My wise brother used to say: “The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who read Lord of the Rings and those who didn’t.” I think the same can be said of motorcycles. There are those who have ridden and those who haven’t. Clean, simple. Riding a motorcycle is a transformative experience. You just can’t look at life the same way after you take off that helmet for the first time.
For most people who have ridden, there is something addictive about the noise, the open speed, the nimbleness. How exhilarating to play games with the laws of physics and wipe bugs off of your visor in one single swoop!
My motorcycle adventures are an entire book that I will not share today. Rather my mind toys now with the following notion: is a convertible car any legitimate substitute for that motorcycle feeling?
Let’s face it, it is not easy to be a purist biker in our day and age. In our dear province, the cost of getting and keeping your motorcycle license is highly prohibitive, and the registration and insurance fees for your ride have gone through the roof. Yes, the government is being paternalistic: “You know motorcycles are very dangerous, little boys and girls. You know you can die from riding on one! However, since I am not a dictator, I can’t bar you entirely from having one (although I would like to). So, there, you can have one, if you must. But it’ll cost you!”
And then, there is winter. I will concede that it is the best feeling in the world, after months of hibernation, to spruce up your bike, put some gas in, dust off your jacket and helmet and take your first ride of the new warm season. But truth be told, we still have to get around in the winter.
Lastly, is it age or reason? Is it fear or a survival instinct? There comes a point in life…in my life anyway, when you don’t want to risk becoming road pizza every time you turn on the ignition. There, I said it. I feel some shame but darn it, it is a bit true too.
While we are at it, another confession: there is the lack of comfort too. Okay, it’s all on the table now! Maybe I am turning too prissy but it is nice to have a roof on your head when you are riding all day, in the rain. Oh, the shame I feel! I have come a long way, baby, but to come to this conservative outlook on life! I hope my motorcycle mentors are not reading this.
Having come to the sour conclusion that I won’t ride a motorcycle too often, I am hoping that a convertible car could offer some of the advantages of a bike ride, without the inconvenience. Let’s see.
The cost of a convertible car is an extra $5,000 to $8,000. Prohibitive at first, but the cost of insurance, license and registration remain largely the same as a regular, hard-roof car.
Although a convertible may not enjoy snow on its roof that much, nowadays, the rag tops are well insulated and durable. So yes, you can use your convertible in the winter. And yes, you enjoy the comfort of a roof in the rain (if you prefer staying dry that is). Air conditioning is a nice perk.
Now the injury risk factor. A convertible may not survive doing tunnels by the highway as well as a traditional “cage” vehicle, but its four wheels give it the stability of a car. It is definitely more difficult to flip over than a bike.
Another advantage is the trunk space, albeit quite minimal due to the retractable roof mechanism, and the seating space. A convertible is great for a road trip and offers the double-edged-sword advantage of letting you bring lots of stuff with you. Of course, the quintessential road trip involves very few material possessions.
So far, the convertible seems to offer great advantages and eliminate the main motorcycle downsides. But the question was: “Is a convertible car any legitimate substitute for that motorcycle feeling?”
Earlier we spoke of the noise, the open speed and the nimbleness that the motorcycle offers. Well, it is clear that the noise can hardly be compared; even the most outrageous convertibles sound like cars. There is something muffled about the way a car engine roars. The bike screams its existence more openly, more freely.
The nimbleness is limited as well. Of course, a good sports car with tight handling can offer a thrill in S-curves, but it is no substitute for the bike. Therein lies the difference between a rider and a driver. The rider is like a crouching tiger, a highly innervated feline always staying low and agile; always reading its environment like a hunter. The rider knows it must be one with the motorcycle, one with the road and espouse its every curve with the perfect angle and speed. The driver, on the other hand, has room for error when entering a curve; its driving is rarely life or death. The driver can be more passive if it wants; it can be comfortable. At the end of the day, the thrill and nimbleness come with the risk. You can take that as a pro or a con, depending on where your head is at.
Lastly is the open speed feeling. And this is the crux of the matter in my mind.
Motorcycles come with windshields of varying sizes, or sometimes none at all. You are therefore directly exposed to more or less blowing wind in your face. Consequently, no matter how you are set up, you will have bugs crash on your helmet (if you ride for any length of time) and if your visor is up, your eyes will tear up. Both are clear signs of being at one with nature and speed. The convertible fails miserably the Bug + Tear test.
However, a convertible can provide the Chill Thrill, when riding in cool weather. It can be deliciously mitigated by turning on the floor heating vents. And you will sense the change in ambient temperature, the shade and humidity of forest driving… the burning on your head of mid-day sunny drives. All the wonderful road-side smells will be yours too. In a convertible, you will not see the speed directly under your feet, but if you look up at the roofless sky, or better yet, if you stick her head out of your side window, you can get a whiff of fast freedom.
All in all, I think that a convertible is a palatable substitute for that motorcycle feeling. And if you are really strapped for some open speed, I guess any car that has wheels and windows can do the trick. What truly matters is to keep moving.