In Stephen R. Covey’s best-seller “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Habit N.7 is called “Sharpen the Saw.” I should know that, as I’m a certified facilitator for a number of seminars based on Dr. Covey’s work.

Covey’s point is we cannot be effective if we don’t take the time to preserve and renew our most precious asset—ourselves. This means setting aside time to regenerate our energies and cultivate our friendships.

As a motorcycle enthusiast since the Seventies, I took the opportunity to do both things at the same time just yesterday. The last time I’d taken my Honda VFR 1200 XTD Crosstourer on a ride was last December—and for a meager 200-kilometer roundtrip.

With a small group of friends, we decided to go on our first bike ride of 2017, thanks to the comparatively mild weather forecasted for Wednesday, February 15. Our destination was Portofino, on the Liguria coast, but we left the finer routing details to the very day of departure. When you ride motorcycles for fun, the ride and the company are all that matters; the destination is only necessary to give you a sense of direction, while the routing often depends on circumstantial factors.

February 15 dawned cold and hazy in Milan, but sunshine was supposed to break through fairly early.
By 09:30, we were heading due south and encountering patches of cold fog that made the initial part of our trip cold, wet and miserable.

By the time we started climbing the Apennine range, the fog disappeared but temperatures stayed just above freezing for a while. Then, having decided to reach the coast by obscure back roads, we left the motorway just at the watershed, in Busalla, and followed a maze of local roads south-east to the seaside town of Recco.

From there we rode east along the coastline until we hit Rapallo, and then followed the splendid cliff road dead-ending at Portofino. By that time, temperatures were around 15° C and the sun dazzling.

After a short lunch break, we decided to head back through Piacenza (some 60 km south-east of Milan) by crossing the Apennines again, this time headed north. We ended up riding on quiet, virtually deserted back roads and trails that had been covered in snow just a few days earlier.

We crossed sleepy villages with smoking chimneys and silent woods barren of leaves etched against the sky. It was a rather tiring ride, because of the uneven road surfaces and the non-stop bends and switchbacks that seemed to go on forever. Open the throttle on the dry stretches and ride on eggshells in the wet, shady corners, with the low winter sun often blinding you through the trees. Still, our reward was the total lack of traffic and the surprisingly clean roads. We were actually expecting to find plenty of slush, gravel and runoff on the roads, which would have made our ride slower and more dangerous, but found almost none.

Once in Piacenza, we refueled and hit the slab all the way home, where we returned to uneventfully after a total ride time of eight hours and a distance of 430 km, nearly two-thirds of which on narrow twisty roads. My hips and shoulders were sore from all those turns, bumps, and ridges, and so were my thighs, which had complemented the bike’s shock absorbers for hours on end.

But, overall, not a bad day at all for an old-timer wishing to sharpen the saw.