Something of a pet subject of mine, as an armchair biker, is the frequent use of motorbikes to set the image of the male (generally) lead in a romance novel. In the main, and this may be because many books are set in the USA, the chosen bike is a Harley.
Whoa Nellie! Why Harleys? There are loads of bikes out there, as illustrated at the top of this post by the Triumph Tiger and the BMW R1200. Ah yes, but those are not Harleys, you know, Harley Davidson, the choice of bad boy bikers everywhere, the epitome of the free spirit.
So, my first question to anyone thinking of including a Harley Davidson as the bike of choice for their male lead is this. Have you ever ridden one, or even sat on one?
Why should that matter? Look at it this way. Would you use a straight-bladed screwdriver to remove a Phillips screw? No, you answer scornfully as it would be the wrong tool for the job. In the same way, the wrong bike can set the wrong scene.
Let’s look at some examples:
- Ride out, at speed, around some winding roads in NY State
- Ride out, from NY State to one of the closer Southern States
- Ride out, through woodlands where some may be riding pillion
- In town riding, where traffic may be an issue
Each of these is like the analogy of the screwdriver above. For each of them, a different riding technique is used. If the male MC is a keen rider, then he will be accustomed to a specific style of riding. Much in the same way that you wouldn’t take a Mini on an off-road track, it is conceivable that a different bike needs to be used.
In November 2016, I attended the MCN Live show in Birmingham. I was buying replacement gear for my son, which is another topic I shall address. However, I wanted to work out a specific type of bike for a specific scene in one of my books. The scene was Item 3 above: ride out through woodlands where some may be riding pillion.
In the actual scene, the pillion passenger is actually blind, a former comrade-in-arms of the bike’s rider. The ground is uneven and muddy. Going can be slippery as the scene took place in early Autumn/Fall. I had narrowed it down to two bikes, both Ducati Scramblers, but which one would I pick. After a discussion with the Marketing Manager of Ducati (female), a suggestion was made.
Some of the bikes I have seen suggested have completely inappropriate tyres. This one, she suggested had the right combination and could be ridden by two people.
My own favourite MC in my books actually has two preferred bikes and it depends what he plans to do. The first is his Ducati Diavel. Why? He lives in New York City and commutes occasionally out to his home in the Catskills. The road to the Catskills is relatively straight. It is an open-the-throttle-and-let-rip kind of road. So, there he used the Diavel. On the other hand, in a scene where he and a member of his Pack had to give the appearance of being something other than American, they chose to use European adventure touring bikes. Casimir rode a Triumph Tiger Explorer, and Vittorio rode a BMW R1200. The intention was comfort and a bike capable of carrying a decent amount of luggage. They wanted maneuverability. With the best will in the world, these are not features of the generally customised chopper-style Harley assigned to a male MC. Harleys are great on straight roads. That is what they are designed for. But nipping around winding roads? Perhaps only if there is no oncoming traffic.
Returning to an earlier point, have you ever sat on any of the bikes you choose to use? Why does this matter? I will illustrate the point with a photo of my son on the UK Police Bike Safe bike. My son is 6ft 2in tall, and he is not a small or skinny type. Put him in his bike gear and he is impressive to say the least. But, look at him in relation to the size of the bike. Take a good look. Does he fit or does it look like the bike is too big? If he was carrying a female behind him, would she be comfortable?
My final point is on bike safety gear. Yeah, yeah, I know that it is only us wussy Brits and Europeans who wear helmets and safety gear. Big, bad American bikers don’t bother with than nonsense. Really?
Take a look at the comparison between ‘killed’ and ‘incapacitating injury’. It would really squash your romance if your male MC ended up as a bloody smear on the road because he wasn’t wearing a protective jacket, or worse still ended up in a coma because he chose to forgo a helmet.
Serious bikers wear safety gear. It is that simple. It is not a fashion statement, although the Harley dealerships seem to think it is with some of their ranges. It is practicality and the need to stay alive in the face of idiot car-drivers.
In conclusion, what are my key suggestions if you are planning to use a motorbike with any of your characters:
- Make sure it is fit for purpose
- Make sure it is the right size for your rider
- Make sure that you include description that demonstrates why you have chosen that bike
- Don’t forget the damned safety gear.
Other than that? Happy riding. By the way, my son actually owned both the Honda NC700X and the Triumph Tiger.
LINKS TO THE BOOKS IN THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN and HELLFIRE PACK SERIES
“Bound”, Volume 1 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $0.99: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B016TQFBNY
Amazon.co.uk £0.99: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016TQFBNY
Smashwords.com £0.00 (Free): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/589130
“Alpha”, Volume 2 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $0.99: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ENZ972O
Amazon.co.uk £0.99: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01ENZ972O
Smashwords $0.99: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/631708
“Beta”, Volume 3 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.co.uk: £3.05 https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01KB20OL6
Amazon.com: $3.99 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KB20OL6#nav-subnav
Smashwords: $3.99 https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/660156
“Merysekhmet”: A love story with bite