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Jay Leno's Passion for Motorcycles

The Tonight Show host shares his love for bikes and what 40 years of riding has taught him

Jay Leno at his garage in Burbank, CA

Jay Leno astride a 1924 Ace four-cylinder Sport. — Gregor Halenda

Jay Leno has been riding for nearly 40 years. We caught up with him at "Jay's Garage," where he stores his collection of rare bikes, and asked him to share his passion — and his peeves.

I remember the moment when I saw a motorcycle and said, "I want to ride one of those." It was 1956, and I was six years old. My aunt's boyfriend had an early Harley with a split windshield. On the tinted part of the windshield he had a decal of a bathing beauty in a two-piece suit. I said, "Oh, look at that."

See also: How to find the right motorcycle for you.

My mother immediately thought I was looking at the decal. "Get away from that!" she shrieked.

I couldn't have cared less about the woman in the bathing suit. I was trying to look at the motorcycle.

I was intrigued with motorcycles from that point on. They're light, they're efficient, they don't take up a lot of room on the freeway. With their electric starters and antilock brakes and such, today's motorcycles are very automobilelike, so biking is a lot safer than it used to be.

Riding a motorcycle forces me to stay alert. Whenever I see a motorcyclist with headphones on, I think: "Whadda you, crazy?" You have to use all your senses, all your instincts, on a motorcycle. What's frightening these days is that everybody's eyes are down. They're looking at their cell phone or texting as they approach the light. They know the light is red, and their eyes immediately go down to their laps. They're not looking for you, and they don't see you. You could end up getting knocked on your head.

Here's an old biker saying I like: There are old motorcyclists, and there are bold motorcyclists, but there are no old, bold motorcyclists. Think about that before you start riding.

Next: Motorcycle safety from a Hells Angel. >>

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