I felt awful.
I had asked Alan Burns for information on a ‘wrap’ post (we rode a long way, baby) I was writing about the number of kilometres fellow riders in several Facebook groups had ridden in 2022. Of course he obliged. He’s a nice guy.
Other folks shared their stories too, and the piece turned out well. But I was horrified when Alan and I chatted again a couple of months later and I realized I had forgotten to include him in the article.
“That’s okay,” he wrote.
“No it’s not,” I replied. “I said I would do it and I didn’t. #NotAcceptable.”
His response was swift: “Maybe someday you will write something about crazy old men who still race motorcycles.”
Wait a minute. If he’s a crazy old man at 60, what does that make me who first got in the saddle at 65? Rhetorical question. My fingers remained still on the keys, but I filed the comment for future reference. Turns out someday is today, just at the Vintage Road Racing Association’s Canada Day long weekend Summer Classic gets underway.
I first contacted Alan by FB Messenger in December 2021 after he commented on a post I had shared in the Ottawa Motorcycle Riders FB group. We talked about speed and how some people enjoy it (e.g. him) and others don’t (e.g me).
In a couple of subsequent chats, I learned Alan had volunteered as an instructor at the Ottawa Safety Council from 2001 to 2017 and that he had been racing motorcycles for thirty plus years. That’s a lot of experience to have under one’s helmet, so when he shared bits and pieces of wisdom, I listened.
Then, when I started using a FB page to talk about my own riding experiences, Alan followed my page with his page and commented on some of my posts. (Awwww.) He alerted me to the Toronto Spring Motorcycle Show Second Annual Biker Poetry contest (I entered and became a finalist), and told me what’s on for racing this season so I could attend my first-ever motorcycle race. (Pending)
Besides being a nice guy who likes to help other riders, he knows a lot about motorcycles and riding (especially fast), which is why he’s become my go-to person for all things racing and one of my riding angels.
He educated me, for example, about track crashes:
“When you low side, the first thing you feel is the front losing grip. When it becomes obvious you’re going down, you think: ‘crap, there goes my race.’ The actual slide is all in slow motion. With experience, you learn to count to three before you try to stand up.”
“Why three?” I’m curious.
“Because sometimes it feels like you’ve stopped sliding and you try to get to your feet but you’re still moving at forty kilometres an hour and oops, you do a face plant on top of everything else.”
I couldn’t help but LOL.
“High sides — when you fly over the handle bars — are much worse,” he wrote. “You’re in the air long enough to look down at the bike and think about how hard the landing is going to hurt. Then, if your helmet touches down you see $$$ instead of stars.”
“What do you mean $$$?” I asked for clarification.
“Money to buy a new helmet. Or maybe even a new bike. Every time you go to the racetrack you do so knowing you might leave your entire motorcycle in the trash bin.”
Cost was the main reason Alan gave up motorcycle racing and riding for about five years around the time his son Aaron was born. The hiatus didn’t last.
“I missed it so much that I got Aaron a Yamaha PW50 when he was four. That’s when he started riding.”
Aaron is twenty-eight now and he races as well. But things have come full circle and he’s taking a break this year to focus on his own three-year-old and a one-year-old boys.
Their crazy old grandpa waits in the wings, ready to mentor them soon as they’re able to roll on the throttle.
“Aaron’s PW50 is still in my garage,” Alan told me. “His boys will soon be putting it to good use.”
Riding runs in the family; Alan’s father rode too. The sill-baby-faced young’uns will be fourth generation.
Riding and racing are not without risk. We all know that. Alan has lost several track friends to collisions over the span of his career, most recently his buddy Jose just a few weeks ago. He understands the risks and accepts them without question. Does the danger increase or decrease with age? Tough to say.
I asked him why he keeps racing. The answer appeared in a heartbeat.
“Because I love it more than just about anything else.”
Follow Alan and Aaron here: Burns Racing on Facebook
© 2023 Susan Macaulay. I invite you to share my poetry and posts widely, but please do not reprint, reblog or copy and paste them in their entirety without my permission. Thank you.