We Shall Not Cease From Exploration
There is a T.S. Eliot quote etched into the cement path that leads toward the water at Baylands Park. Eliot’s reflection seems appropriate to a rider’s experience, and particularly to our first ever featured rider, April Black: “We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring shall be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
I met with April at that very spot for the interview, we took some pictures of her SV1000, and, in her lovely Georgian drawl, she told me the story of her motorcycling life. She’s effortlessly poetic, energetic, and self-possessed, and I walked away more eager than ever to hit the road on two wheels.
RR: What was your first bike?
AB: 1986 Honda VFR750
RR: How long have you been riding and how often do you ride?
AB: I have been riding full-time for twelve years, but I started with dirt bikes 30 years ago.
RR: How did you start riding motorcycles?
AB: I started riding a Honda XR250R dirt bike and rode that for a few years, then stopped riding because of the other sports I was involved in. Twelve years ago I was looking for a new hobby and wanted to learn to ride a sport bike (living across the street from Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia didn’t help the itch any), so, with my divorce settlement I purchased a 1986 VFR750 Interceptor and have been riding ever since.
RR: Why do you keep riding?
AB: It’s the freedom, the escape, just you and your machine, travelling, being outdoors. The unbridled speed, adrenalin, and the thrill of piloting your own machine. It’s incredibly confidence inspiring. But most of all, it’s the challenge to be better than I think I can be. Riding keeps my senses alert, reflexes alive, and continually educates me, as nothing is constant. Riding has become more than a passion for me, it has become a calling. I’m happiest when on two!
RR: What’s your best advice for new riders?
AB: Get educated. Track days aren’t just for experienced riders and racers. Track day providers are there to educate you and work with you on and off the track through classroom training and by applying classroom learning to the track riding experience. It’s super fun and you won’t be alone!
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation Course is super important! MSF courses are always encouraged and advised by everyone. Also, there are some insurance companies that will provide a discount for taking the class.
Finally, get to know your motorcycle! Seat time….seat time….seat time! With the volume of traffic on the roads, lane sharing, and cars that are not used to watching for motorcycles, getting used to riding with other vehicles will aid your learning quickly and help you get to know your bike.
RR: What’s your dream bike trip?
AB: I don’t really have a dream trip. I love travelling on two, camping, and hiking. Since I had never been west of the Mississippi River until a few years ago, I’m focusing my trips on seeing California, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and the surrounding states.
RR: Where is your favorite place to ride in the Bay Area?
AB: Living under the canopy of a 100 year old redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains has certainly spoiled me. Twists and turns like I’ve only experienced on the track back on the East Coast are a daily occurrence now and definitely a stress-buster after a difficult day at the office in San Jose. In my travels throughout the Bay Area, I can’t help but notice the different terrain. Brown grass in the summer and green in the winter isn’t something that is easy to comprehend when you are used to dramatic changes in the seasons. Snow-capped mountains in the spring, trees taller than I could ever imagine and forests so thick that is dark two hours before the sun starts to go down. Flat farm lands bursting with crops ready for picking that have their own special beauty. And then there is the coast and Highway 1. Spectacular sunsets and rocky coastline that winds its way down to LA and beyond provide many hours of enjoyment and difficulty keeping your eyes on the road! I love it all!
RR: What was the best part of the day on your last bike trip or track day?
AB: The best part of my last bike trip was when I travelled to San Diego and rode the mountains just east of Poway and south to the Mexican border. I’d never seen the desert and didn’t think of it being mountainous. Stopping for a rest at the peak of a hill and looking around and realizing I was above the clouds was like nothing I’d ever seen or imagined. Just beautiful!
The best part of my last track day was the continued support and encouragement from my boyfriend and seeing him on the wall cheering me on as I flew down the straight for another lap to make a clean, outside pass after turn 2 at T-Hill! Passing in turns scares me silly, but I did it!
RR: Is there someone that has inspired or inspires your motorcycling life?
AB: Yes, a couple of people. My brother in Tennessee who helped me locate my first bike and gave me advice, tips and encouragement. My boyfriend, who shares my passion for travel, racing, and just riding. His continued encouragement, patience, and companionship allow me to be the person I am, to continue to grow from within, and share our two wheel experiences, together, and as individuals.
RR: If you had a theme song for your life, which song would it be?
AB: Free Bird by Lynard Skynard
RR: What is your most indispensable piece of riding gear?
AB: Besides helmet, boots, and gloves, I would say ear plugs. I’d never worried about it and rode for about six years without them. The more people talked to me about them and about the health consequences of not wearing them on a long term basis, made me more aware of the wind noise and the way my helmet fits. I then started paying attention to what was going on inside my helmet and decided to try the earplugs to see what happened and if I would like them. What a difference! I could ride longer, farther, and focus my attention elsewhere. And most of all…no after-ride fatigue or headache! I’ve been wearing them ever since. Riding is so much better and much more fun!
RR: How much of your own maintenance do you do?
AB: I’ve always had carbureted bikes. This is the second fuel injected bike I’ve ever had, so I’m still learning. But for the most part I’ve always done virtually all of my own maintenance. I’m very independent and won’t ride a bike I can’t pick up if it falls over. At minimum, I want to know how to change the oil. I’ve always had the attitude that if it’s going to be, it’s going to be up to me. Riding a motorcycle, more than anything, has taught that me there’s nothing I can’t do. All you have to do is use your resources, have a little common sense, and not be afraid to fail, because you learn from failure. The first thing I do when I get a bike is grab my manual, grab a tool kit, and start taking off fairings.
RR: Who is your favorite mechanic?:
AB: My boyfriend! He has an SV too, so they have become part of the household.
RR: Do you like to ride in groups or solo?
AB: I like to ride solo. I’m kind of a loner and like to do my own thing. I’ve never gone with crowd: I’m the salmon that swims upstream. I like to see and do the little things and go off the beaten path.
RR: How do you feel about wearing safety gear?
AB: I like to set the example of a good rider, a safe rider. I will never get on my bike without full gear. When it’s ninety degrees out I’ll be wearing textiles and boots, etc. I am very much a gear “Nazi”, and you can quote me on that. I’ve always been a gear Nazi, especially since I came to California and learned how to lane share. I realized that I had to step up my riding. I just like to set the example of a safe rider.
RR: What’s your top food after a ride?
AB: I’m a Santa Cruz hippie, so I munch on my almonds and veggies during rest stops on long rides, so I don’t really get hungry, because I’m eating sustainable foods throughout the day. When I return home, I like to have a glass of wine, relax, and just reflect on the trip and burn it all into memory.
RR: What do you like about Road Rider?
AB: What I love about you guys is the knowledge of the people there. You aren’t just a motorcycle shop, you guys ride. To me, that says more than anything, because when you walk into a shop, you’d like to talk to someone who can actually relate to what you need and make suggestions and listen. Roxie, Dave, and everyone there I’ve dealt with are seasoned. If you guys don’t know something, you will let me know and will find out where to go to get it or will research and find it then call to let me know. That’s what I like. The honesty is there. The realism is there, and the customer service is more than exceptional! That’s why I keep coming back!
RR: Thanks for being awesome, April.