Thursday, August 13, 2009

A blessing in disguise

A blessing in disguise
Thursday, August 13, 2009
By Rocky Marks
Carl Durocher
An unsafe motorcycle is better off put in park.
Summertime and my motorcycle have been really good to me. I have been racking up the miles, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Pittsburgh and having the time of my life. In fact, my schedule was booked solid with rides all the way through the end of September.

I planned on riding down the East Coast to meet my family at Hilton Head, S.C., for a week of fun in the sun. I had a few runs to go on with my dad, and my wife and I were going to take an extended weekend trip. I even planned on taking my Harley to my 15-year class reunion to give some of my friends' kids a ride.

That all changed a few weeks ago when I injured my shoulder. At first I didn't think anything of it. It felt as if I had pulled a muscle, as I've done before with other muscles, and they have all since healed. This injury was different. About two weeks ago, I went for a ride on my bike, and by the time I reached my destination I was almost in tears. My shoulder was throbbing. In addition to the shooting pain in my shoulder, my arm became numb and tingly. I thought to myself, "This can't be good."

I went to see my primary care physician and he gave me some news that no motorcyclist wants to hear. He told me that I had to put my bike away. What? Dr. Mark is an avid Pittsburgh Rides reader, and he knows how important riding my bike is to me. Was he not aware of the fact that we are in peak riding season? Did he not know that I was trying to set a new record for how many days I could ride my motorcycle into work while leaving my car at home?

All of that didn't matter to him. He was concerned about my health and my recovery time. He looked me in the eye and said that my time in the saddle was over for a few weeks if not months. He told me that pending the outcome of my MRI, it could be at the very least six weeks.

Six weeks? It's as if I'm a child all over again and grounded by my parents. I can remember having to give up my bicycle for a day or two but never for six weeks. That's a long time. In six weeks, my vacation will have come and gone, my kids will be back in school, and the leaves will be starting to change colors.

My bike was due for service, so our driver at the shop came to my house pick up my bike. I figured I may as well get it done while I'm on the sidelines, right?

He tried to start my bike, but it wouldn't even turn over. The battery was fine. The security lights kept flashing, and he and my wife tried everything to get it disarmed while talking to me over the phone. Finally, he decided to just coast it down the driveway and into the back of the trailer.

When he arrived at the shop, I went up to the trailer and took my set of keys over to the bike. The security disengaged, and it started up with no problems at all.

Meanwhile, a very good friend of mine wanted to try a bigger bike, so I offered him my bike once it was fixed. Upon completion of the service, the tech found a problem with the front wheel bearings that I hadn't noticed. The service manager also took it for a ride, and he reached the same conclusion. It turns out that my front wheel bearings were bad, and my bike isn't rideable until it can be repaired.

For those who don't know, a malfunctioning wheel bearing can cause one of two things to happen, and neither scenario is pretty. The first is a severe wobble that could throw a bike out of line around a corner and send the driver straight into a tree or, worse yet, into the oncoming lane. The second scenario is the result product of metal on metal grinding inside the axle, which could eventually lead to the front wheel seizing. Can you imagine locking up your front wheel at 65 mph?

As I sit back and reflect on the past few weeks of my life, obviously I have mixed feelings. In a way I'm thankful that I hurt my shoulder because I might have avoided serious injury through a potential problem with my front wheel bearings.

In another way, I look back at the security issue, and the discovery of the wheel bearings, and I can't help but wonder that because I'm so close to my bike that it didn't want anyone else to ride it while I was recovering.

Yes, I know that it's a silly thought, but motorcyclists are funny that way. It has been said that our bikes are an extension of our personalities. Until recent events, I didn't realize how true that statement really was.

Ride and write

Welcome to Pittsburgh Rides, our regular feature on motorcycling. Here we bring you the latest in rides, trends and events, but we need your input. We're looking for voices from the local biking community willing to share (in roughly 500 words) your experiences on the road and what you think is hot on wheels.

? Send your story or pitch to Weekend editor Scott Mervis at

? What and where do you ride? What's your favorite biker song, book, event or gear? Do you wear a helmet? Send the answers to our Burning Questions to the same address and include your name and neighborhood.

The writer is operations manager at Hot Metal Harley-Davidson in West Mifflin and host of the radio show "On the Road With Rocky," which airs Saturdays at 7 a.m. on WEAE 1250 AM.
First published on August 13, 2009 at 12:00 am

Read more: