This time of year Christmas and New Year’s get most of the attention and fanfare. It’s the season of giving, and the bright promise of a new year and all that brings. There are other holidays clumped in around late December too — some cultural, some religious — but of all the days that can or even should be observed in December, my favorite is the Winter Solstice. December 21 is the day when our planet starts its journey back toward the warmth of the sun. It marks the furthest arc of our orbit and our deepest tilt away from the fires of fusion. From then on, it’s a steady march toward summer as Earth circles around to the shallower part of our orbit and with it, the top of our globe points back toward the light once again.
I didn’t think much of Solstice before I started riding scooters and motorcycles. Growing up, the passing of a year was measured in grade years or semesters, Christmas presents, birthdays and summer vacation. Now my years seem to measure from one riding season to another. There’s that first proper spring rain that washes the salt and sand off the streets. Then again, it’s not spring, it’s street sweeper season. When will the sweepers be out in my neighborhood so that I can finally ride my motorcycle without worrying about the grit undermining my grip? I end up counting the days between rainstorms in June rather than paying any attention to the numbers. How many weeks until Bearded Lady? Can I get my bike painted in time? Is there a Rattle My Bones this year? When can I sneak away for an overnight along The Great River Road? How late can I keep riding before the snow comes again and they start salting the roads? These are the things that mark my passage of time now. So with this year’s Solstice come and gone, my thoughts keep drifting off to one question: When can I get back on my motorcycles again?
Thing is, the Solstice is somewhat misleading. It’s the year’s shortest day, but it’s not the end of winter. Technically, it’s the beginning. Up to now, we’ve still been coasting on the lingering warmth of autumn. We’ll get colder at first on our journey back toward the sun. We’ll probably see some proper snow before winter is out too. And yet, spring is inevitable. Riding season will come back to us like it always does. The question is, what are we going to do with it?
This year was a pretty major season for us. We had a new shop space to establish, new people to work with, and much to our delight, a lot of new customers bringing their bikes in for service. If anything, the only aspect of riding season missing for us was the thing itself: riding. We never ride as much as we mean to, and this year, we really didn’t ride as much as we meant to. The cobbler’s children were barefoot. However, looking at everything that’s on the lift this winter, and all the bikes that finally got sorted out this year, I’m optimistic about this coming riding season. I’m three for four on old Japanese bikes that run right now — up two from when the season started. Jeff got his CB250 sorted out and purring along. Robb’s putting his CB550 back together as I type. Ryan has big plans to update his Bonneville, and that’s just our own projects. Then of course Rump’s bike ran all along. There’s customer work to get done too — Winter Service lined up to help some of your riding seasons kick off right. As I look in the back, at all those bikes in for Winter Storage — at the rack of batteries being tended and the log book full of dossiers on each machine — I can’t help but feel optimistic. With this much vintage iron roaming around, it can’t help but be a good riding season.
So hang in there. It’s going to be a great year. It’ll be cold at first, but the sun will get high and warm again before we know it. The sweepers will clean up for us in the spring and time will keep turning, turning, turning. There will be old customs to observe and new adventures to take. Best of all, there will come a time in the next few months when it will make sense to have our bikes out again. I can hardly wait.