When you buy a motorcycle, everyone thinks you’re going to die. You become a cautionary tale for friends, family, colleagues—a veritable dead-man riding. After I bought a 1982 Honda Nighthawk, I was no longer a rational, sane citizen of the world. I was a cowboy, a reckless simpleton, destined to hurt myself or worse. I wanted to rebel against the safe. So only hours after learning how to ride it, I steered it onto the Route 2—a major state highway in Massachusetts—and rode it from Cambridge to Concord a half-hour away. It seemed an appropriate destination, the stomping ground of Henry David Thoreau, author of Civil Disobedience. The act would be my own refusal to obey popular notions, a glorious act of formal disrespect. Had I…