Biker Mikey: Fond memories from my 20's

During the 1990s when I was in my 20's I owned a Yamaha XS Eleven motorcycle and had a really great time with it. In fact, it was so much fun I wish that time of my life could have gone on forever! I'll always look back on those days riding around with my biker buddies, Jay and Craig, with fondness. They encouraged me to come out of my shell and do something that I had long wanted to do... learn to ride a motorcycle!

I'll forever be greatful that my buddies helped me make that happen. The summers we spent driving around having one road trip adventure after another were such a joy. So here is a look back at this fun time from my 20's when I was just a long haired young guy enjoying life on a motorcycle... the story of "Biker Mikey"

Chapter 1: How it all began, or How I became a long haired hippie with a leather jacket!

Every epic tale needs a good backstory, so this is me (below) on Sept 7, 1991 when I was 17! Prior to this, at the tender age of nine when most kids were playing sports or doing other normal things that kids do, I had started making my own puppets and became very interested in puppetry.

I was obsessed with the Muppets and had been doing puppet shows for about four years when this photo was taken. The puppet is one of my original characters, Tyler the Bear.  This photo is a tad misleading as two years earlier I had already made the transition from "a boy and his puppets" to this...

...leather jacket wearing 80's hippie! This is me in high school, in 1989! This was the year that I saved up to buy my leather jacket and grew my hair long for the first time. To own that leather jacket was my ultimate quest, and as you can see above, I was quite happy to finally have it. My dad didn't want me to buy it because at two hundred and fifty bucks he thought it was a waste of money, but I bought it anyway. I just had to have that jacket!!!

I've always been a shy person so this was the beginning of the "polite rebellious" stage of my teens. It seemed like an eternity to save up for, but once I finally got that jacket it made me feel like a million dollars! Having always been a shy person, that jacket made me want to dare to come out of my shell and to express myself! For probably the first time, instead of being controlled by my shyness I thought "Why shouldn't I have a cool leather jacket?", and so I did just that!

It may not seem like such a big deal, but for me at the time it was a rather bold and brave move!

Contrary to common belief, long hair and a leather jacket does not automatically make someone a freak. For that one needs puppets! In 1990, when I was in grade ten, I did a puppet show as a drama project with help from some of my friends and classmates. I'm happy to say that my hair had grown quite long by then. Though by '91 I chopped it off to be collar length, as seen in the photo of me with Tyler, so it was still long but not "hippie" long.

Chapter 2: How I ended up in the nicest "biker gang" ever!

Fast forwarding a few years to the mid 1990's, I studied animation at Algonquin College. Over the course of my college years I grew my hair long again. This is when I met my future biker buddies Jay and Craig. The three of us became friends and hung out a lot together, though at this point neither of us owned a motorcycle yet.  The photo shown above was taken around this time in 1995 or 1996 when I was 23.

Later in the summer of 1997 Craig bought his first motorcycle, a Yamaha, and Jay bought a Suzuki, seen here. Jay took this picture of me standing next to his bike when we stopped for a break during one of our road trips. I didn't have a bike yet so I road on the back seat of Jay's bike, which in retrospect was a crazy thing to do considering how easy it would have been to fall off! I like this picture because it looks like this is my bike!!! ;)

Just after this photo was taken I went around to the other side of the bike and sat on the ground for a moment to take a rest. Just then I noticed our reflection in the engine chrome and snapped the photo below. That's Jay standing next to me. In 1997 cell phones with cameras were still an invention of the distant future, so this picture was taken with a standard film camera. I had to guess at the correct angle to hold the camera at and didn't find out if the picture worked until I got the film developed. I was quite happy that it had turned out so well. 

Here are my biker buddies Craig (with his Yamaha) and Jay (with his Suzuki). This picture was taken along with the above two photos in 1997. We look like trouble makers, but all three of us are sheep in wolf's clothing, just having fun and enjoying a nice summer day.

I really get a kick out of this picture because of how much I look like a greaser. What a mug shot! This was my drivers license photo taken when I was 23 or 24. I was surprized that they let me keep my hat on!!! These days they don't even let people wear their glasses! This picture makes me look so mischievous, but in truth I was the exact opposite... the nicest, shyest "bad boy" ever.

Craig's parent's owned a cottage which was awesome! We would hang out there quite often, trading our motorcycles for a motor boat, and zipping around the lake just for the thrill of it. The cottage gave us an excuse and a destination for riding our motorcycles outside of the city, which we all agreed we preferred best. I was the lightest, so I got to sit at the front of the boat, seen below. On one occasion my leather hat blew off and landed on the surface of the water. There were a few tense moments as we circled around to get it before it sank forever into the lake... I recall watching as my hat filled with water rather quickly! Luckily Craig was an expert at steering the boat, so we got to my hat just in time! Yayyy!!!

Aye, aye Captain!!!

One of the reasons we got along so well was that we all had a quirky sense of humour. Jay out did all of us in that department though when one summer he bought an old hearse to use as his normal, everyday car! He's a big fan of the Ghostbusters movies, so I think that had something to do with it as well.  (At least I hope so!) It was actually kinda fun riding around in that thing, until it fell apart! Yep, the hearse died! Jay was sad to part with it too, that car had a lot of character to say the least! :

Here is another of my puppet characters that I created during this time, Hornz the Cow. He rides a motorcycle called Moon Jumper, and that's exactly what he does with it!

In 1997 I produced a short video called "Fuzzy Fables: The Sea Monster and the King". Jay and Craig both helped out. Jay was the puppeteer for King Brian the Lion, seen above, while I performed Gordon the Sea Monster, and Craig was part of the production crew. In the above picture Jay and I are watching his performance on a video monitor. I've posted more photos and info about this project on another page of this blog titled Gordon the Sea Monster and Me .

It was around this time that I finally got my own motorcycle!!!!!

This is the very first picture that I took of my 1981 Yamaha XS Eleven Special, taken in late fall of 1997 on the very same day that we picked it up from the seller. This was exactly the type of bike that I was looking for. It even had a tall backrest bar which I had wanted... some call it a sissy bar, but let's not go there! ;) This specific backrest bar was an additional accessory for the 1980 Honda CX rather than a Yamaha, but it was perfect. The 250cc engine was a smaller size but it suited me fine for my first motorcycle. The bike needed new tires so I couldn't ride it yet, though it wouldn't have mattered as the motorcycle season was essentially over. It also wasn't worth the expense of getting motorcycle insurance at that point, so I had to wait until spring of '98 to ride it. Although I was itching to take it out for a spin, the bike had to be stored away for the winter!  Fortunately Craig and Jay let me keep it in their garage.

When the Yamaha XS Eleven was first made available in 1978 it set records on the racing circuit. Here is the Wikipedia page about the bike:

This picture was taken in Craig and Jay's garage some time during the following winter. Every time I visited them I would also visit with my bike, which is what I'm doing in the above photo. I couldn't wait to ride it!!!

Here I am hanging out at Jay and Craig's place, using their computer which has a floppy disc drive. That was the standard format at time!

The researcher in me likes to document things (considering all of my blogs, you've probably noticed that!). I used to bring my camera everywhere with me back then. Jay teased me a lot about that and took the above three pictures with my camera, trying to catch me off guard when I wasn't expecting it.

When the spring of '98 finally arrived it honestly felt like being reborn! I didn't waste a moment getting to work on fixing up the bike. Having never owned a motorcycle before I didn't have a clue what I was doing, so Craig helped me get new tires and change the battery, then he checked the bike's mechanics to make sure everything was working. Then I washed the bike and buffed the chrome. At last my Yamaha was ready to roll... the only thing left to do was learn how to ride it!!

Jay and Craig helped me with that too, and we all took a motorcycle safety course together. It didn't take long before I had my motorcycle licence and was officially a biker dude!!! ...Get your motor runnin'!!!

That summer I went everywhere on my Yamaha! Jay, Craig and I often went for rides out on rural highways just for the sake of riding our bikes, it was fun just to head out without a destination and see where we ended up. On a few occasions, as mentioned above, we took weekend trips to Craig's cottage!

Chapter 3: More bike trips, or How to fit a weekends worth of clothing and necessities into a small book bag!!!

I love this picture of "Biker Mikey", taken when I was 25. At some point in '97 I had bought a pair of leather pants to go with my jacket. The factory had made them with a wide boot cut which I didn't like, so I tailored them myself on the sewing machine (the same one that I made my puppets with) to make the legs slimmer until they fit the way I wanted them too. I was so worried that I'd mess them up and that they would be ruined, but they turned out just right. Jay snapped this photo just moments after we stopped for a rest during a bike trip to Syracuse, New York in May 1998. I really liked wearing my leather duds!!! This was a fun time!

During the entire ride it had been raining with very strong winds which is no big deal in a car, but on a motorcycle you are out in the elements and notice everything! Jay and Craig both had a windshield on their bike so they were spared a little, but I didn't have one so I had to hang on with all my strength and charge into the gale!!! I remember fighting the wind the entire way there! When we finally stopped for a break, seen above, I was so pooped that I couldn't even stand up which is why I'm resting on my bike in this picture. I didn't even bother taking my helmet off as I just wanted to rest my arms. As crazy as it all was, I loved every second of it! 

Craig had  enough foresight to wear some rain gear. My leather outfit kept me pretty dry, even though we drove through a down poor! Visibility was pretty bad! It was crazy but fun!!!

As I had studied animation in college I spent a lot of time drawing in my 20's. Above is a cartoon version of myself as "Biker Mikey" in a few different outfits. Notice that I put the word "normal" in quotes!

Between the three of us, we had so many motorcycles in Craig and Jay's garage that Craig couldn't fit his car in! Shown above is a front view of my Yamaha with my jacket hanging on the backrest. Jay had a second motorcycle, a Norton Chopper, in that garage as well so there were typically four motorcycles in there. Unfortunately the Norton wasn't road worthy and was too much of a project to repair, so it was sold the following summer.

This is Vul-Gar the Ogre, one of my few attempts at making marionettes. I made him for a video project in the late 1990's.

This is my skeleton warrior costume that I wore at any opportunity that came along, including each Halloween. I was really into medieval fantasy during my 20's and got a kick out of donning my skeleton suit!

In addition to riding around with Craig and Jay, I took my motorcycle when I went camping with some of my high school buddies during the summer of 1999. The above picture was taken at our camp site. As my bike had a backrest bar I used to put my feet up to relax or take a nap. That Yamaha was so comfortable to sit on and fun to ride around on, I just loved that bike! It was a perfect fit!

During that same camping trip we spent some time at the beach... Motorcycles weren't allowed on the beach! :) Throughout my 20's I went swimming quite often, almost every day. During the winter I'd get a membership at the Y just to keep swimming. Despite how often I went swimming this is the only beach photo I have from my 20's!
Around this time I had decided to come out to Jay and Craig and tell them that I'm gay. I had already come out to my parents, siblings and some high school buddies a few years prior in my early 20's, so now I felt it was time to cross that road with my biker buddies. It really stressed me out to think about, since I was having so much fun hanging out with them and riding our motorcycles. I was worried that they wouldn't want to hang out anymore. Previously, I had made many, many attempts to tell them up to this point but never found the nerve to go through with it, until now. 

I was quite relieved when they didn't think it was such a big deal and still wanted to be friends. That's how awesome Jay and Craig are! In fact, they thought it was of so little consequence that they often forgot that I was gay! Then when I'd remind them I was gay they would say something like "Oh ya, forgot about that"! They weren't being disrespectful though, they just thought of me as "Mike" which is exactly what I had hoped for.

Chapter 4: Our Trip to Americade in New York in 2000, an Awesome Motorcycle Adventure!

For the summer of 2000 Craig and I road to New York again, this time to Lake George to attend the Americade event for motorcyclists! By this point Jay had moved to New York to live with his girlfriend, so we planned to meet him in Lake George. It was mazing to see the thousands and thousands of motorcycles that took over the small town.

The above photo shows Craig and I at the camp site one night during our Americade trip at Lake George, New York. Below Jay and Craig on their bikes (the plates reflected the camera flash). This was our camp site during the week in Lake George. A friend of Craig's also drove down to meet up with us. Regretfully, I can't for the life of me recall his friend's name, though he was a nice guy.

Here's Craig on a street lined with motorcycles. I've never seen so many motorcycles in one place before, thousands and thousands of bikes! That was awesome!! Below are the three of our bikes (Jay and Craig's Suzuki's on the left and centre, and my Yamaha on the right) parked in the field next to the vendors market!!! It's common to attach a teddy bear or mascot to your bike at these types of events, so just for fun I attached a small stuffed toy of Animal from the Muppet Show to the back of my sissy bar, seen below

Here's the nicest biker gang ever, me, Craig's friend, Jay and Craig at Americade. That was a fun adventure!!!

Chapter 5: Time keeps on slipping into the future!

The dawn of a new millennium brought with it many changes. I had no way of knowing that the summer of 2000 would be my last as a motorcyclist! Jay had moved to New York to live with his girlfriend, and Craig had just started seeing a new girlfriend.  Craig and I still hung out and went for bike rides together, but all good things come to an end, and so it was that in 2000 "Biker Mikey" made his last ride! The above photo was taken in 2000 at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec.

Since Jay had decided to permanently move to the US with his girlfriend, in 2000 he stopped back in town to pick up his things from storage. I went to meet him there and helped him load up his friend's truck (that's my bike in the background). This was the last time Jay and I road our motorcycles together.

Craig liked to store his bike at his cottage, so each fall I would help him out by driving his car there as he drove his bike. The above picture was taken on one of those road trips, when Craig stopped for a break.  

I really like having long hair and think guys look really good with it, but I also like long hair as it allows me to avoid getting a hair cut! It's very silly of me, but I hate getting my hair cut. I'm almost never happy with the final cut and can't wait until my hair grows back. Cutting people's hair is not a job that I'd want to do, so I have a lot of respect for hair stylists, unfortunately I'm just very fussy about hair cuts! However, on this one rare occasion in 2001 I was so over the moon with how well my haircut turned out, that I took this picture! This is my idea of perfect hair! :)

Around this time I got a job working in a small leather shop which I really enjoyed. It was the same store where I had bought my leather ball cap a few years earlier. Not only did I like the store and the merchandise that we sold, but I also got to wear my leather duds to work! That was sweet! Above is what I would typically wear. I bought the vest, the T-shirt, and the wrist band all at the store. The tiger T-shirt I'm wearing in the previous photo above is also from the leather shop. In addition to being an employee, I was a good customer! :) On top of all that there was free parking so I rode my motorcycle to work every day too!

Here I am sometime in 2000 or 2001 wearing a leather vest that I really liked. Unfortunately it's too small for me now, but it fit me nice and snuggly at the time. It's odd that I have so few pictures of it as it was one of my favourite things to wear back then, I wore it quite often.

Alas, for many reasons which all suck, in 2001 I had to sell my motorcycle! This is the last picture of me and my Yamaha! Woe is me! ...cue the violins!!! I was very bummed out about parting with my Yamaha. This photo also shows the longest that my hair has ever been.

Chapter 6: Pythor the Barbarian!!!

This is Pythor the Barbarian, he's a little hand puppet dude that I made in 2001.

The Mighty Pythor!!!

This chapter has nothing to do with motorcycles, I just think Pythor is cool! :)
For that reason alone, he kind of belongs on this page!

Here's Pythor battling the Burgle Beast!

Pythor and I in 2010. Believe it or not, Pythor is smiling in this photo!


Over the years I've often thought about getting another motorcycle but it never seemed to be a priority like it was when I was in my 20's. That was the time to do it, and it was a blast! 
But who knows what lies ahead... "Biker Mikey" may yet ride again!


Go to the "Art and Puppetry Projects" directory page of this blog:

 This link will take you to the previous page of this blog "Mikey's Coming Out Story":


Photos and text copyright Mike Artelle, 1989, 2016 All rights reserved.

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