Motorcycle mania

Over 40 crowd giving
motorcycle riding a new image

Baby Boomers, Empty Nesters
revving up to hit open road

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(October 2007) – Ron Winters rode a motorcycle as a teen, but he never thought he would ever don black leather and a bandana at age 59 and spend his weekends cruising down the highway on a Harley-Davidson Sportster. But he and his wife, Barbara, have joined the new generation of middle-aged motorcyclists who have junked their fishing boats and golf clubs for the open road.

October 2007 Indiana Edition Cover

October 2007
Indiana Edition Cover

“A friend of mine had one, and I decided to ride it,” he said. “I knew I had to get one,” said Winters, a La Grange, Ky., resident who serves as the Property Valuation Administrator for Oldham County.
More than ever before, middle- to upper-income professionals are trading their Armani suits and Anne Taylor skirts on the weekends and evenings for black leather and do-rags.
“Motorcycling has gone bananas in recent years, with growth up tremendously every year for the past 14 years,” said Ty van Hooydonk, director of product communications for the Motorcycle Industry Council’s “Discover Today’s Motorcycling” magazine.
“It is the professionals, the empty nesters and the upper middle class that are responsible for the explosive growth.”
In fact, 53 percent of all motorcycle owners today are over 40 years old, compared to only 21.3 percent in 1985, according to Motorcycle Industry Council statistics. More than half of all motorcycle owners – 55 percent – have some college or post graduate education, and nearly half – 42 percent – are professionals, managers or business owners.
“When you see that big group of rough-looking bikers pull up in the park or the unshaven, helmet-hair, leather-garbed men with a Harley-Davidson tattoo, you might be surprised to find they are doctors, lawyers, teachers or policemen,” said van Hooydonk. “Things have changed since the 1950s and the biker movies.”
There is a good mix of first timers riding motorcycles and people coming back after a lengthy hiatus, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council. The fact that the image has changed is bringing in bikers from every walk of life and every socio-economic layer.
Van Hooydonk said there are numerous reasons older Americans are hitting the road on motorcycles, including the fact they have more disposable income and it is great recreation.

Gary Hardy

"When I have
a bad day
at work, 20
minutes of
riding will make
me happy again."
– Gary Hardy,
La Grange, Ky.

Throughout Kentuckiana, that trend doesn’t seem too surprising. The Winters are a perfect example of the changing image of today’s motorcyclists. Like many others his age, Ron Winters rode a motorcycle when he was a teen, but then took a long break to work and raise a family. About five years ago, he decided to pick up his hobby again, so he went and bought a Harley-Davidson Sportster, a medium-size bike with an engine capacity of 883cc.
He prefers to take smaller trips in the 30-50-mile range and rides whenever he can but doesn’t like to ride in adverse weather. He is conscious of the dangers inherent in riding a motorcycle, so he wears a helmet, leather gloves, riding boots and other safety apparel. He also drives defensively.
“When you ride motorcycles, you need to ride as though you are invisible; ride like no one can see you,” he said.
Winters said motorcycling is the best stress reliever he has ever found. “Ride for about an hour and your mind just frees itself. It makes you feel good.”
Barbara, 39, had never been on a motorcycle and didn’t want to be on one until her birthday two years ago. She pulled into her driveway from her job as a property appraiser and found a small, black Honda Rebel sitting there. “I guess my husband forgot about diamonds,” she said, laughing.
At first, she was too afraid of the motorcycle to do anything with it. But then she got bolder; she signed up for riding classes in Crestwood, Ky., and fell in love with riding. On her last day of safety classes, she decided to ride her motorcycle to the school.
“Of course, I had an encounter with deer,” she said. “I had to sit on the side of the road and calm my nerves, but the training I had just received paid off. I got back on and finished my ride.”
Barbara Winters is not the only female professional to start riding later in life. Debbie Crawford, a client service associate at Hilliard-Lyons Investments, began riding her Honda 750 about five years ago after her daughter left for college. “I had ridden a bit on the farm when I was younger, but then I took a long break,” she said. “Years ago, women didn’t have motorcycles because of the image. But that has recently changed.”
Crawford, 51, rides to work every day on her motorcycle. She said if she doesn’t have to use a car, she doesn’t. She not only enjoys riding her motorcycle, she thinks it is a wonderful and economical way to get around.

Allen and Susan Wingham

Photo by Don Ward

Allen and Susan
Wingham of Madison,
Ind., are among the
latest members of the motorcyle mania that
is sweeping the nation
among middle-aged
Baby Boomer and
Empty Nesters. They
ride alone and with
local clubs for fun,
travel and sometimes
charity events.

She laughed when recounting the story of the first time she rode her motorcycle to church. “My daughter drove the car and sat on the other side of church,” she said. “She’s OK with it now, and my son just bought a motorcycle.”
Crawford, who is also a judo instructor, rides with her husband, Harold, 51, and a group called “Old Coots.” She said they only ride “with people who ride responsibly.” While she is aware of the dangers of motorcycling, she prefers to ride without a helmet unless she has to. She does like to wear her black leather jacket and chaps, and even has one set with a red rose on them.
Barbara Winters and Debbie Crawford are just two of the estimated 4.3 million female motorcyclists who ride in the United States, according to Motorcycle Industry Council statistics. The average age of female riders is 42, while more than 35 percent are in a technical or professional profession and 28 percent are college graduates.
Susan Wingham, a teacher in Madison, Ind., is also a licensed motorcyclist, although she prefers riding on the back of her husband, Allen’s, Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Touring Bike. “I am not confident enough to drive a big cycle, so I simply love to ride with my husband.”
Allen, 47, owns Force CNC, a production machinery business. He has been riding for more than 20 years. He said he loves the feel of the wind and fresh air, and he enjoys taking long trips with his friends.
The Winghams ride with two different groups. One is American Bikers Aim Towards Education, which has chapters all over the country. The other, the American Legion Riders, while popular nationwide is just starting a local chapter in Madison.
This past summer, the Winghams rode with nine other people to the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway in West Virginia, a trip of about 1,400 miles. It took them four days, and they said they loved every minute of it.
Roger Ward, 47, and his fiancee, Kathy Hardesty, 45, are first-timers who recently bought a pair of Yamaha V-Star Classic 650s. While Ward, a laboratory technician at the Kentucky Utilities’ Ghent Power Station, had some previous experience with off-road vehicles and dirt bikes, Hardesty, a substitute teacher, didn’t. She is taking riding classes in Louisville. They plan to keep their trips short for now, and they both believe they need to be defensive and focused while riding.

Kevin McCubbin, David Lubbe and Keith Shock

Photo provided

From left, fellow Madison, Ind., riders
Kevin McCubbin, David Lubbe and Keith
Shock pause for a photo during their
recent motorcycle trip out west

Three more bikers who love riding together for long trips are Madison’s Kevin McCubbin, who owns McCubbin Motors. Dr. David Lubbe, a Madison dentist, and Dr. Larry Shock, a retinal surgeon who moved to Madison two years ago. All three men ride big Harley-Davidsons. Each one of them said there is just nothing like the powerful roar of a Harley or the feel of one.
“A Harley is just more fun,” said McCubbin, 54. “Everybody who rides a Harley is your friend.” He has been riding for 28 years.
He is also safety conscious and wears a helmet, chaps, boots, gloves and a leather vest when weather permits. He said he would honestly discourage his children from riding a motorcycle until they are much older. “I don’t think anyone should ride a motorcycle until they are older and wiser.”
Earlier this summer, McCubbins, Lubbe and Shock rode 2,600 miles throughout the west, to Nevada, Oregon, Washington and California and back.
McCubbin plans and researches the trips around historical sites for the group. This year, for instance, they parked their bikes and walked two miles of the Oregon Trail.
“There is no better way to experience the scenery and nature, feel the temperature, listen to the sounds and immerse yourself in pleasure,” said Lubbe, 62, of his riding experience. “You just get on the bike and forget about everything else. It is a tremendous sense of freedom.” He prefers to ride with either his friends or his five sons because of the camaraderie involved.

Ron and Barbara Winters

Photo provided

Ron and Barbara Winters of
La Grange, Ky., say they may seem
an unlikely pair to be riding
motorcycles but love it.

Shock, 57, also likes to ride with friends. “Motorcycling is the perfect combo of solitude and socialization,” he said. “It is also a great socio-economic equalizer; when you riding, everyone is in the same family.”
Gary Hardy, branch manager of the new Farmers Bank of Milton in La Grange, Ky., said it’s also the best way to relieve stress he’s ever found. “When I have a bad day at work, 20 minutes of riding will make me happy again.”
He loves to ride his Suzuki Intruder 1500cc in charity events and poker runs, and usually rides 100-200 miles on the weekends. Like the other motorcyclists, Hardy does worry about the risks. “It is not as safe as other vehicles, but the risk is worth it,” he said.
Unfortunately, along with the heightened adventure and sense of freedom comes the reality that motorcycle fatalities among older riders are increasing. According to the Federal Highway Administration, fatalities among older drivers of larger motorcycles with engine sizes of more than 1000 cubic centimeters increased the most. Many attribute that factor to diminished physical abilities, like impaired vision and slower reflexes, of older riders. Others believe motorcyclists returning to the hobby after a long time away may need to take refresher safety courses.
Two men who know about motorcycle safety and accidents are Madison’s Roger Allman and Larry Keith. Allman, 54, is president and CEO of King’s Daughters’ Hospital & Health Services, while Keith, 58, is the hospital’s vice president. Both say they are extremely safety conscious and wear full gear when riding, including a full face helmet, a textile riding suit with pads, motorcycle boots, and leather riding gloves.
Allman, who owns seven motorcycles, including a 1200cc BMW, worked as a registered nurse and saw plenty of broken faces with terrible brain injuries. He believes in riding intelligently and anticipating risks. ‘While the activity does come with risk, intelligent riding, riding courses and safety gear does help,” he said.

Roger Allman

Photo by Don Ward

Roger Allman heads
the King’s Daughters’
Hospital and Health
Services but spends
his spare time riding
this BMW motorcycle,
one of many he owns.

Keith, who owns three motorcycles and uses them for different purposes, starting riding again nearly a decade ago. His wife Colleen, who is the director of the emergency room at Kings Daughter Hospital, used to ride with him until they had children. “She is supportive of my hobby, but she feels we both shouldn’t be on the bike at the same time.”
He rides as much as he can because it helps him to relax and clear his head.
He has been in numerous clubs and likes to attend national rallies. Last year, he attended the Triumph Rally and realized most people there were about his age and level professionally. “There are many guys in my position who rode years ago like I did, but then got back into it years later.” He prefers to ride with friends and people who play it safe like he does.
The lone biker of the bunch is Allman, who loves to take long rode trips by himself. Two years ago, he rode solo on a five-week road trip to Alaska. “For me, riding is getting away from people,” he said. “I love the adventure of it.”
He has also traveled to Copper Canyon in northern Mexico on a two-week solo trip and is planning a future trip to northeast Canada to the provinces of Labrador and New Foundland. He has only three more states to go – California, Utah and Nevada – before he can say he has ridden through every state.
He also likes to attend local rallies and super bike races, although he doesn’t race, and he tries to make national rallies once a year, including Daytona (Fla.) Bike Week.
Allman recently purchased a motorcycle sidecar and is hoping wife, Carol, will be interested in going on some of his trips with him. “The sidecar is my new adventure,” he said.
Asked if she was ready to travel in it, Carol Allman said: “We’ll see.”

Back to October 2007 Articles.



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