You meet the healthiest people on a Honda


Overlooking Rondout Creek in upstate New York on the 2021 Honda Trail 125, and feeling better with every mile that passes. Photos by the author.

After almost 25 years of riding, I’ve come to view my enthusiasm for all things motorcycling as an endless source of enjoyment, but little did I know how crucial a specific bike – a Honda Trail 125 – would be to help me recover from the sickest point in my life.

The story begins on the morning of my scheduled Covid-19 vax in February 2021, when, by chance, I woke up with flu-like symptoms. Tests revealed I was positive, so I started my mandatory two-week quarantine at home. It was like the flu – it doesn’t matter. But 17 days after that positive test – well after the flu symptoms were gone – a new wave of symptoms appeared that would change my life forever.

You meet the healthiest people on a Honda
The author and his bikes.

GOOD READING: “The Long Ride”, by Jamie Elvidge,
about a purifying solo ride from New York to Key West

Advertisement

The worst of these was extreme dizziness, intense feeling of rapid dizziness, confused disorientation, and complete loss of balance. Sometimes moving half an inch in any direction felt like falling off a tall building – my body tensed up, broke out in a cold sweat, then shook uncontrollably, further exacerbating the fear of heights. I was completely unfit, unable to perform even the simplest tasks independently.

So began the difficult journey back to normal, starting with learning to walk again. It sounds wacky now, but walking speed was initially a challenge that took a solid week of practice to overcome. Stumbling forward at 2 mph felt more like warp speed, as my confused mind struggled to process the movement like an old bogged down 386 computer. I had to stop every few meters to maintain my balance and reassure myself that indeed, I was just walking! All the while, a lingering feeling of dizziness dominated every waking hour, punctuated by restless headaches that couldn’t be assuaged.

You meet the healthiest people on a Honda
Equipped with a comfortable spare seat and a large cargo box, 12-14 hour days on the Trail are not uncommon for me.

These migraines were always made worse by the barometric pressure in the atmosphere, so if it was raining, I was completely out of order. The only escape was sleep. When I closed my eyes, bright flashes of a warm white color interrupted my rest, like lightning strikes but with more pronounced durations. Any sound, no matter how faint, woke me up immediately. A strange new sensitivity to light worsened the symptoms, making any environment other than a soundproof, dark room unbearable. It was a depressing time, to say the least.

At this early stage of the disease, I often went to the garage to admire my collection of motorcycles. Each of them triggered an avalanche of memories, prompting me to remember better times. “Do you remember all the states we visited together?” questioned my BMW R 1200 RT. “Don’t you miss the sassy growl of my little block V-Twin?” purred my Moto Guzzi V7 Racer. “Don’t forget the winter when you took me apart and made me run again!” ordered my Yamaha YSR50.

You meet the healthiest people on a Honda
My favorite local loops on the Trail always revolve around the Hudson River, seen here from the peaks of Bear Mountain State Park’s Perkins Memorial Drive.

In those early post-infection days, the reverie in the garage oscillated between a resolute desire to get back in the saddle and a dark despair from which I would never recover.

Over the next few months, I transitioned from walking to running, but only in spurts. I could drive my car again, albeit slowly. Eventually I dared to ride my motorcycles short distances, if only to get the old juice flowing again. But riding with “long Covid” symptoms was a profound handicap. Headaches and dizziness could erupt like a thunderclap in my head, fierce and debilitating.

You meet the healthiest people on a Honda
Near the shore on Henry Hudson Drive. A New York state of mind!

Most disturbing was the “brain fog”, which suddenly appeared, obliterating my ability to concentrate on anything for more than a few seconds. This happened to me once when I was shoving my 600+ pound BMW RT through a mountain sweeper, where I found myself in the opposite lane of oncoming traffic, not knowing how to get there. arrived. Other times I would suddenly forget the basics, like which side of the handlebars the clutch lever was on. My brain was hopelessly dysfunctional.

Added to these mental challenges were the physical hardships. I rode successive generations of BMW’s venerable RT series for over 15 years, but suddenly felt intimidated by the size, weight and speed of my 2015 R 1200 RT. Low-speed maneuvering was at more unstable, and anything fast or technical disrupted my mental processing to the point of paralysis. It was a pivotal period in my life.

You meet the healthiest people on a Honda
Venturing off-road is an entirely new experience for me, but the lightness and forgiving nature of the Trail always encourages deeper exploration.

It took me many years of dedicated practice to achieve a modicum of driving skill, and it was extremely difficult for me to accept that many of my abilities were gone. Riding my full-size motorcycles—once the most delightful activity I could imagine—had turned into something nerve-wracking and dangerous. I knew I wanted to keep riding, but had to slow down until my symptoms and skills improved.

Since taming corners on my big-bore bikes was out of the question, I had to find a way to pair what little I had left of my riding skills with a suitable machine that was still a motorcycle. (In my mind, riding a twist-and-go automatic scooter would have been acquiescing in defeat.) Enter Honda’s Trail 125, Big Red’s rough-and-ready retro miniMOTO. Simple, lightweight, and slower than a tranquilized sloth, it was the perfect choice for my situation.

You meet the healthiest people on a Honda
By deliberately stepping away from the incessant traffic and distractions of modern society, one can find peaceful bliss off the beaten path.

Through persistent searching, I caught one and set off in search of slow lanes through local hamlets and forests. It was here, during these solitary explorations, that the Path began to heal me.

Regardless of our diverse backgrounds and brand preferences, we all recognize the therapeutic value that motorcycles provide. Some refer to what the late psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called “flow,” or the mental state in which a person is completely immersed in the moment, completely focused, and free from discursive thought. The late Rush drummer, Neil Peart, described the moto-moving sensation as a subconscious reminder of a mother gently cradling her baby. Each of us who has swung one leg over the saddle has our own individual reasons why two-wheeled moving mediation therapy simply works.

You meet the healthiest people on a Honda
My maiden Trail trip in August 2021, which also marks the first time I’ve embarked on a primarily off-road route.

So that was for me on the Trail, hurtling down rutted trails in the woods, riding along twisty bike paths and just focusing on the basics to figure out how to ride again. Like learning to walk again, it was frustrating at first, but the sweet little Honda personality encouraged me to keep trying anyway. Wherever we were, it beckoned me to keep pushing, “Let’s go! Just a little further!

Advertisement

It’s hard to describe the character of an inanimate object, but the Trail never judged me for my mistakes the way my big bikes seem to do. We started out with 40-50 mile local loops, but before long we were riding around neighboring states on 300-400 mile weekends. I felt like a proper rider again, enthusiastically sending the semi-automatic transmission through its four gears and unleashing the tiny thumper’s eight horsepower as we bombarded the back roads.

You meet the healthiest people on a Honda
Accessorizing the Trail to spruce up the look and add healthy doses of functionality, comfort and storage cemented the bond between man and machine.

Granted, all of that action was frustratingly slow by objective standards—but it engaged in the way only a real motorcycle can. This continued engagement is what rebuilt my ability to focus on a singular task for long periods of time – the very foundation of good conduct. Thanks to the avid Trail, I was still in the game, still moving forward, and gradually regaining my self-confidence. According to the GPS, I never exceeded 90 km/h on the modest Honda, but on the fun side, I might as well have been at the front of the pack around the Isle of Man TT!

Encouraged by the progress, I outfitted my Trail with accessories to increase functionality and add flair to its spartan aesthetic. A cavernous 58-litre Givi top box provides ample storage, while a plush spare seat, wireless phone charger, auxiliary LED lighting, Opmid gauge cluster and Koso Apollo heated grips make the experience more comfortable travel.

You meet the healthiest people on a Honda

Molding this trail like mine cemented the bond between man and machine almost as much as our rides themselves. In the end, I’m sure I wouldn’t have recovered so far, so fast, without this bright red miniMOTO as a willing partner.

Today, I accept that Covid-19 has weakened me, perhaps permanently. My innate senses, mental processing and physical reaction times are still not what they used to be, but I am confident that in time they can be restored. Indeed, these days, I find myself getting more rides on my full-size motorcycles as I relearn how to ride them proficiently.

In the meantime, I want to sincerely thank Honda for imbuing this spunky little Trail with character – one that brings all the essential healing joys of wind therapy to beginner and expert alike, even if it’s in the slow way.

About Lillian Coomer

Check Also

Switch to British Superbike machine pays off as Glenn Irwin puts ‘terrible’ Tuesday behind him at North West 200

Glenn Irwin’s decision to switch to his British Superbike machine paid off in the final …