For Father and Son, Scooters Were the Spark

By Dylan Pitcairn
Product Development Scientist in Aerospace Composite Materials, and scooter enthusiast in Irvine, California

During the pandemic, when everything was shut down, Dylan and his dad would explore the back roads of Orange County on their scooters. Dylan now has a Suzuki Burgman 650 and his dad has a Honda CTX700 DCT. 

Growing up in the ’90s, I remember staring out the back of our family’s Datsun 280Z and watching motorcycles speed past us as we ran errands, navigating effortlessly between cars while we sat waiting in gridlock. As a child, I had assumed all motorcycles were fast and loud, but something about that combination always piqued my interest. As I grew into my teens, my dad and I would visit our local motorcycle showroom to window-shop bikes, specifically sub-150cc scooters. Gas prices were high, and my dad wanted to find something to offset his truck for errands and his short commute. He had gotten his learner’s permit and was eager to start riding, but when surrounded by the plethora of different motorcycles on the market, he couldn’t decide what he really wanted. 

Fast forward to the mid-2010’s, and my dad decided to take the MSF course at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, California. His rationale was that if he committed to learning how to ride a motorcycle and get his license, he would be more willing to buy a bike and start riding. He had never ridden a motorcycle before, and wanted to take the time to learn proper technique. He completed the course successfully, though he still hadn’t decided on what bike he wanted.

Not long after, I moved to Seattle, Washington, for graduate school and decided to follow in my dad’s footsteps by signing up for the MSF course. I remember seeing the range of students in the course: men, women, people in their 20s, to people in retirement. We all shared that common interest to learn how to ride a motorcycle. As we all picked out which training motorcycle we would use (mostly Honda Rebels and Suzuki GZ250’s), we began a series of introductory exercises (handlebar controls, clutch engagement, shifter actuation, brakes, power-walking our bikes, etc.). Over the course of several days, both in-class and on the bikes, we learned proper technique and made our fair share of mistakes. A big thing that sold me on the course was the safety of it all – we donned riding gear, practiced in an isolated parking lot away from traffic/other drivers, and had instructors that cared about our learning. I was happy to see myself and the majority of my peers succeed in something we had all eagerly sought. 

My first bike was a 1987 Kawasaki KZ305 LTD. At the time, it was what my student budget could afford, and I cherished it. I rode all over Seattle, taking my girlfriend on our first dates, and really getting familiar with riding. As time went on, I decided to upgrade to a 2005 Honda Silver Wing, a 600cc scooter. There was something about the practicality of the under-seat storage (it could fit two full-face helmets), along with the automatic CVT transmission that made riding around town much more enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong – shifting your own gears is quite satisfying, but for me personally, I wanted to focus on my adventure on two wheels without worrying about which gear I was in. 

Time passes, and I moved back to Southern California. My dad expressed interest in motorcycles after hearing about my riding adventures up north. We soon found him a 2016 Honda PCX 150cc scooter. Not wanting to let him have all the fun, I added a 2015 Yamaha SMax 155cc scooter to my collection to join him on rides several times a month. When 2020 hit and everyone was locked away at home, my dad and I would meet up and zip around the empty streets nearly every day after work to escape the confines of our desks at home. We’d ride for 40-plus miles all along Pacific Coast Highway, through the back roads of Orange County, through Santiago Canyon, exploring areas we had never been to before. We really bonded during this time, telling stories when we’d stop for a break, and just enjoying the liberating feeling of riding our scooters around. These are some of my favorite memories we’ve shared together. 

Though time went on and our lives became filled with new adventures, we continue to make time to ride together. My dad now has a 300cc Honda Forza scooter and a Honda CTX700 DCT motorcycle. I’ve moved on from my SMax and now have a 2013 Suzuki Burgman 650 touring scooter. This was the bike I’ve dreamed of owning since my Silver Wing. The larger bikes give us more options for our rides, expanding from local streets to longer highway journeys. I can say with certainty that the novelty of riding hasn’t worn off for either of us, and we still enjoy the rush that riding a motorcycle gives us compared to driving a car. 

One key takeaway from my journey was taking the chance to pursue something I’ve always wanted to do. Riding motorcycles was something my dad and I dreamed of for years, and I’m happy that we were able to reach that goal together. The MSF courses we took provided us a solid foundation of skills and techniques that paved the way for us to become confident, vigilant riders. Along this journey, we’ve made lasting friendships and enjoyed the welcoming camaraderie of the motorcycling community – it’s a great bunch of people who all enjoy the 2-wheeled, open-air experience. Riding has provided us with adventure, excitement, and bonding that we will cherish for many, many years to come.