WhyBike Motorcycle Blog

Embedded in the Ride

By James - 12/7/2005

Rick has a great perspective on why we ride . . .

Since one of the things I love best is riding, I end up thinking a lot about it and about why I do it and why I like it. It seems to be one of those things that mystifies a lot of people.

How many times have you been told how dangerous it is? Bikes are unstable, You don’t have any protection. Drivers can’t see you. If you go down you can die from the road rash even if you don’t break anything. It goes on and on. The endless list of horrors. The stories about somebody who such and so knew who spent 6 months in traction, got turned into a vegetable, whatever.

Well, it’s all true. There are reasons why insuring your ride is expensive. Mostly having to do with medical costs and theft, I expect. But this is one of those odd ways of viewing the world that people use to put down the things they aren’t interested in doing.

One certainty is that nobody’s getting out of here alive. And it can happen at any moment in any kind of situation from nearly any activity. Life is not safe. Living isn’t about being safe. You going to give up eating because something could get stuck in your throat and kill you?

Still, riding is dangerous, and untrained reckless fools often have a short career - or run through a lot of bikes if they’re very lucky and can afford not to learn how to ride.

Even the best riders can get taken out by a bad combination of events. But so can a driver in a cage or a pedestrian. Things happen. No guarantees.

Unlike a new motorcycle, life is not under warranty. I need to be reminded of that from time to time and to learn, over and over, how to live with uncertainty. Riding brings it home.

Riding a motorcycle has a number of virtues that are sensible and common - you save on gas, you can park almost anywhere with no trouble, they’re relatively inexpensive compared to a car, even the insurance can be less than a car, they are less expensive to maintain and repair. Nice sane virtues, eh?

Let’s just skip the downside and get to the real reasons for riding. It’s dangerous and makes you feel alive. A lot of sports are dangerous and that’s a part of the thrill. Actually feeling your heart beat and the adrenaline rush is kind of addictive. Most parts of our lives are safe, sane, cautious and/or plain flat out boring. It’s hard to feel alive in a cocoon.

But even running an errand can bring you back to life - if you ride. A car is just another cage (car fanatics will disagree, but something with 4 or more wheels just doesn’t do the trick) and while they’re great for carrying a ton of groceries and all the kids, they’re mostly like sofas on wheels. You know, get in your cage, roll up all the windows, turn on the air or heat, jack up the 24 speaker cd system and float away. Get totally insulated from the world around you.

On a bike you are embedded in the world. You know you’re on a machine - and you are on it not wrapped up inside it. You are embedded in the machine, you’re the bike’s intelligence and your whole body is involved in making it all work. This is very different than driving a car (racers excepted, of course). Sure you can ride a motorcycle and be absent which does cause a lot of mishaps, but usually the ride demands that you pay attention, that you stay in the present, in the now of you, bike and road.

Too few things demand that kind of attention and presence. We really should live every second fully present, fully awake, completely there. But we don’t. We spend too many hours disconnected or plugged into a pseudo-reality.

The ride teaches me again to wake up and be there. It embeds me in the real world around me. I sense it, hear it, feel it and flow with it. The very best rides are a spiritual experience that can be impossible to describe or explain to anyone who doesn’t already get it. There’s a meditative quality to riding and a cleansing of the trash that accumulates in our heads. For me these are the real reasons I ride. Riding makes my life (and my head) work better.

Ride to live - live to ride. It’s a lot more than transportation.

Richard (Rick) is a long time biker - even longer than he’s been writing, consulting and training.
You can see some of the results at http://www.A-Harley-Motorcycle.com and the blog at http://www.a-harley-motorcycle.com/blog



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  1. Rick hit the nail right on the head. It seems most non riders I come across have pretty much the same argument. When you try to explain they still don’t get it. I guess riding is something ingrained in us and a lot of the non riding community will never really understand.

    Comment by Gymi — 1/9/2006 @ 12:51 pm

  2. Most excellent. And yeah, non bikers will never get it.

    Comment by The Snark — 1/12/2006 @ 1:46 am

  3. Nicely said!

    Comment by Kev — 2/5/2006 @ 6:03 am

  4. Fully in agreement with you Rick! There is just that thing about being in total harmony with teh world around you! Of course most people (those in the cages you mention) will see the motorcycle in the city and the dangerous life we can experience there. BUT they will never experience the pleasure of riding along the sea and get that salty smell, or through a forest under the sun with the scent of warm pine trees, or the aroma or Corsica etc… In a news paper a friend of mine even wrote a text about “motorcycle aromatherapy".
    And to that motorcycle just allows you to get your mind purely focused on teh riding and clean your head! On a TV show a guys called that “the lazy man Zen” and damn he was right!

    Comment by Unicorn — 2/9/2006 @ 1:30 am

  5. Kev hit the nail on the head, the scent and the smell of nature all around you, the freedom, the air in ur face, nobody telling you where you can or cannot go. You sence the feel of nature around you, its a beautiful feeling. The best time I love to ride is very early Sunday morning when the sun just comes up, nobody is on the road, the moist air, watching the wildlife and so on, and on and on on

    Comment by MotoF150 — 2/25/2006 @ 7:16 am

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