REALITY CHECK: Recent polls of 11-year-old boys show: I’m cool

Reality Check | Mike Taylor

I look like a complete dork. When I’m riding my little motorbike, I mean. It’s not even a real moped, which are nerdy enough; it’s an old, black mountain bike onto which the previous owner slapped a 50cc motor manufactured in some Hangzhou sweat shop.

I traded an old laptop for it a year ago. Since then — even though I look like a dork when I do so — I drive it to work every day.

Part of the reason for this is that I hate driving cars. Or trucks. I hate being cooped up inside a vehicle; any vehicle.

On the other end of that spectrum is the fact I’m too chicken to ride a real motorcycle. They go too fast and there’s something in the water around here that makes deer suicidal. I do not want to provide some buck with his two-wheeled ticket to the afterlife.

The motorbike is a great middle ground solution. It goes fast enough to get me around town almost as quickly as my car, but if I smack into a deer I will (probably) get off with just a scrape or two and maybe get some venison steaks in the bargain.

Also, the motorbike is WAY fun to drive! It zips along at a comfortable 25 mph, burns through less than a gallon of gas PER MONTH, and if it breaks down or blows up, I can buy a new one for under $500.

Granted, the build quality of the thing is less than one might find on, say, a Rolls-Royce. Or a Yugo. It requires regular adjustment of the cabling system, the clutch, the carb … but it’s all minor stuff that takes just a few minutes once you know what you’re doing.

When I’m riding it I feel like Steve McQueen racing across the French countryside in an old WWII movie, the Nazis in hot pursuit.

Of course, I don’t LOOK like Steve McQueen. I look like a dork. Or thought I did, until the other day.

I was buzzing the periphery of the lake, up through the cemetery, down to the grocery store; just putzing around with no particular destination. When you’re getting 150 miles per gallon, you can afford to putz around.

Three young boys, who had been fishing in the lake, came running over when I sputtered to a halt beside my mailbox.

“Whoa,” said the oldest, maybe 11. “What is that?”

“Just a mountain bike with a motor on it,” I said.

“How fast does it go?”

“About 25, maybe 30.” It doesn’t really go 30, but I was trying to impress the kid. I have security issues.

“Awesome!” enthused one of the other kids.

“Yeah!” agreed another.

The boys unselfconsciously inspected the bike from stem to stern as I sorted my mail, ooh-ing and ah-ing the way a Cessna pilot might ooh and ah over a Bombardier Learjet 85.

“That is SO cool,” said the 11-year-old. “How old do you have to be to ride one?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. When you’re old enough to get a senior discount at McDonald’s, you no longer bother checking that sort of thing.

I rode away, wishing I was wearing a leather jacket with the collar turned up. I may look like a dork to the rest of the world, but to 11-year-old boys? I’m Steve McQueen, baby.

Mike Taylor’s book, “Looking at the Pint Half Full,” is available at Robbins Book List in Greenville and in eBook format from Amazon.

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