The rumble of motorcycle engines is as sure a sign of spring in Wisconsin as are baseball, open-water fishing or brats on the grill. Unfortunately, this past weekend's weather was not really calling motorcycle riders or anyone else to get outside around these parts.
Whether it’s two-wheel Tuesday events, Thursday bike nights or the seemingly endless weekend rides and parties, Wisconsin motorcycle riders are more than ready to ride. Some, like me, have been riding on the few nice days we’ve had, while the true die-hards have just been riding in harsher conditions.
On a recent Thursday night with some decent weather, I took the opportunity to ride to a few biker hangouts in the downtown and Walker’s Point areas.
Not surprisingly, the biggest and best crowd was at the Harley-Davidson Museum with around 50 bikes, including a few with out-of-state license plates. I talked to a younger couple from Menomonee Falls who had been putting some miles in whenever they had the chance. Another local rider was also enjoying the weather, having covered more than 200 miles that day.
There were only a couple bikes and riders at Steny’s in Walker’s Point, but the bartender said more bikers had been around when the weather was nicer on the weekends. Riding south on 1st Street to the Horny Goat, I found a few more bikes in the parking lot and riders at the bar. A fellow Wauwatosa rider in the group said he had already been on almost a dozen rides on his new Harley Breakout.
While I haven’t gone out to the western Waukesha County roads yet this year, a quick call to the Golden Lake Pub in Oconomowoc confirmed that riders had already been out a few times and are chomping at the bit for better weather and eventually an actual summer.
While we all know that bikers are a bit of a different breed, they are really similar to golfers, bicyclists, fisherman, ballplayers and others when it comes desperately wanting to get outside after a long Wisconsin winter.
One way that bikers do differ from those other outdoors folks is the amount of time and effort necessary to get going each spring. As motorcycles sit idle for most of the winter in garages, storage or even outside, they usually need a lot more than a quick wipe down to get on the road.
So, if there’s a silver lining in this extended winter for local bikers, it's giving them some more time to get their motorcycles ready for safe riding by checking the tires, oils and lubricants, and other equipment. We’ve had a couple more weeks for the roads to clear of salt, sand and leaves. At some point, they might even get a chance to fill those dreaded potholes?
Finally, many bikers and safe riding advocates consider April "Check Your Helmet Month." After prepping their bikes, the riders who choose to wear helmets are advised to check their head gear at least once a year. The reason is that helmets deteriorate over time and are generally designed to absorb one major hit. So, if you don’t take good care of your helmet or have dropped it, it might be worth checking. Not to mention possibly wanting a fashion upgrade.
So, as the weather changes for the better, hopefully sooner than later, let’s have a safe riding season in Wisconsin, whether you’re riding a motorcycle or sharing the road with one.
Mike Morgan rides retro, whether on his 1976 Harley Aermacchi 250 or Heritage Softail. Mike has been a motorcyclist since 2001 having ridden in Sturgis, Daytona Beach, the California coast, New England and everywhere in between, including in the last three Milwaukee Harley Anniversary parades.
Mike worked in communications and marketing at Harley-Davidson for more than 12 years, writing and editing all kinds of content, including award-winning media kids in 2009 and 2012. He had ridden the Harley several times before Brewer games at Miller Park, and ran in one of the last sausage races at the old County Stadium when he was Communications Manager for the Stadium District Board.