Multiple Bike Syndrome (MBS)

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Outbreak Of MBS Reported In Burien

By Harvey Mushman
Burien Bugle Staff Reporter

A confirmed case of MBS (Multiple Bike Syndrome) was reported today by the King County Public Health MBS Task Force. Scott Bruce Duncan, age 46, of Burien, was examined by Public Health MBS specialists today after showing up at home after work on Friday with a brand new, special edition, 2004 Honda RC51.

MBS, also known as cycleholism, is a progressive disease that scientists have yet to discover the cause of. It predominantly affects men but women have also been known to contract the disease, albeit in far lesser numbers. Cycleholics exhibit an illogical, uncontrollable desire to own multiple motorcycles.

This is a particularly vexing case. According to his wife of 23 years, Inga Duncan Thornell, Duncan has been under treatment for years for his motorcycling addiction. “He’s been attending MA (Motorcyclists Anonymous) meetings and showing real signs of achieving mobriety.” (According to MA, mobriety is a sustainable condition where a rider is content to own just one motorcycle.) “I was so hopeful. He’s been trending toward less bikes of a more sensible nature. This latest flare up represents a serious setback.” says Thornell.

Tom Wicken, owner of University Honda Yamaha, the dealership in Seattle where Duncan bought this bike, says, “It was just a matter of time. The frequent visits to the dealership, sitting on the RC on the showroom floor with a dreamy look on his face, talking about storing the bike at a friend’s house so his wife wouldn’t know, etc, etc. We even went so far as to alert her to the symptoms we were observing but she just laughed and said it was harmless daydreaming. Sure, we’re in the business of selling motorcycles but just like pubs and beer brewers, we advocate responsible behavior. Of course, now that the damage is done, we’ll do our best to divert his energies into a cycle of accessorization in order to hopefully prevent additional imprudent motorcycle purchases.”

According to Dr. Melvin Skidmore, a psychologist who heads up the MBS Task Force, one must be ever so vigilant to spot the indicators when living with someone who has a motorcycling addiction. “I interviewed Mr. Duncan’s wife and in hindsight, she now recognizes the signs that were pointing to a big time falling off the wagon in the making: the daily gazing at the RC51 wallpaper on his computer monitor, the frequent and furtive visits to the Honda Motorcycles website, surfing eBayMotors.com and CycleTrader.com, watching MotoGP videos, and the nightly readings of RC51 reviews before falling asleep. Clearly, Mr. Duncan’s brain was filled with little else.”

Skidmore warns against the numerous justifications that cycleholics produce when challenged about their addiction. “I’ve heard them all and, at times, I have to chuckle at the creativity despite the fact that this is no laughing matter.” Here are some examples cited by Skidmore:

  • It’s not an addiction. It’s just a hobby and I can handle it.
  • Everyone else is doing it. It’s ok.
  • Motorcycles cause less wear and tear on the roads and ease traffic congestion by taking up less road space.
  • Motorcycles have better gas mileage and lower emissions thereby helping to slow down global warming and ease our dependence on foreign oil.
  • I’ll just be using it for track days. That’s much safer than street riding.
  • Hey! This bike needs a good home!
  • Motorcycle restoration is a form of recycling.
  • If I upgrade to a more perfect model, I won’t need as many bikes.
  • It was such a sweet deal. I’d be a fool to pass it up.

In the face of such subterfuge, family members are often conflicted as to what course of action to take next, according to Skidmore, and their actions often end up being codependent, enabling or just plain ineffective. Duncan’s wife, Thornell, describes such a pattern. “I’ve tried encouraging him to engage in other, more constructive activities like gardening, knitting socks, or learning to play the guitar but to no avail. Although, it’s just as well he didn’t pick up on the guitar thing. With his obsessive compulsive behavior, he’d quickly end up owning a dozen guitars and piles of amps! I’ve even tried suggesting that we make more time for sex in order to divert his attention from his addiction. He responds enthusiastically enough to this but it only lasts for awhile and then I’m right back to thinking that he’s more interested in riding his bikes than me.”

In order to fund such addictions, Skidmore reports that cycleholics often pilfer family assets and this particular case is no exception. Thornell confirms this. “There was some vague talk about selling my Honda Silver Wing that I haven’t ridden in over a year. I should have known better when he had me sign the title. I swear the only reason he didn’t sell the TV, too, is that would have interfered with watching his Biker Build Off DVDs.”

Other family members can contribute to the problem of addiction as well. According to Thornell, her brother-in-law, Dr. Eric Espensen of Los Angeles, has repeatedly broached the subject of track days and talked incessantly of tuning engines for greater horsepower. “I know for a fact that he even called the dealership and suggested that they encourage Scott to buy an RC51. And then there is his other brother, Paul. He’s just as incorrigible and it’s non-stop: the emails, the phone calls, the trip planning. This year they’re off to Alaska for two weeks of riding around Lord knows where, bench racing around the campfire, drinking beer, smoking cigars, and engaging in endless discussion of what bikes to buy next.”

When asked about the fact that he’s owned 9 motorcycles in the past seven years and whether this might be viewed as an addiction, Duncan snorted, “Addiction? Give me a break! This is nothing more than a healthy hobby. Besides, this bike signals a shift to riding in the controlled environment of the track. It’s safer. I suppose I could have used one of my other bikes on the track but this machine is far more suitable. You know, the right tool for the right job? I got a great deal on it and it was looking downright lonely sitting out there on the showroom floor month after month. It needed a good home. Most of all, this bike is a piece of perfection. I’m predicting that I’ll not need to buy any other bikes after this beauty.”

When asked if he identified with Nicky Hayden, the 18 year old 2002 AMA Superbike Champion who autographed the bike, Duncan responded with, “Nah! I’m old enough to be his dad. I’ve been thinking about all the grey hairs that were blowing by me on the race track last year on sportbikes much like this one. I just want to get good enough to keep up with those guys!”

Letter dated May 22, 2005:

Dear Dr. Skidmore,

I’ve just read the informative article on your website and I’m positive I’m living with someone suffering greatly from this recently identified “MBS”. My boyfriend wanders about the house, sighs, and looks longingly off into nothing–no doubt conjuring images of an RC51. He talks incessantly about a friend who has a new motorcycle–I’m worried this friend will be a bad influence on him. And, I even tried the strategies Ms. Thornell tried with her husband to channel his energies into other arenas, and it isn’t working with my boyfriend either. Additionally, it should be noted that his current motorcycle is referred to as “Jessica, the Lady in Red.” I once told him jokingly she was only other woman I could handle him spending such intimate time with. Should I be concerned about our relationship if he’s looking to add another ‘woman’ to his life? Will this syndrome dissipate on his own or should I seek treatment?

What do I do Doctor?

Sincerely,

Mystified by MBS

Dr. Skidmore’s response:

Dear Mystified by MBS,

You have correctly identified a cycleholic. From what you describe, the only possible course of action at this time is to stage an intervention consisting of caring family and friends. A potential flaw is this approach is that your boyfriend may not have any friends who are not similarly affected. If that is indeed the case, you may have to let this flare up run its course and hope for the best. In the meantime, I suggest ramping up your efforts to use sex to divert his attention. With sufficient frequency, enthusiasm and creativity on your part, he might just realize that riding motorcycles are a poor substitute.

Good luck!

Dr. Melvin Skidmore
MBS Task Force



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