What began as a youthful rebellion in his mid-20s has ultimately become Dale Coyner's profession, and his passion.
A former Ernst & Young employee, the Herndon resident left his job with the major international accounting and consulting firm to start his own business, Communicast, in 1999. After six years of running the live webcast communications company, Coyner sold the business to pursue his true love — motorcycles.
"On some level you could say it's an excuse to play with toys," said the father of two. "But, on the other hand it's more appealing to me than having people call to say their computer doesn't work."
Introduced to motorcycles by a colleague, Coyner bought his first bike — a sporty 600cc Yamaha — in 1989.
"I guess it was my one and only act of youthful rebellion," he joked. "But I was out of the house, I was 25, so I wasn't really that young."
An attempt to find and establish himself as an individual, that 1989 motorcycle purchase had an impact lasting longer than a passing rebellious phase.
Currently riding a larger, and more rider-friendly bike — a Honda Gold Wing — Coyner is the author of several travel and technical features for business and motorsports industry publications. His first book, "Motorcycle Journey Through the Appalachians," was published in 1995.
In January, Coyner completed his second book dedicated to motorcycle touring, which is scheduled to be published this year. Coyner was also recently appointed to the new Governor's Motorcycle Advisory Council by former Gov. Mark Warner (D), to help promote tourism within the Commonwealth by appealing to motorcyclists.
AFTER THE PURCHASE of his first bike, Coyner quickly began to learn all he could about motorcycles. Signing up to receive newsletters, touring magazines and anything else to help him properly equip his bike, Coyner wanted to make sure he enjoyed the full experience.
It was through one of these magazines, "Winding Road, Motorcycle Times," that Coyner slowly began to form the career move into writing. Because the publication accepts stories and photos from its readers, Coyner began to send in rides he had done in the greater Virginia area.
With each ride or longer tour Coyner took, he collected information about the trips, including the best roads to take and the most picturesque route.
"It is a completely different experience to ride a road in a car then when you ride a road on a bike," he said. "That really opened my eyes."
Knowing he wanted to do more, Coyner was constantly on the lookout for an outlet to publish his growing collection of rides. After reading a book about rides in New England that showcased routes, photos of scenery, and other useful information, Coyner knew he'd found his niche.
Working full-time, Coyner spent his vacations riding every route for the book — covering between 3,500 and 4,000 miles in 10 days. His first edits of the book took four years. Realizing this was his "calling," Coyner sold the webcast company to dedicate all of his time to writing and riding.
He has since completed an update to the first book — this time only taking six months. At the start of 2006 he finished his first draft of a second book on motorcycle touring that is due out this year. Coyner also edits "Appalachian Highways," a newsletter read by motorcyclists and driving enthusiasts that features mountain rides and destinations.
"I didn't know how this would pan out when I began it," he said from his office in the basement of his home, "but I always felt it'd be a great calling card."
SIX MOTORCYCLES and 16 years later, Coyner has found a career that keeps him happy, while allowing him to do one of the things he loves the most — ride.
"When he began this I really didn't think beyond the first book because I'd never known anyone who'd written before," said his wife of 16 years, Sandy Coyner. "It started as a hobby that kind of took over."
Realizing her husband's love affair with motorcycles was not a fad, Sandy Coyner decided to embrace the lifestyle and began riding with him. While she can ride on her own, over the years she has developed a preference to riding on the seat behind her husband. After their two children, Carl, 11, and Lydia, 8, were born, she stopped riding — other than the occasional trip around the cul-de-sac. Once their children enter college, the couple hopes to ride together again, Coyner said.
Voicing a different opinion, after purchasing his first bike Coyner's mother did not know what to think.
"I said to him, 'have you lost your cotton picking mind?'," said Fran Coyner. "I've gotten used to the fact that he's a biker, but he's the last that I would have ever expected to do that."
Able to pinpoint the exact moment when motorcycle riding captured his interest — a photo he saw in his early riding years of a man riding a bike into the sunset — Coyner finds riding just as enticing today as it was 16 years ago.
"That image, of somebody riding into the sunset, was a strong appeal to me — that's still my favorite time to ride," he said. "Although the technology and gear has changed, the experience is still the same."