Finding the inner warrior

California author Nik C. Colyer writes a novel about manhood, marriage and motorcycles

Stewart Chance is a middle-aged nice guy—some would say a little too nice. He doesn’t cuss or drink, and he often holds his anger inside. But Chance experiences a “shift” when he dreams of Biker Bob, a Harley-riding spirit guide, and he goes on a quest to regain his sense of masculinity.

Chance and Biker Bob are characters in Nik C. Colyer’s first published novel, Channeling Biker Bob: Heart of a Warrior. He describes it as a story about manhood, marriage and motorcycles.

“It’s about a man coming into his own … [a] kind of a belated initiation that shifts the relationship that he’s in,” Colyer says in a telephone interview from his home in Nevada City. “He shifts from kind of a wimphood into manhood. And in that wimphood that he’s been in for 17 years with his wife … once he makes the shift, the entire relationship starts to change, and really the book is about the change in the relationship.”

Stewart’s salvation comes in the form of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle—something he always wanted but had to give up when he got married at a young age and started a family. He follows Biker Bob’s advice and heads to the California desert to find an elusive biker who is building Stewart’s dream bike, a sky-blue Harley. During his journey, Stewart goes through a series of challenges and begins to transform from a wimp to a warrior. The metamorphosis affects his relationship with his wife and family, who start to see him in a different light.

Colyer, 53, says he, too, went through a shift when he was a young man. A self-described “bad-ass motorcycle rider,” Colyer says he got into fights and often carried guns with him. But his tough-guy demeanor broke down at the age of 23 after his first marriage fell apart. He closed up his Harley-Davidson repair and customizing shop, Cycletherapy, and began what he calls a 30-year process of self-evaluation.

During this period, the Hayward, Calif., native went to his first therapy session, returned to school, discovered an artistic talent for drawing and sculpture, moved deep into the forest outside of Nevada City and developed a love of reading. He also began to write novels. So far he has written seven, but Channeling Biker Bob is his first to be published.

Channeling Biker Bob is the first in a series of four novels, he says, and it deals with the warrior aspect of a man.

“The warrior is the inner part of each man that really holds the space for him to make that push to leap into the unknown,” Colyer explains. “The warrior also holds the space for the man to complete the project. … The warrior also is the part of the man who stands up to his wife and says, ‘No, you can’t step over this line. That’s not fair.’ The warrior protects the man during times of conflict.”

Colyer says that he believes there are four archetypes of men: the warrior, the lover, the magician and the king. He says the lover is a man who knows how to deal with his anger and can balance his gentleness and his strength. The magician reflects a man’s playful, creative side, and the king integrates all the aspects and serves as an older, wiser guide to a younger person.

Although Stewart’s quest to find himself ends on a fairly positive note, Colyer says that often isn’t the case with many men. Colyer says that when men go through a mid-life crisis, they’ve been holding in their frustrations for so long that it reaches a breaking point. But he says that a mid-life crisis doesn’t always have to be such a destructive change in a man’s life, especially if he’s been working on himself and his emotions throughout his life.

"[B]y the time he reaches 45, he already knows what the shift is going to look like, and he steps into this new place in a graceful manner,” Colyer says. “He doesn’t have to lose his family … his job and his entire life.”

Although the book somewhat reflects the author’s own quest, Colyer says the book isn’t necessarily about his experiences. But he writes in his author’s notes that the idea of the novel came to him after years of soul-searching and working with other men to re-discover an appropriate masculine model, one that would appeal to men and women and would respect the differences between the two sexes. This search for a model of masculinity was a response to the after-effects of the 1960s women’s movement.

He writes that after the women’s movement, many men tried to become more sensitive, but in reality, these men often lost touch with their masculinity. Women, instead of being satisfied with these “nice guys,” became angry at men’s “inability to stand up to conflict.” Or, as Biker Bob explains in one of Stewart’s dreams: “A woman wants a man to be able to stand up to her without turning to stone. One job of the warrior is to face a woman without taking her anger on, belittling her or allowing the situation to become violent.”

Colyer says he wants his book to tweak readers’ perceptions of men and relationships and introduce them to the “1 percent of the 1 percent” bikers—the type of motorcycle rider who is “finding equilibrium between the tough biker, while continuing to stay close to authentic masculine feeling.” He explains that “1 percent” was a popular slogan adopted by bikers in reference to a statistic that 1 percent of Americans rode Harleys or other motorcycles. The 1 percent of the 1 percent, he says, is a special breed of bikers.

Although his biker days are behind him, Colyer still enjoys an occasional ride on his Harley 1956 Panhead. He will be visiting Reno during Street Vibrations, the annual celebration of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and biker culture. He will hold two book signings Sept. 21. The first will be at Barnes & Noble and the other will be at Sundance Bookstore. He says he will read from his book and add a bit of blues guitar to the mix.

Colyer says he hopes to one day get his other novels published, several of which he categorizes in the sci-fi genre. But for now, he’s written about 70 pages of the second book in the Biker Bob series, Lovers Embrace. In addition to writing, Colyer creates jewelry in his studio, which is located on a five-acre property that he shares with his wife of four years, Barbara.

Colyer says he hasn’t seen any published reviews of his book, but he has received a lot of feedback from readers. Although he claims that the topic of male-female relationships was initially a secondary aspect to his novel, it seems to be what people have latched onto the most.

“It seems like everybody that reads it really enjoys it," he says. "My intent was to write a playful, fast-moving adventure story. … My hope is that somehow, the psyche picks up on the secondary message [on relationships]."