Beantown Baggers

Need versus Want

Man faces no greater motivator in life than the quest to fulfill his needs. We work, hunt and toil to fulfill our barest necessities and it is that determination that evaluates the worthiness of our survival. Sometimes our disposition to accumulate leads us to mistake desires for needs. Motorcycles perennially live at the crossroads of need and want.

Contrasting needs and wants can be identified both in the assembly of the machines we ride and in the methods we pack for our rides. {More below photo}


The Bike:
As a 20-year plus rider I have always considered a motorcycle an extravagance and a discretionary expense. V-twins shrouded by chrome and clear-coat is not a necessity in the way that food, shelter, medicine or utilities are. I have always owned a car and if I were to possess only one vehicle in the ever-changing climates of New England, a car would be a more prudent choice than a motorcycle. To the year-round two wheel commuters, we solute you but we will not be convinced that there aren’t some days you would prefer to be in a warm truck than dealing with blizzard conditions on your bike. {MORE BELOW}


The Parts:
Whether you set out to buy a new or used bike, it is highly likely that it starts and probably runs pretty well. Why then do we pour countless hours of work into customizing the bike ultimately reaching a point unrecognizable to the factory worker who placed the “approved” tag on the mirror? Furthermore, why do we spend wages earned over many months on parts that lead to what can often be equated only to small increments of benefit?

Some of the most expensive upgrades fall under the header of aesthetics.

  • Do we really need a new set of wheels? I suppose that if the prior set is cracked or warped you could justify the acquisition but if these were the majority of wheels sold, the wheel market would be nowhere near as diverse as we have today.
  • Do you need longer saddlebags and a stretched fender? Potentially, if the bags give just a little more room to pack a life-saving tool-set helping in a pinch.
  • Are 18” Ape Hangers a required asset to fully satisfy your lifelong pursuit of happiness? Ah, if it were only this simple.
  • Do you need to replace the perfectly good paint applied by the manufacturer with something you dreamed up at an Iron Maiden concert? Not likely a life or death need.
  • The only upgrades that you may truly need are under the safety and performance bucket such as upgraded suspension if you’re an aggressive rider or improved brakes if you are a poor planner. With this said, many performance upgrades including motor work are not needed to have a perfectly enjoyable riding experience.

The verdict: most parts upgrades fall squarely under the want category, not need.

The Packing:
We explored this in an October article called “Packing the Necessities” (click here to read) If you have ever set out from home aiming for another coast you would know that packing is a delicate art. Failing to bring a necessity will require an unplanned stop taking valuable road time. Worse yet, you may forget an item required in a roadside repair. You may not be as lucky as when I found myself with a dangling exhaust pipe about to drag in front of a piano store (a far better selection of metal wire than I could have hoped).

On the flip side, you don’t want your saddlebags to resemble an aisle at the dollar store with every item from the top two shelves of your garage. Not only will it weigh down your bike, but you’ll never be able to find anything in all that clutter. An added headache of over-packing is the daily ritual of repacking your motorcycle. After two weeks on the road you regret the time spent organizing indulgences purchased during the six-month planning stage of the journey. {MORE BELOW}

Two Weeks of gear on a Roadking on top of Big Horn Mountain

Two Weeks of gear on a Roadking on top of Big Horn Mountain

If you aren’t already considering it, packing should be limited to the things you need or you will regret it down the road.

The Bike:
Now I know I started by saying the bike was a want. It was a desire to blow off a little steam and capture some of the freedom that was promised by countless commercials and friends urging us live the two-wheeled life. But over the course of time, my rides increased from a means of transportation (just few miles down the road) to slightly longer rides. This second phase of rides stretched to Newport for weekends, the Cape on beach days and various spots in New Hampshire to test my riding mettle.

As the rides grew longer and the riding crew grew broader, my definition of a good day of riding quickly changed. The hobby was no longer equal parts shining and riding. More of my time was now spent in the saddle and eyes were opened to destinations previously unimagined.

More than anything, I found that my motorcycle was a release from the everyday sameness of life. When I rode, flavors of independence soaked my pallet. The fragrances of freshly mowed grass, livestock roaming open fields and oceans changing from low to high tide replaced the normally neutral scents.
I could be at one with my thoughts. Motorcycles allow us to depart from the stresses of the world and embark on daily journeys of self-discovery, reflecting on personal experiences and beginning the process of interpretation that will iterate for years to come.

Motorcycles are an open canvas allowing us to create something truly unique and help the world understand how we define beauty as individuals. Whether we do the work ourselves or assemble the slate of painters, builders and technicians to fulfill our vision, the outcome is truly art! The creativity that comes from the motorcycle community undoubtedly adds to our humanity, it separates us from animals.

Riding affords opportunity to develop a much more complete network of friends and supporters whose stories would all help me cultivate a richer understanding of my world and the world of the people around me.  It could be argued that one defines himself through his experiences and the way those experiences prepare him to face life. In this case a motorcycle and all facets related to this passion are in fact needs, not merely wants.


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