Tom Horne

Calling all Biker-Pilots!

October 14, 2008 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

Are you like me? Do you ride a motorcycle and fly small airplanes? If so, you’ve heard a variant of the following question from the unanointed:

“Are you crazy, flying that dinky airplane/riding that motorcycle? Don’t you know you can crack your skull open that way?”

Of course I know. And yet, I do it again and again. Why?

A new book, Bodies in Motion: Evolution and Experience in Motorcycling, by Steven L. Thompson, a good friend and former executive editor of AOPA Pilot, goes into the reasons why we pilots (and motorcycle drivers) are drawn to the kicks of our very special pursuits. And it’s not because we’re crazy. Rather, Thompson posits that our need for psychokinetic thrills is rooted in human evolution. In short, humans evolved from apes, which swung from trees and so became adapted to–and enjoyed the sensations that accompany–the g-forces, hand-eye coordination, and odd attitudes that attend this kind of body-motion. 

Fast-forward to modern man. What kid doesn’t like spinning around until he/she is so dizzy that he/she falls down? Or swinging on “monkey bars”? It’s the same thing when we get older, have a bit more money, and still want to live on the edge. Admit it, you like steep turns–in the air and on the ground. And aerobatics? ‘Nuff said.

Of course, social aspects also creep in, Thompson says. Just as some are drawn to Harleys, some to Suzukis, and some to BMWs, so are some pilots drawn to Bonanzas, Mooneys, Cessnas, or radial-engined classics. But Thompson makes an argument that pure physical sensations are at work, too. In Bodies in Motion, there’s an appendix that quantifies the vibration levels at the handlebars, seats, and foot pegs of various motorcycles. You could do the same study for airplanes, I suspect.

Different strokes for different folks. Whether you like the buzz of a crotch rocket, the purr of a Goldwing, the rumble of a radial, or the shriek of an MU-2, you’re bound to enjoy reading Thompson’s intellectual musings on why we do what we do. They don’t call them “ape-hangers” for nothing!

Check it out at Amazon or Aerostich. $19.95.

P.S. When I’m riding, I like to stick my head down so I can see past the fairing and watch the front wheel pump up and down as it takes the bumps. When flying, I like to look back and sneak a peek at the tail. Looks odd, in a leaving-things-behind kind of way. And takeoffs always give me a charge….



57 Responses to “Calling all Biker-Pilots!”

  1. Ryan Keough Says:

    Tom – sounds like a very good read and I will be sure to pick it up! I’d be interested in whether some of the parallels I wrote of in my recent blog post “Aviation: Reserved Unbridled Passion?” ( are also referenced — though my viewpoint is more of the tribal-social element and less of the psychokinetic side.

    Also, glad I’m not the only one who likes to look out the back of the plane :-)

    Cheers – Ryan K.
    Proud AOPA Member Since 1999

  2. Alex Kovnat Says:

    This past week or so, I read in the news more than one story of helicopters flown in medical service, crashing. There have unfortunately been numerous fatalities from medical helicopter accidents.

    In addition to motorcycle enthusiasts and airplane pilots often being the same person, I wonder if helicopter pilots flying in medical service are attracted to motorcycles when off duty. In other words, if you get your kicks from risky endeavors enough to fly a “chopper”, might one also get their kicks from another form of “chopper” when off duty.

    Hope y’all don’t mind,

    —-Alex Kovnat

  3. David Magruder Says:

    Thanks for the info and note my e-mail address which confirms the theory. In my case, add a stint of scuba diving to depths of 250′ in search of game fish. I’ve slowed down a bit and I don’t think of myself as an inherent risk taker, but for 30 yrs. have been drawn to these pursuits and perhaps this book will help me understand some of the reasons why. Am current owner of 2 aircraft and 2 motorcycles, thus “flybikedave”.

  4. Bert Harold Says:

    Sounds like a book I’ll have to read! I’ve been riding bikes for 30 years but flying for only 10, basic economics. As to which is more fun? Well I like to ride to my plane, go for a flight, then ride home and have a refreshment and ponder about it. Seems like I never do get the answer and have to do it again and again! I will say though, all my flying is in Alaska where I live and most of it is in the Brooks Range. I did however, fly once to the lower 48 (in my 170B as far east as Motauk point, Long Island NY) and given the choice for long distance travel riding a bike is prefered. For me, there’s a lot more to do and see while riding than flying especially once east of the Rockies, either US or Canadian.


    Except for the “descended from Apes” reference, I empathize with the topic. Even after thousands of hours of flying and hundreds of hours on motorcycles, I’ve never tired of the feel of the machine in motion. Whether the sensation of thrust of a 777 at take off or spYder leaving a stop sign, I love the sensation. Guess I better read that book.

  6. Charlie Says:

    I own 6 high performance airplanes and no motorcycles, but I have 5 Corvettes and a Turbo Porsche.
    I enjoy lots of power and speed. I used to race boats and drag cars. Its in your blood.
    While I never drive or fly crazy or risky I do both in excess of the average person.
    I just got through flying a very small high performance aerobatic plane from Utah to Florida.
    It was a hoot, and gave me a sence of satisfaction when I landed for the last time!

  7. Don Says:

    In my case, it’s an aversion to side g-force. Call me Mr Monotrack. Bikes, skateboards, aircraft, skating, skiing, all must roll to turn. Four wheels? Those are for people still looking for those dual blade ice skates.

  8. Susan Kennedy Says:

    Me too!! Me too!! Glad to see that I’m not the only one who does both….or rather did both. I’m an old lady now,retired, and on a fixed income. So I don’t feel that I can justify aircraft ownership any longer. And my biking days are over too…mostly because I feel that I no longer have the lightning reflexes necessary to survive in traffic.

    But I won national second place in the BMW Motorcycle Owners Association annual mileage contest with 16,033 documented miles in 6 months. And I flew my two-place Grumman all over the country back when I was a contract worker (hired gun, migrant laborer) in aircraft design.

    Lifetime of GREAT memories!! (And hi to Leo Angevine who posted on this thread…been a long time since old AVSIG on CompuServe, huh?).

  9. Charlie Masters Says:


    To clarify your “evolved from apes” comment. Unfortunately this lack of understanding of the theory of evolution gives ammunition to those who debunk it. Evolutionary theory would suggest that man did not decend from apes, but that man and apes share common ancestors. The evolved from apes comment makes no more sense than the opposite notion that apes evolved from man. At some point in our history, the modern apes ancestors prefered the forest while our ancestors developed a preference for the prarie. That said, I love my airplane and motorcycle. I believe each are great ways to get from here to there or here to here.

  10. Craig Says:

    I got my first bike in high school and my first airplane about 9 years later. I have not been without both for the last 40 years (including snow skiing during the same period). Now it’s radial engines and Harleys. All three activities get pushed hard, but not beyond reason. I have always thought about the similarities between riding and flying. I will have to read this book.

  11. Samuel Messiter Says:

    Something like theserpent-brain and atavistic harkbacks going on as well.
    In the serpent-brain view one might consider the “celebration of life” by doing activites that enhance the rate at which”life events” are occurring. Watching TV and playing chess are slow activities…flying, motorcycling, skiing etc are obviously fast ones.

    Remember Nick Romano (KNOCK ON ANY DOOR?) “live fast, die young, and have a good looking corpse”…the author was perhaps not far from the very same philosophy we are addressing here. So many ways to say and do essentiallly the same stuff…..getting the most outta life!

    Your turn now: Socrates, Plato, Goethe, Kant, Voltaire et alia….

  12. Chris Potts Says:

    Yeah,we flybikers have lots in common.My typical morning’s fun in Hong Kong is Route Twisk on my GSXR1000 or Bandit 1250 then aerobatics in the Slingsby Firefly from Sek Kong,the PLA airbase near the Chinese Border.
    Then there’s the Philippine trips with flydive from Clark where my C182K with STOL and LR tanks is being rebuilt by to Subic,Coron,Leyte to dive the wrecks.
    Am I mad?Don’t think so.But definitely obsessive about risk control activities as escapes from my practice as a Hong Kong Admiralty Lawyer.
    Y’all take good care now!

  13. James Says:

    Add me to the group of motorcycle, airplane, boat, fast car and pretty damn poor thrillseekers. I suspect there are a number of things at play here. The Peter Pan syndrome (I won’t grow-up) may also be a part of it. My related theory is the “Matchbox Collection” theory. As a youngster in the 60s and 70s, I collected matchbox vehicles and they were my pride and joy. I now notice a striking similarity between my childhood collection and current acquisitions. I think the many hours playing with my matchboxes, I was always thinking “when I grow up.”

  14. Ben Coombs Says:

    I’ve been riding a bike for 24 years and 230,000 miles. I’ve been flying for 5 years and 140 hours. Riding a motorcycle is the closest you can come to flying without an airplane. Flying an airplane is the closest you can come to riding a motorcycle without a bike. I’ve never considered either as thrillseeking. I just love the freedom, the elements and personal gratitude it gives me. That is why I will share either one with anyone who asks.

  15. John Hickman Says:

    Harley rider for 30 years, private pilot for 10 years. Same exhilaration. Both require active involvement and risk management for the thrills. If you have to lean it to turn it, I like it.

  16. Bill Uher Says:

    As my life has recently experienced a few major changes, I have had the opportunity to reflect on what is/was important and what is not.

    Not too long ago, I was asked, “…What are the times in my life when I felt I was truly living in the moment…?” I didn’t have to think too hard to answer. When I flew. I was totally focused exactly in that moment and even a bit into the future (as one does need to stay ahead of their aircraft). The thrill. Tthe slight feelings of uneasiness (what could go wrong?) The elation. The total control of my aircraft and my life. The mandatory and well-rehearsed procedures. And the incredible view out of the cockpit of the earth below. All of these feelings and sensations mixed together with the thrill and knowledge of accomplishment and the continual learning work to keep me totally in the moment and part of a much bigger whole. It is a feeling that no one can even imagine unless they have done it themselves.

    The other example of “living in the moment” comes from riding my BMW 1000GS. Again, I am in total control over my fate. The focus must be pure. The concentration must be complete. Again, staying slightly “ahead” of the motorcycle allows time to concentrate on situations that might arise that will require immediate attention and skill. Then, there is the sensation of speed. The “feel” of the road. The wind. The temperature. The smells. The sun and the shade. The sights. And the sounds of a thousand meticulously machined parts all working in total synchronization and harmony. And again, the beauty of the earth passing by. A closer feeling to being part of the whole. Those feelings and sensations keep me totally in the moment.

    One of my greatest pleasures was to ride my Beemer to the airport (CPK), switch gear, switch focus and walk through that magical fence-line to the aircraft I was going to fly.

    Yes, the two are spiritually and eviscerally connected. They both share the focus, skill and exhilaration of a kind of freedom not too many people will ever experience let alone understand.

  17. BOB LEONARD Says:

    Been an AOPA member & pilot for 30 years,78 years young. Fly a Mooney between my 2 homes (Austin & Huntington Beach) at least twice a year.Hangar at San Marcos & there’s no transportation to Austin, so at 75 I bought a Road King,dropped it 5 times then converted it to a Trike .I have always enjoyed the feeling of flying & riding,I’ll have to buy the to find out why.

  18. Laura Wendt Says:

    WOW! Susan Kennedy is my new hero. I am also a part of the biker pilot gang. I have flown helicopters for the past 6 years (1300 hrs) and have riden some form of motorcycle since my early 20’s. First dirt bikes were a nessesity to hang out with my new husband and his friends. He was gone every weekend and I just heard the stories when they returned home. “I wanna learn how to ride” was all it took to get me hooked. I still ride dirt bikes (gotta get that electric start, kickin’ is hard work) but enjoy my Yamaha more these days (electric start and less dirt eating). I plan to ride it to the helicopter seminar next weekend in Las Vegas. I don’t know about the swinging from trees, but there is something definetly flowing in the blood that draws me to these activities. Besides that, it’s pretty cool to say you are a part of a small population…a population that everyone else thinks is crackers.

  19. Michael McMahon Says:

    Excellent post. I hope you don’t mind, but this is so on-topic that I thought I would point-out that I have JUST launched a website this week, with stories, articles, projects and products for motorcyclists, pilots, and gearheads. I’m a long-time AOPA member and pilot as well as a former motorcycle roadracer.

    I believe that one of the hopes for the future of General Aviation is converting kids on sportbikes into kids in light sport aircraft. It could/should be a natural evolution and I hope to help people transition.

    Thanks for the post, looking forward to reading the book.

  20. Edward Chipps Says:

    I am a would-be Biker-Pilot. I would so love to have a Harley, but the reality is I am a father of two young children and cannot bear the thought of leaving them fatherless, so I have chosen to get my “psychokinetic” thrills in the left seat of a 200knot Mooney Bravo, which statistics bear out to be much safer than the 2 wheeled counterpart. I think the love of speed and machinery is hardwired in many brains (more male than female). I will just have to wait until the kids are grown to get my big Hawg.

  21. Ken Blackman Says:

    I grew up riding as a kid. A Whizzer at age 11, Harley 125 at 13, a “K” model at 14, and many more by 18, I really wanted to fly but that took intill 29 with dirt bikes and dune bugs between. Now, after more than 36 years and 6,000+ hours, 33 years a multi-faceted carier in the aviation business, I’m still at it but got back into motorcycles 4 years ago as a “diversion” from aviation. I now have an old Harley, another not so old one, and a 1980 Yamaha 850 I am trying to get running enough to sell. I love hitting the back roads of Northwest Washington after a long day at the airport in the summer and getting that occasional good day to ride in the darker part of the year. Just like grabbing that CAVU day and “getting high” the right way brought the cream to the top for me at least 20 of the last 36 years, I reached a point that I just saw too many airplanes, mostly from the inside, and needed a way to escape from something I really did love. Getting back into bikes did it!

    I now look forward to the day when I can retire from the day to day aircraft maintenance business and enjoy taking a hopped up Yankee up and twisting its tail around just for fun once again. I’ll still ride the Harley and run the sand dunes as I really never plan to “grow up” completely!

    By the way, Susan Kennedy, what’s this “too old” crap? Where’s that old fire, anyway? That doesn’t sound like the Suzi I know. Just stay off the freeway and stick the to cow paths so all you need to worry about dodging deer and racoons.

  22. David Magruder Says:

    Wow, what could be more fun that bikes and planes, except to have a wife who would enjoy the same. Glad you ladies are having fun too, and though I’d never trade my girl in, I do wish she enjoyed these pursuits as you ladies do. We do share gardening in a sense. I’m building a grass airstrip and she plants flowers!

  23. Bruce Kaskubar Says:

    Count me in. Some of my best days have been spent riding to the airport, flying, and riding home again. Preparing to leave the FBO parking lot, a ground school student was arriving for class. He stopped by my bike and asked if I had just flown. Yes, I admitted, and felt a little guilty about following one pleasure with another. Nah, he told me, that’s just about right!

    For me, though, the feeling of flying is not as free as motorcycling. Yes, having three dimensions of freedom is a special thing. But a motorcycle becomes one with its driver. I think part of the allure of the motorcycle is the sensation of moving through space as though unattached to any machinery at all. It’s pure movement without encumbrances. With an aircraft, I am always inside it obviously at the controls. Could it be I have motorcycle zen but not aircraft zen?

  24. Mike Hazelrigg Says:

    I have ben rideing motorcycles for 44 years . I have ben flying 15years and I have noticed
    A lot of pilots loves motorcycles also .Maybe we are all a little nuts,but if that is the case
    I am glad to be crazy.

  25. Deborah N Says:

    I had a love for airplanes since before first grade. That was when a writing assignment documented that “When I grow up I want to fly and help people” This was before I even knew about flying missionairies, medical air transportation, or humanitarian aid airlifts. My private pilot Dad took me flying on my birthday for years. One day during the typical “teenage daughter wants to buy a horse” moment he said, “Why don’t you get an airplane instead. You don’t have to shovel manure every day, and only have to feed it when you fly.”It made sense and I have pursued flying ever since. (Never did find a 152 or horse under the Christmas tree )

    I made the motorcycle-airplane connection from watching “Top Gun” and going on the campus of Embry-Riddle Aero. Univ. in Daytona Beach FL. The campus is on the airport, and the airport is surrounded by a chain link fence. When I was there that fence was surrounded with sportbikes…and during “BIke Week”, the town was full of Harley’s.

    My first “car” was a Honda Nighthawk. I had it two years and put 19,000 miles on it. Then I sold it to get extra cash. It was for a great cause, I just married my wonderful husband and we needed the funds to move with the military and set up house. 12 yrs (and a few children) later he started riding a Yamaha V Star. Within a week he bought me a Honda V4 Magna…complete with V4 pilot wing logo’s . He said it was so I could enjoy riding while waiting to start flight training again. (waiting for the youngest to get older)

    There is something about riding a bike through fog on a quiet road…playing in the clouds…giving a taste of flying.

    I know God created me this way for a specific reason and purpose. He placed the perfect personality, gifts, and talents inside of me to fulfill my life’s calling and dreams.
    The adventurous spirit has helped me tremendously as a Military Spouse, while living overseas, and as a Homeschooling Mom.

    I look forward to sharing the Biker-skies…

  26. Joe Spano Says:

    I’ve been riding for over 47 years, only flying for 25.
    All my bikes have been used until 2003, when I bought a new BMW K1200RS.
    I simply had to buy that bike. The ad said “The closest thing to flying” Had to buy it.
    The 2 simply go together.

  27. G. Allen Morris Says:

    Bike rider for 40 yrs.(now on a Honda Goldwing), pilot for 38 yrs. So many similarities….so much joy and exhilaration from both activities as so many have already posted. Thanks for tying these together and for offering a forum for all of us to share our thoughts.

  28. Bud Downer Says:

    I consider it an exceptionally good day when I can ride my Harley to the airport then hop in my Cherokee and go for a flight!

  29. Hovannes Sarkissian Says:

    So you think we are evolved from apes, are you serious? if you are i feel sorry for you if you are not then my apologies.

  30. Hovannes Sarkissian Says:

    So you think we are evolved from apes, are you serious? if you are i feel sorry for you, but if you are not my apologies.

  31. Jeff Carver Says:

    I can’t afford to fly anymore, and I don’t have a motorcycle–but for the last two years, riding a Tomos moped around town has satisfied some portion of the need to experience that kind of kinetic-body-mind stimulation. I’m also an avid rollerblader, and like a few of the others above, I was once an avid scuba diver. I’m not particularly a risk-taker. But I love the sensation of motion, and of being out of the normal environment.

    I don’t mind being called an ape-man (ala Douglas Adams), even though as pointed out it’s actually a misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. :)

  32. Ed Cohn Says:

    There is a mystique and fascination to both biking and flying which we who partake in both are blessed to be able to experience– the motion, the degree of freedom, the smell of fresh blossoms, the absolute control we have at the moment of our destiny, the ability to share in the creation from a perspective only we can experience, that is the thrill of biking and flying.
    I first joined AOPA in 1963 as a student pilot. I own an Avcon Skyhawk which has been my trusty wings for almost 20 years. Having owned many bikes (mostly sport Hondas) for the last 45 years or so, I presently ride a restored 1978 Suzuki 1000 cc which I absolutely love.
    I lust for a big Beemer cruiser. I drool over my eldest son’s full up Harley. Both of my sons learned to ride because I ride bikes. One is a pilot. At 71, while I am getting more conservative, the thrill of both isn’t over yet. Godspeed to all fellow pilots and bikers!

  33. Don Parrish Says:

    I have a bike and a couple of planes, love both. But Tom I know I was created and didn’t evolve from no ape. Read the first true book The word of God.(Bible) I thank Him every time I fly or ride, and for the beautiful creation He has giving me to enjoy and the ability to fly my plane and ride my cruiser.

  34. Allan Orth Says:

    Just a question. Are there any pilot/bikers in the Fallbrook, CA. area that get together for
    road rides?

  35. Deborah N Says:

    Didn’t the Wright brothers own a bike shop ???

  36. Marijke Unger Says:

    I’m happy to see other women adding their voices here!

    I’ve been riding for seven years and flying for four. My only regret is not starting both sooner. Making up for lost time now though!

  37. alberto Chretin Says:

    i have been riding motorcycles for 31 years and flying for 17. i own a Cessna Skylane RG, a drifter on floats, a Super Drifter an am building a twin Aircam. i ride a HD Softtail Heritage and a 250 Honda enduro. Motorcycles & Airplanes keep me sane.

  38. Mark Nevins Says:

    All I need to do is complete my Kawasaki Ninja ZX14;ZX11D,Yamaha FJ1100,Corvette Stingray,Mitsy GTS collection with a Maule M7-260T or a Cessna 182Q !!

  39. Jim Perry Says:

    I LOL when I read of the apes swinging / airplanes flying / motorcycles swaying, supposed relationship. It’s as tenuous as most notions supporting the theory of evolution. I became a helicoptor pilot courtesy of the US Army when I was 18. I had a speed boat before that. I traveled the country for several years after getting out of the Army on my Honda 750-4, and I currently own a 1978 Cessna 172, a Jet Ski, and a set of scuba tanks. I recently rappelled down the side of a 25 story highrise condo in a business related activity. I’m 57 years old. I’m not a risk taker. In all of these activities, every effort was made to mitigate the risk involved.
    God created Heaven and Earth, put man on earth and in charge, and said, “subdue it.” The innate urge to control one’s environment, land, sea, and air, comes from God. The joy that I feel as I am privileged to partisipate in these activities also comes from God.

  40. Raymond Seto Says:

    Echoing the comments of other respondents, I don’t consider myself a risk taker. In fact I am so conservative that I gave up a previous avocation (SCUBA Instructor) until my kids reached high school before taking up flying: helicopters first then airplanes. A “risk manager” may be a better adjective. Recently my oldest daughter and her husband got me into motorcycle riding and it has become a passion for me as well. I think flying and biking not only provide a kinetic thrill for us, they also address our need to challenge our skills in a meaningful way in which we have absolute control of our fate during the moments we are engaged in our passion and each time we have safely arrived at out destination we have accomplished something that is life affirming and out of the ordinary. Wishing us all continued safe flying and riding.

  41. Tom Horne Says:

    Wow, did I hit a nerve! Everybody here gets big, big kicks from reading these posts….

    Now, for Bill Uherand Susan Kennedy (congrats Susan on the 16K in 6 mos)–I now ride a BMW R1150RT, but in the past have owned an 83 R100RS, a 64 R60/2, and a 66 Triumph Bonneville. The other Beemer driver on the staff is I&T’s Bon Morningstar (F650).

    Other bikers on the AOPA staff include: AOPA Pilot’s Ian Twombly (Suzuki SV650), Bob Knill (I&T, 04 Triumph Bonneville), Heidi Williams (Government and Technical, Yamaha VStar 650), Claire Kultgen (800 lines, Honda Rebel), Brian Tenberg (I&T, Honda Shadow), Brian Peterson (ASF, Kawasaki 1000), plus a whole bunch of Harley drivers: Tammy Biddinger (I&T), Walter Marple (Facilities), James Hurst (accounting), Brenda Ridgely (Marketing), and….drum roll…. Phil Boyer (president, 100th anniversary special edition)!

    The iron-butt award goes to Ben Coombs with his 230K–hats off….

    James: I had Dinky Toys, my brother had the Matchboxes….

    BTW, Aerostich, the publisher of Bodies in Motion, says our blogging is having a positive effect on sales…. there may be more biker-pilots than we ever thought


  42. Bob Knill Says:

    Love my Bonnie. I opted for the classic styling of the Bonneville and I think that directly relates to my love of “old school” styling in general. I am the same way with flying. Flown a glass 182…liked it, but gimme steam gauges. Flown the Cirrus with the side-stick…cool airplane, but give me a yoke or better yet, a good old-fashioned stick. I’ll sacrifice speed for retro looks anyday!

  43. Bob Mortland Says:

    I bought my first Motorcycle in 1970 (a 1970 Honda CL350). I bought my 35th this year ( a 2008 Harley-Davidson Police Road King). I’ve ridden from my home in PA to California and back 4 times and out to Sturgis 4 times. My longest day in the saddle was 1143 miles in 20 hours. I probably have close to 300,000 miles total. I think you are on to something about the relationship. I also have 3 other Motorcycles, 2 Snowmobiles,2 ATVs,1 bicycle and a share in an Archer. I didn’t start flying till 2004 but I currently have about 240 hours and an instrument rating . My father was killed in the Air Force while a test pilot of a B-47. He also was a motorcyclist prior to going to West Point and becoming a pilot.

  44. Susan Kennedy Says:

    To Tom and Phil:

    Tom….you had a “64 R60/2″??? That “16K in 6 mos” was done on my dear Brunnhilde, a 1964 R60/2! Earles forks rule!

    Phil B, old friend. You ride a Harley? I’m soooo ashamed! Anyway, ave atque vale (uh, look that up in yer Latin book). Hope to cross (flight) paths with you and Lois again sometime. Been a great 25 years or so since the beginning of old AVSIG and an AWESOME 17-year tenure as the Prez.

  45. Tom Horne Says:


    Yep, an old R60/2…..bought it from a friend for $500 in 1976. He had, er, problems paying his American Express bill. The problems cropped up on a bike trip to vermont. So I bought it right there and my first ride on it was from VT to my place in Maryland.

    The following year it was I who had problems–I needed to pay for my instrument rating. So I sold the R60 for $1000–after riding it for about 20,000 miles. (with no problems–except I hated the brakes because they were so wimpy). It paid for my rating! But I still yearn for another one. I take a lot of heat for liking the Earles forks, but what the hey. I have a great B&W photo of it in my office–against the VT landscape.

    The R60/2 ran like a sewing machine–smooth. AND you could work on them. Magnetos, carburetors, etc. Stone simple. Great parts availability. I can only change the oil on the R1150RT. For the rest you need factory diagnostics and franchise tools. Sigh.

  46. Steven L. Thompson Says:

    Terrific to see all the response to Tom’s blog on my book, and to see motorcyclist-pilots using the blog to communicate. 25 years ago, when I was AOPA’s VP-Publications and executive editor of PILOT, my (later Tom’s) 1983 R100RS was the only bike in the then-new Frederick HQ parking lot. Now, Tom tells me, many people ride to work.

    There is of course a long, long tradition of pilots riding motorcycles (and/or bicycles), and as the research cited my book shows, the reasons why transcend trends, fads, and cultural norms. As noted in the book, whether or not one believes that evolution is responsible for the genetic predispositions some have for such mind-body activities, the key point is that some percentage of the population has a human-nature inclination for them, and some does not. Sensation-seeking research I explored in the book helps us understand why these traits persist across cultures, and are thus not “culturally constructed.”

    Most of us, in any case, would ride or fly than wonder why, of course, and the significant response to Tom’s blog entry on my book illustrates how powerful is what used to be called “the need for speed.” (Though that phrase is inadequate to capture the scope of the “need.”)

    As some reading Tom’s blog might know, I briefly became a hood ornament on a Chevy Monte Carlo in May 2004, while riding a ’95 Triumph Tiger in Annapolis, MD, and can no longer ride (bikes, that is; see next month’s Cycle World for my story on the Can-Am Spyder SE5 three-wheeler). So my 41 years riding on two wheels came to an end, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing (except maybe my line through the rain-slicked, blind, uphill, double-apex right-hander that proved my undoing) in my riding, road-testing, and racing life on two wheels. This strikes many non-riders and non-pilots as crazy, of course, which is why I titled the column I wrote for the first issue of AOPA’s *Ultralight Pilot* (Tom was the editor-in-chief of the magazine) “Welcome to the Crazy Club.” Are we really crazy?

    Nope. As I tried to show via the human-factors, engineering, evolutioinary biology and psychological research explored in *Bodies in Motion: Evolution and Experience in Motorcycling,* we’re just differently configured than those who think what we do when we light off our engines is crazy.

    Ride on! Fly on!

    — Steve Thompson

  47. Bruce Webbon Says:

    Very interesting comments. However, there is a side to this that wasn’t mentioned. I vaguely remember reading a paper, I believe it was in Science, about identifiable differences in the brain chemistry of people who participated regularly in activities which others considered to be risky. Perhaps someone else with better medical credentials than I can elaborate on this.

    As to my own risk credentials, the bottom line is at the young age of 63 most of my body parts are relatively intact and semi-functional. Like many of the other respondents, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything risky since I’m well trained and do my best to manage the apparent risks. If the worst should happen I’ll go along with one of my favorite philosophers, Jimmy Buffett, “I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.”

  48. Allan Orth Says:

    Or how about this from Charles Lindbergh: “A certain amount of danger is essential to the quality of life.”

  49. Louie Fonosch Says:

    Ihave been a aopa member and pilot for 51 years part owner of a p t 19 and a cesna 150 built a b d 5 been checked out on 20 different plane models owned 21 diferent motorcycles first indien chief l a p d bike knockle head harley triums suzukis yamaha hondas goldwing cople of b m w still ride a 750 bmw k locomotive engineer and scuba diver love the sail boats trimarans love the speed ov everything that moves on land sea and in the air live is great so was the u s air force louie the pilotA

  50. Claire Says:

    A little late, but I’d just like to state that while I like my Honda Rebel, it’s my Cessna 172 to learn on before I upgrade to my Harley sportster / Mooney. Great article Tom!

  51. Torrent Says:

    I think there is an exilleration with going fast – weather it is flying through the air, or driving, or skiing down a hill. Speed is an ultimate thrill – like sex. I don’t believe in evolution, so the monkey swinging from a tree is a streatch for me. I just think we all like the sensation of speed, and the andrenaline rush it gives you.

  52. Dean Says:

    Been a while since this blog was active. I’ll chime in.

    I’m in “The Club”

    I have 3 motorcycles now (have owned 12 or more) Currenty, (2 BMW GSs -R100GS Paris Dakar and an 1150GS Adventure and a Triumph Tiger 900) a Mini Cooper S, 1990 Porsche 911 and now, a 2005 Cessna Skylane 182T G1000. All of my most prized possessions- at age 43- are my toys that move me, let me control them and take me places.
    It was the same thrill on my Yamaha RD 400s when I was in college. I can go somewhere, solo or with someone else and it makes me feel good.

    Add to these hobbies- the mountain biking, inline speed skating, snow skiing.

    It’s all about the journey, what’s around the bend and the control and sensation of the machine.

    I read that motorcyclists make good pilots-I’d agree. It’s our ability to pick up on small changes and adjusting for it to stay on top of the aircraft or motorcycle. I think our ears also, pick up more than others may hear. These higher sensitivities make us more evolved,
    I believe.

    Robert Frost said:
    …I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference

    That’s all of us.

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