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  • Writer's pictureMaurice Rubio-McMillon

My Journey To Becoming A Biker

Nolli posing on a Ninja 300

When I was young, I loved it when my great-grandfather, Johnny "Pa" Black, would take US 1 when he drove anywhere because I got to see all the new cars and trucks propped up on dealer lots. For most of my childhood, motorcycles did not interest me, but one day while driving down US 1 a particular bike caught my attention.

My hands hit the window and my face pressed up against the glass to get a closer look as we sped by it. Pa noticed and asked if I wanted to see it up close; we stopped and checked it out and I became obsessed with getting one.

My First Bike – A 250cc Dirtbike

Nolli's first motorcycle, a Chinese 250cc dirtbike
December 2007

It took 7 years from that first encounter, but I finally got a taste of motorbiking in 2007. My first bike was a 250cc Chinese dirtbike that I bought online for less than $1,000. It stood so tall that I had to use a step stool to mount it almost every time I wanted to ride. As you might imagine, that made stopping and turning a scary experience, and it wasn't long before I lost the joy to fear of riding it.

Maybe motorcycles weren't for me.

6 Years Later...

In 2013 when I was 27 years old and saw the new Ninja design, my interest returned. I purchased my first sportbike, a Kawasaki Ninja 300 and got a partial sleeve tattoo – hey, its part of the lifestyle. I had no endorsement or any experience on a street bike; but fear or no fear, I wanted to be on that bike and live that life.

A Kawasaki ad featuring a biker riding a green ninja 300
Ninja 300 Advertisement Image

I quickly signed up for and passed the motorcycle safety class which resulted in my license endorsement. The class was a mix of new and experienced riders, and featured a hands-on riding experience using a cruiser-style, Suzuki GZ250. The GZ250 is a slow-to-throttle bike, so giving it too much gas isn't a concern.

In between class stuff, many of the experienced riders advised the new riders to not buy big, powerful bikes until they had more experience and understanding of how to handle a bike. They spoke from the experience of the loss of their friends.

Listen To The Elder Bikers

Nolli's graduating class of 2013 bikers at the Institute for Motorcycle Safety

There was one 17-year-old that I remember in particular who argued against the experienced riders about the investment in something like a 300- or 600cc bike being a waste of money and time. That young man was named Vlad Kirik, and he died 1 year later riding his 1000cc bike on a winding back road; RIP Vlad.

I'm here to tell you that taking your time to get accustomed to the dynamic forces you experience while riding a motorcycle is pivotal to staying alive. Small accidents like the twist of your wrist after hitting a bump can create conditions for catastrophe.

Those accidents are amplified by engine power and rider inexperience. You can't control the experience level, but you can mitigate the power of the engine. As you encounter more issues, you'll learn how to adjust to them which will scale with your ability and engine size.

The 7-Year Itch

I stayed on that Ninja 300 for 7 years!

It got 70 mpg, cost $6 at the time to fill up, and had just enough power to keep me satisfied. But by 2020, I was racing around town, feeling very confident, and yearning for more power. It was time to move on to the bike I was waiting for – the one that Pa and I stopped to see, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6r.

I bought my ZX-6r brand new and have had it for 4 years now. Since then, I've gone on three group rides (one of which was with the Sanctuary of the Treasure Coast) and visited Daytona Bike Week twice.

I've also upgraded the taillight with an integrated blinker, changed the exhaust, and installed under-glow LEDs.

I even created a custom t-shirt for other bikers with ZX-6r's who also love anime.

But something was still missing...

Finding A Biker Community

Bikers are often compared to lone wolves because we ride a vehicle that is best suited for a solo individual, taking responsibility for no one but ourselves, however no wolf wants to be alone, they want to belong to a pack, and in the pack they share responsibilities to protect one another.

I find that to be true of most bikers, and certainly true for myself. While bikers are friendly and welcoming to most other bikers, there are very few packs that welcome gay members, and those that exist are far away.

A friend asked me why I would seek a gay riding group and not just a group. The answer is acceptance and safety. Being gay can be dangerous. Unlike being darker skinned where people can see it and immediately react to it (racism), some of us are LGBTQ and it isn't immediately perceivable. People may initially accept us, then find out we are LGBTQ and suddenly reject us or worse.

I don't want to be accepted under the guise of someone else's beliefs only to be rejected later for being more than they perceived. So, seeking an LGBTQ club means that upfront we know that whatever lies beneath is one less thing to have a barrier against with those like-minded individuals.

The patch of the Stonewall Knights of Florida
Stonewall Knights Banner

Here in Florida, we have one such club – The Stonewall Knights, a gay men's motorcycling group. Their mission is to meet new friends with similar interests, exchange ideas and information, ride motorcycles together, and participate in special events.

I joined the SK Facebook Group a few years back, but I've yet to ride with them given our distance from one another. I hope to spawn a chapter here on the Treasure Coast, and so far we're still 1 member strong.

If you're seeking more LGBTQ Motorcycle Clubs, you can find some of them here.

TONIT (tun-it)

A while back I discovered an app called TONIT that's a social media platform specifically for bikers. On the app, there are more riding clubs and groups that are easy to join, though there are no Treasure Coast LGBTQ rider clubs I've yet seen.

Less About Daytona, More About The Ride

Bike Week is an amazing experience that I believe every biker should enjoy at least once in their life. Hundreds of thousands of bikers turn out and turn up, showcasing many different rides and riders of all skill sets, ethnicities, interests, and backgrounds. Except for Key West Pride, nowhere have I felt more a part of a community.

To see a recap of my experience in Daytona, check out my TikTok, here.

Originally, this blog started just recapping my experience at this year's Bike Week, but as I wrote I realized that there are probably people out there, like me, who love the idea of motorcycling but think that it's not for them because of their past experiences or because they're LGBTQ.

If you are yearning for more, I invite you to ride and become a biker. For some of us, the journey is long and arduous, but because of it, the destination is all the more sweet.

Nah! Who am I kidding? The ride always trumps the destination!

Ride safe fam!

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