the connection to the bike. When asked about his favourite part of riding He said: “I like that you are connected to the machine. And there’s nothing better than the smell, you get the wind full in your face. If you ride at night there’s sometimes, late at night, where there will be a dip in the road and the air will feel cool against you and you can smell those swampy smells around you,” Over the course of the interview he placed a big emphasis on the ability to fully control the motorcycle and be connected to the machine in a way that isn’t found with other modes of transportation. The experience is open and there are tons of choices to make and that need to be made quickly. While there are limits to the rider’s ability, if you ride within them a whole new world opens up before you on the road, one that won’t be found by simply driving a car.
For his favorite experience riding, Gerard talked about his motorcycling exam. He passed it on his first try and said it was exhilarating. The story behind it was fun to hear and sounded a bit thrilling as well. It was a bit different than a normal exam would be, he said: “The instructors follow you in a car, one told me before the exam ‘If you can’t hear us just tap on the side of the helmet to let us know,’ with the wind and noise, I just couldn’t hear them at all,” Things were already off to a great start, and only really got tougher from there, he continued: “[…] I remember hitting the ramp [of the autoroute] and there’s this transport truck just hauling and down and cutting into my lane, and I had to either hit the throttle or hit the brakes, so I just hit the throttle and blasted ahead of the truck.” It’s that split-second decision that made the experience memorable for him. The rider has the ability to make decisions like that when they are on the road and they have to be done quickly. It’s experiences like those, where a strong connection with the machine and quick thinking are required, that stand out for Gerard.
It isn’t the need to be a daredevil that encourages Gerard to ride, as public perception of the average motorcyclist would have you believe, rather, it’s the first ride, the responsive control of the bike, and the stories gathered, which you don’t get when driving a car or riding a bicycle. That’s what makes him a motorcyclist and that’s what keeps him riding.
I would like to thank Gerard Pace, my uncle, for sharing his experiences and his look into the road that he followed onto two wheels. Without his participation in the interview, this project would have been somewhat more difficult. I would also like to thank my mum who found the information that allowed me to contact Gerard and present him with the prospect of doing this interview in the first place.
About Wesley Smith
Wesley Smith studied at Champlain College Lennoxville located in Quebec, Canada. Interview With A Biker - Gerard Pace was written as part of a class project for a course titled Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Studies in the Department of Humanities.
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