I fell in love with motorcycles. But could I ever love Sturgis?

ByDavid M. Conte

Oct 29, 2021

My motorcycle journey began in May 2019, when Revel, an application-based “urban mobility” start-up, dumped a few hundred electronic mopeds in gentrified regions of the outlying districts. At the time, I was living in Queens, half a mile from the rental radius. Despite a vague feeling that scooters were bad – that they could represent rampant privatization as an infrastructure crisis approaches (or something like that) – I soon found myself taking stealthy walks around the area. application coverage. The Revels were humiliating to drive – with the sexless body style of a Chase ATM – and yet I was addicted to how easy it was to navigate a crowded city on two wheels. One day while walking around the area, I ran into a guy in a garage with a whole herd of vintage mopeds for sale. By closing the Revel app for the last time, I withdrew $ 500 from an ATM and left that day on a 1980 Motobécane Mobylette.

My Mobylette had a slender red frame and an extra-long black leather seat with room for a girl with a scarf around her neck. Like the Revel, it relieved the stress of getting from point A to point B in a city. Unlike the Revel, it was constantly breaking down, teaching me new vocabulary words like “idle jet”, “petcock” and “lean oil mixture”. (As a bumper sticker in the vintage scooter world says, “MY OTHER RIDE IS 10 BROKEN CYLINDERS.”) I wanted a ride, not a hobby, so I sold the Mobylette and went looking for something more reliable. A bicycle was too slow; an electric bicycle was too new; an electric longboard was too embarrassing. This is how a motorcycle began to become a practical choice.

My Yamaha TW200 arrived in May 2021, after two months at sea in the pandemic supply chain. As I took my bike out into the streets, I quickly discovered that it was somewhat strange to think of the bike as just pragmatic. Other bikers threw peace signs as they passed, suggesting that we had something in common. Everywhere I wore my Kevlar jacket, friends would pester me with epithets like “bad boy” and ask if they could “see my pig”. “The jacket and helmet are for safety,” I protested. “The TW200 is a farm bike! They use it to keep animals!

There were no cattle to keep in New York City, and the more I objected to it, the more it seemed like I was in the throes of a latent crisis of masculinity. Still, I thought the motorcycle was his own thing. Ten layers deep in a sardonic detachment, I felt humbled that a stranger would believe I had adhered to the empty biker assignments. When strangers started flirting with me – saying “nice bike” and asking for “a ride” – I felt humiliated for them. How oblivious do you have to be to move at the sight of a motorcycle helmet?

Lucky for me, these questions were made unnecessary when my bike was stolen after just two months of riding. The next morning, a building with the super, I watched on a CCTV screen two guys in hooded sweatshirts with an angle grinder chipping my disc lock like a pistachio. The following days were just a labyrinthine bureaucracy and no open roads. I called the insurance agent, who told me to call the cops, who told me to go down to the station, where they told me to go home and call 911. I went to notarize the claim form at the bank, where they told me to go to the pharmacy, whose notary only accepted cash, sending me back to the bank right away. Over the weekend, someone from the @stolenmotorcyclesnyc Instagram account saw my bike parked on the street in Brooklyn. I texted the address to my cop, who responded 10 days later to ask if I got it.

Things went on like this for a few weeks. I kept a piece of yellow card stock near my computer to record each step of the claim payment process. At 45 paces, I added a second sheet. Each new contact with the bureaucracy made my bike look less like a machine and more like a link between paperwork flows. By the time I left for Sturgis, I was 55 paces away, waiting for the DMV to send out a duplicate of a title I never initially received, for a vehicle I no longer owned. The whole biker lifestyle that I had initially ignored now seemed intriguing – and maybe even fun.

At first Sturgis’ official day, I woke up to a headline from the Daily Beast: “Sturgis Rally Death Cult Pits Nurses Against Panicked Docs.” I’ve scoured tweets from people on the coast, predicting 10 days of public health indifference, followed by widespread hospitalizations and an influx of Harleys for sale, barely rolled. Many grabbed the number “700,000”, a prediction (from where?) Of the number of bikers who came to Sturgis to gather in droves. This bothered me for two reasons: first, it smelled like blissful schadenfreude. Second, these people didn’t seem to understand the most basic facts of what Sturgis really is.


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