Monday, February 4, 2013

Why to ride...

People often ask me why I ride a motorcycle instead of driving a car. After a few years of riding, I think I finally have an answer:

The feeling of flying is addictive; it brings solace. The road is always a downhill run even when you're climbing a mountain. The road pulls you and when you finally hit that corner just right, it sucks you through, pinning you to the seat of your motorcycle, then throws you out of the corner, ready to do it again and again.

The bike goes where you look; it’s a part of you, attached. To corner, you don’t ever look where you're going, you look to where you want to be and the bike takes you there. You look, then move with the bike, dropping an elbow, shifting your weight subtly on the seat, leaning forward just a little, letting off the throttle before the corner and rolling on it halfway through to emerge exultant on the other side. Your bike is a friend, partner, an extension of yourself, not just a vehicle that you ride.

When you're intimately comfortable with your bike, you have mojo. You and the bike become a single entity and you stop riding the bike and start riding the road. Your hands, your feet, your tires, they're all part of you. Once you get your mojo on with a bike and the corners, you're unstoppable, until your not. You slam into the ground at thirty-five miles an hour, sliding across the pavement, shredding your favorite jeans and smashing your ipod. You forget what a kill switch is for as the engine revs.  Adrenaline makes you strong; you don’t feel the pain till much later. You get up, shake it off, get your bike back, shiny side up, rubber side down and if it still runs you get back on the road.

The road is a living thing. Ever changing, mutable. A beautiful curvy road can be a sweet run in the afternoon but come evening that same road becomes a terror. Shadows hide fallen leaves and oil spills, evening dew reduces traction, possums and racoons run out in front of you. A week of moist weather can cause moss to grow down the center of a formerly tame road. Hit that with your tires and there goes your traction, your lifeline to the road. As you ride, you cling to your awareness of the road, your relationship with the road and your road mojo.

Mojo is a tricky thing though. It flees at the first sign of danger and catching it again is like grasping at flies with plastic chopsticks. Then, once you’ve finally got your mojo back, you have to watch out for complacency. You can’t just relax and enjoy the ride. You have to maintain a godlike awareness of your world.

You have to watch out for the caged drivers because they are all out to kill you. It’s not paranoia, it’s a rule of the road, a simple fact that acknowledged, could save your life. Everyone and everything on the road, including the road itself, wants you dead.
If you commute on your motorcycle, you'll discover that there are so many inattentive imbeciles in cages. You'll often wish you had sub-machine guns mounted to your bike. You could die horribly when brain-dead, espresso-swilling, cell-phone-using douches dive over your side of the line. It's always on your mind.

Another possible scenario is when parked at a red light, wedged in behind a pickup truck and a semi on your left, you hear  a screetching noise followed by a crashing thump. Look to the right and sliding to a stop are two Mexican kids in a red sports car, three feet from your bike. All you would have time to do is shake your head and exhale.

It's too easy to become complacent in a cage, to not think about those around you and to not care. You feel warm and safe, so you barrel ahead blindly instead of scanning the road. Why scan when you could just run over most obstacles, such as shredded truck tires or roadkill, without ever being affected by it?

It's different on a bike. Roadkill is slippery, like hitting a puddle of ice. You lose traction and you're down. When you're down, you risk being run over by the ass-hat in the cage behind you who is too busy playing with his cell phone, laptop or genitalia to notice that you're now a speed bump.

The intimate relationship I have with my bike has advantages. When I'm riding, I'm never alone. Most riders have a similar relationship with their bike and the road, even if they only ride in the sun and cage it the other half of the year. This develops into instant rider camaraderie. You pass a rider on the road, you instinctively flash the biker salute. You pass the fuzz, then see a rider coming your way, and you pat the top of your helmet giving them notice of the impending speed trap. In this way, every rider on the road is both your friend and accomplice.

In a group, you ride in a staggered formation, giving enough room to the riders around you that they can swerve to avoid obstacles, while still sticking close enough that cagers can't bully their way in. However, you don't follow the rider in front of you through the corner, you ride your own line not theirs. In a group, you all ride together but you still ride your own ride at your own pace and comfort level.

This level of simultaneous cooperation and autonomy is very rare. It creates a bond that's stronger then friendship because it's based on trust and survival. To ride is to be free. To ride with others is equally to be focused on your ride and the road, while maintaining hyper awareness of those around you. A strange duality of focus that creates bonds between even the most unlikely individuals.

Originally posted by Jennifer Eidson Portland, OR

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