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Ralph Hummel’s “other car” is a Yamaha Venture 1300, a luxurious powerhouse of a touring motorcycle that the self-described “academic, bookish and quiet” environmental lawyer said has revved up his previously staid life. “I don’t get drunk and beat people up. I don’t have tattoos,” said Hummel, a senior partner in the Huntington firm of Fine Hummel. “I’m the last thing you’d imagine a biker to be. There’s a real difference between the social understanding of bikers and the reality of riding a motorcycle. It’s just an enjoyable, physical activity that I crave.” Hummel is one of a handful of lawyers on Long Island, N.Y., all of them male, who admit to strapping on leather chaps and cruising down the highway on two wheels, raccoon tails whipping in the wind. Now 42, he took up motorcycle riding four years ago, near the end of a 20-year romantic relationship. The timing was not coincidental. “I was looking to build a new life, make some new friends, so I decided to take motorcycle riding lessons. I took baby steps at first, but at every stage I enjoyed it more and more. Now it’s a big part of my life,” he said. A woman he met about a year ago, who also likes to ride, has since become a part of his life, too, he added. So were those riding lessons a symptom of an early mid-life crisis? “I plead guilty. I am struggling to hang on to my youth,” he conceded. It was motorcycle Zen that two years ago got Hummel elected president of the 40-member Nassau Wings Motorcycle Club, where he is one of two members who are lawyers. For some, the two endeavors — lawyering and motorcycling — seem at odds. “Lawyers ride Schwinn bicycles. They can’t afford to ride motorcycles. It’s the assumption of risk and all that,” joked Barry Warren of Cohen & Warren in Smithtown. Warren is counsel to Port Jefferson Village, N.Y., a popular stop-off for the Blue Angels, the motorcycle club for law enforcement personnel that, to the uninitiated, might look anything but law-and-orderly when dozens at a time roar into the village. CRUISING TO COURT Hummel rides every chance he gets, mostly in the evenings, on weekends and vacations, and only occasionally to court. With his first motorcycle, a Kawasaki Vulcan 750, he had to strap down his briefcase with a bungee cord, but his Yamaha has a handy luggage compartment for all those legal documents. “There’s a disadvantage to riding to court. You get ‘helmet hair,’” Hummel said. Another disadvantage: Leather-soled shoes tend to slip easily on pavement, requiring him to be extra careful when nearing a stoplight. He said his partners were “perplexed” by his new hobby “because it was so incongruous with who they thought I was. But then (partner) Barry Fine said I had become more energetic, happier and stronger. When you’re stimulated physically and emotionally, that spills over into your work. I find that five minutes on my bike and I’ve totally forgotten anything that was stressing me out.” His Kawasaki, a cruiser that was designed for looks but not for comfort, nonetheless carried him on a 4,000-mile trip through 11 states and Canada to North Dakota and back. It also carried him to Bike Week, when a half million bikers descend annually on Daytona, Fla. “When you’re crazy with enthusiasm, you’ll endure anything,” he said of the 10-hour-a-day rides. HARLEY HIGH The other Wings counselor-turned-cruiser is John Gianfortune, a solo practitioner from Lake Success, N.Y., who tries medical malpractice, civil rights and personal injury cases. Gianfortune, who rides a 1998 Harley-Davidson Road King and is also a member of HOG, a national club for Harley owners, describes motorcycle riding as an antidote for stress: “Prozac with handlebars.” On the days when he is not seeing clients and is not due in court, Gianfortune parks his burly touring bike next to his office window, where he can keep an eye on it. “It’s relaxing for me to ride home, to take the long way and the backroads. It’s a great way to clear my head.” He described the 5,200-mile trip that he took in August to the Black Hills in South Dakota and Wyoming as “almost spiritual.” “It’s seeing the landscape in a way you couldn’t from a car. You smell it, you feel it, you wash it off at night,” he said. Now 37, Gianfortune started riding in college but had to sell his Honda Magna to pay his law school tuition. Marriage, children and a lack of money waylaid him for a while, but now his wife takes the back seat on weekend trips to Montreal, Buffalo, Boston and elsewhere. “There’s nothing like the sound of a Harley,” said Gianfortune, recalling the bike manufacturer’s unsuccessful effort to trademark that sound — quickly say “potato” over and over to hear something close to what a Harley rider hears. SERENITY ON WHEELS After years of not owning a bike, civil rights lawyer Stephen Civardi, 49, who has a practice in Rockville Centre, N.Y., took on a client who managed a motorcycle shop. The lawyer test-drove every make and model in the shop before buying a red 1998 Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster. The day he brought it home, he also bought his wife an expensive Mother’s Day present. Her response to the bike: “I hope your life insurance is paid up.” “When I was young, I raced motorcycles and I would do virtually anything on a motorcycle. Then I had a serious accident in 1970 that made me wiser and more cautious. And having children made me more circumspect about where and how I drive,” Civardi said. And even though his eldest daughter calls it his “death wish hobby,” Civardi, who said he had no tattoos “that I would admit to,” calls it “freedom from cell phones, messages, questions. A brief period of being unreachable.” He said it is also about experiencing speed and power simultaneous with vulnerability, which he agreed was a sure formula for excitement. He said other lawyers are not necessarily surprised when they see him on a bike. “They take it in stride with my other idiosyncrasy,” raising koy, the Japanese goldfish that inhabit the tanks and fountains in his office. Among those not surprised is one of the associates in his firm, Richard Obiol, 29, who owns the mirror image of Civardi’s bike, right down to the red paint and the customized features, and on occasion has walked into the office wearing his leathers. “I ride for the freedom and the exhilaration. There is no better stress reliever,” said Obiol, whose other vehicle is a Nissan Maxima. “That’s my concession to the need for a car that I could put a client in. Before I bought the Maxima, I had a hopped-up Mustang,” he said. Julia C. Mead is a freelance writer from East Hampton, N.Y.

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