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The Best Lessons

The article “The Best Lessons” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 07/19/2016.

4-16-zen-400x264I have a tendency to meet people at the supermarket when I take the motorcycle for my weekly supply run. I like the looks I get carrying my grocery bags and helmet; people wonder where I’m going to put everything. I’ve written before about others feeling at ease walking up to me when I’m dismounting or packing my purchases in my saddlebags. I’d like to think it’s my countenance that puts people at ease, but I think maybe it’s just the bike that draws them in. I’ve had interesting (and occasionally bizarre) conversations with complete strangers who always part by telling me, with a smile, to be safe. I love that aspect of motorcycling.

I recently met a young aspiring rider who works for the store where I do my shopping. I was packing an eight-pound bag of dog food into my side case and heard Wow, that thing is huge!” from behind me. The young man thought my V-Strom was a big bike, which made me smile.

It’s not that big a bike, tall maybe. The luggage makes it seem bigger than it is. He went on to tell me with wide, enthusiastic eyes that he was planning on getting his first bike. He was thinking a small bike to start, despite his friends’ insistence that he get “at least a 650″ as a first ride. Wise decision,” I said,riding safely requires a lot of those.”

I walked him around my bike, and as we talked, a million thoughts—words of advice mostly—flew around in my head. I imagined myself at his age and wondered what I might say to a young naive me eager to ride motorcycles. I know what I’d want to tell him: some of what’s taken the last 16 years and 160,000 some odd miles to compile.

I’d tell him that one day he’ll crest a hill and literally feel the beauty of the valley in his chest as he drops down into it, butterflies rising up in his stomach. It will feel like riding into a living painting someone has created just for him. It will be that beautiful, that perfect, that immersive. I’d tell him that he will one day give some people, who were formerly afraid of motorcycles, their first ride, and how he’ll hear their laughter behind him. That experience, I’d offer, short of having a child to care for, will be the greatest sense of responsibility he’ll ever feel. I’d tell him that he’ll meet all kinds of people, some of whom he may never have met were it not for riding. He’ll meet some much older, some much younger, and the differences between them will never hold sway over their one commonality: that they ride; that they love to simply take it on the road and put their faces into the wind. They’ll share that simplest of pleasures and it will be so transforming that whomever else shares it he will consider a friend. I’d tell him that there will come a time, as comes to us all, when he will be so grieved that he’ll have to remind himself to breathe and will start to doubt that the sun will rise; but rise it will, and riding will be his one great solace. The ride will be a place where things begin to make sense again (and sometimes it will be the only place they do).

I’d tell him that the confidence he gains from riding will reach into other parts of his life and that things which have always scared him no longer will. He’ll grow to fear no situation, person, or circumstance; he’ll come to realize that the obstacle is the path. “Motorcycles will make you formidable,” I’d say.

Of course, I never told my new friend any of those things. They would have been too much to hear. Those things only make sense when layered one upon the other over the course of half a life. Looking back, the puzzle pieces make sense and you can discern patterns and meaning; looking ahead, they are just an intoxicating tangle of possibilities that you can’t reach fast enough. As we parted, I recommended he take a safety course, gear up, listen to the voice inside that will keep him safe, and reject without discussion any advice that speaks counter to it. I gave him my business card and told him to look me up when he got his first bike and we’d go riding together. The best lessons are demonstrated, not dictated.

We sometimes get a chance to inspire, to take the time to share the pleasure and seriousness of riding with someone so excited you can see the fire flickering in their eyes. I love those moments both for what they offer the receiver and for what they return to the giver.

Classic Cafe Racer Style

Classic Cafe Racers Have Rocking Style

There was this movement to have light bikes rebuilt with a low stance and high performance. I remember my first look at these stylish thoroughbreds. It was all good, and their gritty owners raced the streets on their dangerous-seeming bikes.


What are these cafe racers?

The story began during the 1960s Britain. Bikers were stripping down and modifying sports bikes with spritely engines.  Counter-culture Rockers would run these against the clock along circuitous routes between highway coffee shops. The scene around the cafes was known for racy bikers wearing the best motorcycle gloves and racy leather jackets.cafe2

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Cafe racers come with bodywork and control layouts which recall that of Grand Prix road racers of the era.  They are famous for racing-type handlebars and bulging seat cowlings. They had lengthened tanks that were indented, so that riders with their best motorcycle boots on could get a better grip them with their knees. Most were rebuilt off Triumph, Norton, Vincent, Ducati, and Moto-Guzzi sport frames, and many were ersatz hybrids of various brands like Norvin and Triton.


To be clear, I’m referring to real cafe racers rebuilt for street races and not to models which mimic their designs, like the Triumph scrambler.


As street motorcycles reduced in weight and modified for quick handling and quicker style over short distances, cafe racer projects had several advantages:

Economical running

Many popular bikes were small Japanese models with engine sizes coming in increments of up to 400cc. Honda’s CB series are well known but Suzuki and Yamaha had their own small-engine range along with Kawasaki.

Lightweight construction

The appeal of these bikes was their nimble build, for with their small motors they had no need for huge frames. Steel construction was the norm in a time when composites or aluminium were rarely used, thus weights didn’t differ much between competing models.

Affordable build

Projects are readily started as there are many inexpensive used frames in the market that aren’t just junkyard bait. Nowadays you can find a functional project unit for less than you would have paid for some worn-out “modern” Ninja.

Compact design

Good looks can’t just be bought, although if you rebuild small bikes this way you can bring rocker sensibility to your daily rides.  The movement today is about individual taste as well as total performance.


If you’re into the racing the streets, you’ll need the best motorcycle boots with minimal looks to go with the requisite leather bomber jacket, such as the Dirtpaws (black version). A pair of the best motorcycle boots featuring somewhat classic profiles such as the Roam 2 Air should complete your riding culture.

BWM Cafe Racer

Until the 1980s, motorcycles with engine displacements of more than 500cc were few. Modest street models roamed the roads, and the first racers were recreated from these. But it doesn’t mean later designs couldn’t be turned out just as well, such as BMW’s ubiquitous K100 which is our example here.

When K100s first launched, buyers hesitated to mount its low frame. Its frame was a throwback to the pre-war period and its engine was a new-fangled model based on a low-cc auto model. But the excellent design beckoned and drew many buyers, and in later years interest grew in modifying these.

cafe44.shutterstock photo

To see how redone BMW sport bikes can appeal not only to practical owners but also to rocker hipsters, you need only see this.

Their Italian owners know that the cool prestige and thoroughbred ride of a cafe racer is not like that of most other bikes!


The author Lucas Knight has 15 years of on-road experience. He cares to share his knowledge and experience in motorcycling with other riders.







To Each His Own (full text)

The article “To Each His Own” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 03/15/2016.

In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day—or to celebrate each special day.”

—Rasheed Ogunlaru

I’ll admit I was at a bit of a loss regarding this column. I had the “bones” (as I like to refer to the overall theme), but the structure was lost on me. Then, I visited my dentist, and by the time I left his office, I had the rest of the column in place in my mind. Today, for once, I was happy to have visited him.

3-16-zen-e1458047262598-772x472Sitting in the chair, our usual banter somehow turned to base jumping and paragliding while skiing. My dentist recalled a documentary about an athlete who had lost several friends to these same endeavors. Moments later, I’m shot up with Novocaine, and the ridiculous (and uncomfortable) plastic prop is placed in my mouth. It was then that my dentist and his assistant made the not so obvious, yet all so predictable, leap to discussing the danger of motorcycles. As if on cue, the obligatory statement comes out about how we have responsibilities to our loved ones to give up such dangerous pursuits. I couldn’t respond. And it irritated me how easily non-riders lump our two-wheeled activities into the category of “dangerous pursuits.”

In an age when we are constantly measured against others, the ride for me is a place to measure myself against that thin red line that only exists in my mind. Only I know how well I rode that last curve, how much more speed I might have been comfortable with, how much more lean angle I could have attempted.

It’s a lie that it can’t be done safely, that it’s inherently dangerous. It’s a lie that it’s a selfish pursuit. It’s a lie being told by people who don’t have a real sense of what riding gives back to the rider. These same individuals can’t seem to understand that such a hobby can give a rider his own life purpose, strength, and meaning.


It’s not that I want to invite tragedy, but I do sometimes want to be responsible for my own safety—have my skill, smarts, and gut carry me through and out the other side. There are no points to be scored or ground to gain other than the satisfaction that I didn’t turn around and go the other way—that I saw it through. The experience means something when you come back from it, applying the lessons learned on that ride to everyday life.

Zen-Motorcyclist_DSC_3658-772x625I’ll ride home this weekend to see my family. I’ll ride over the blue mountains up steep dirt roads with no guard rails. I’ll walk the line I have in my mind that tells me what adventure I’ll settle for and how much I’m willing to risk. I’ll make the rules as I seldom get to do in life. Ultimately, I want to see my family and make it home to my beloved dog, Spud, who I know is standing on his hind legs looking out the window, waiting and expecting my safe arrival. But I also want to live a little more—a little more on whatever edge will give me satisfaction. Sometimes it’s simple acceleration, other times it’s carrying more speed than I otherwise would through a corner. It’s that thin line between too much and not quite enough—and only I know the difference.

Hafiz said, “Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.” I believe that, whether it is a person, an activity, a place, or a motorcycle. If you come back from it being better, more fulfilled, a better person with a better outlook, then it’s worth experiencing. Doing so gives you a little bit each day, each week, or even each weekend to define yourself on your own terms, to decide what benchmarks matter, and to say to yourself, This is what I’m about, for this ride on this day, for the next few minutes, hours, or days I’ll define myself.

We each get this one go-round at life (as far as we know), and mine is better and feels more lived when I find that comfort zone and peek, if only for a second, at what lies on the other side. I don’t need to go there; I just need to know that the choice not to was entirely mine. On every beautiful day, there are those who enjoy staring at it through a window. That is their choice. Others want to get in a car and drive through it. That is their choice. But if we choose to join it, get immersed in it, feel it, and be a part of it on a few small square inches of rubber—that, my friends, is our choice.





Motorcycles: The Balancing Point

JOHN-G-YOGA-BIKE-1024x683Motorcycles: The Balancing Point

An exploration of how riding motorcycles is a form of meditation, by John G. (originally published for Burn Out Italy)

I saw my first motorcycle when I was four years old, and instantly knew that I was meant to be on two wheels.

Bruce Lee At the age of 14, I was very fortunate to meet and spend time with two of my older cousins who live in Greece. Both happen to be just about the coolest people I have ever known. They became my motorcycle gurus. They each had something different to teach me about life, meditation and how to ride.

Niko and I would pack a very small amount of clothing and camping gear onto his 1995 Yamaha DT 200 motorcycle and spend weeks on the road.


Yamaha DT 200

Life was very simple: ride onto a ship, go to an island, ride off the ship and then follow the road around the perimeter of the island until it became a dirt road… keep going, find a deserted beach and set up camp for a few days. Maybe ride into the mountains. Repeat.

Niko was in the Greek Special Forces, trained as a paratrooper; he knows the land like the back of his hand. He taught me the art of shutting the fuck up and being content in the moment. He described meditation as becoming very still and just listening, allowing all thoughts to quietly pass by while merging with nature or whatever experience was at hand.

Letting go of fear and pride allows something much bigger to take over our limited sense of Self and all of a sudden, we are tapped into Life.


We no longer have to struggle against it because we ARE it. Using this philosophy, we would push our bodies to the extreme through long hikes and swims, rock climbing, and long durations on the open road; it wasn’t uncommon to go without food & water, or eating nothing but walnuts for a few days.


Greece Forest

We would also spend hours sitting still, usually surrounded by heavenly views of the sea or crystal clear, star filled skies–always in the middle of nowhere. Regardless of the outward act, the inner attitude was always the same–get out of our own way, be at one with Life and the immense beauty that surrounded us. That DT took us everywhere we needed to be. Every time we got on that bike it was as if we flipped an inner switch that opened the floodgates of joy. Niko was one of the happiest, kindest people I’ve ever met and I’m convinced his happiness was the result of a deep, inner connection to his true self. He taught me how to laugh at myself, how to laugh at my small ego, and above all how to go beyond it to experience freedom.


Baby Koundinyasana kawasaki 636

George is a big dude-both physically and energetically.

He grew up riding motocross, and has a background in heavy metal, lifting weights and karate–yet he’s also read every book under the sun when it comes to metaphysical and spiritual studies. He taught me about ‘the balancing point’, trust, and the art of ‘surrender’. Unlike the quiet, serene wilderness environments I spent time in with Niko on a dirt bike, the classrooms that George taught me in were in the city, and on a sport bike. Bars, clubs, highways, and perfectly paved roads filled with angry Greeks driving like maniacs, all the time.mykonos-clubs-03Just like Niko, George has an enormous energy field around him. He lives with purpose, confidence, and executes his movements with the grace and power of a true warrior, especially on his Kawasaki zx10r.


G’s Kawasaki zx10r

It was George that introduced me to the beautiful world of Supersport motorcycles. Armed with absolute trust in him, and with death often lurking right around the corner, I was able to learn true surrender and experience the dissolution of time by maintaining the ‘balancing point’. Inner balance leads to outer balance. I’m talking about wheelies that lasted for what felt like forever, high-speed cornering at great lean angles and rides that blew my mind every single time. I allowed him to take me there, and it was epic.


Greek Biker Sunset, Photo by Elric ©2016

Meditation (and riding motorcycles) is a way of living.

It is the most effective way of living in whatever situation you may find yourself in: especially in the face of death or danger, because in those moments we are forced to be in touch with all of our senses, to connect with our courage and deeper wisdom. It makes sense that the ancient warriors took this practice to heart; their life was constantly on the line, so they had no choice but to bring out their greatest abilities.


The author in vasisthasana (side plank pose) and his Kawasaki 636

Meditation requires a steady stream of focused awareness moving toward a single point or a certain direction. The body merges with the mind, and the mind becomes one with the experience. Time collapses into the Now and something beyond the physical world is able to shine through your being. In the case of martial arts, the conscious mind moves out-of-the-way and the techniques happen automatically.

With riding, you become one with the road, the bike and the surrounding environment, including others you may be riding with. Another way of living is fear, or worry, or through a strong filter of past or future anxieties and expectations. This knocks us off our balancing point, and removes us from the present moment. It creates a struggle, an opposition.


Eka hasta Bujasana (elephant trunk pose)

I’ve practiced dozens of meditation techniques, taken thousands of yoga classes and have often expanded through ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll,’ but let me assure you: I have not found a more effective way of quieting the mind and opening the heart other than riding a motorcycle.


Greek Motorcycle Parked in Athens, photo by Elric ©2016

If you ride, you already know what I am talking about. You are already meditating, so keep it up. Put your mind and ego in check. Cast aside your fear, your doubts. Fire up that engine and merge with its sweet sound.

Your balancing point is the fire of your heart. The balancing point of all of humanity is not the mind; rather, it is the human heart, so ride with respect and awareness of others because we are all connected. Surrender and trust followed by healthy physical actions will take us back to that balancing point.


Handstand variation Kawasaki 636

The undisciplined mind seeks to separate the self from the environment, whereas the heart always seeks unity. Meditate (on and off the motorcycle) to become the master of your mind so that you can free yourself and experience the nectar of life; the joy of right here and right now.

Keep on riding.

Keep on truly living.


John G in lotus handstand, padma sirsasana

John G. is an energy healer trained at The Barbara Brennan School of Healing, a Certified Yoga Instructor and a Licensed, Certified Massage Therapist. He lives to ride.

Photographer Elric owns Nagual Photography in Athens, Greece and also lives to ride.












The Best Lessons

“The Best Lessons”, Zen Motorcyclist’s latest column can be read in the July/August 2016 issue of RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel. Available now.

The full article is now available on my RoadRUNNER blog

The issue is available here in both print and digital versions. RoadRUNNER can also be purchased for Nook   Apple and Android devices and at Barnes & Noble and other bookstores. As always my Zen Motorcyclist blog for RoadRUNNER can be read here.




SlimFold Wallet

waterproofThe people at SlimFold Wallet recently approached me about trying one of their products and I jumped at the chance. A week or so ago I took a ride with my friend Bob and, while riding, I realized I had forgotten to remove my wallet and put it in my tank bag. Ordinarily I like to keep it on me at all times but it was hot and it always feels better not sitting on a thick bump in my back pocket. I ended up removing it while I rode, not the safest idea. So the timing was perfect for me to try the SlimFold and I have to say, I’m quite pleased and impressed. color options

Made of Tyvek (which is printed in colors with a tactile feel somewhat like coated paper) or soft shell (the version I tested which has more of a wet-suit feel) from recycled material and nearly impossible to tear and waterproof the SlimFold is barely noticeable in my pocket. In fact the first few days I used it I kept thinking I had left my wallet behind somewhere.

Stitching along the fold allows the Slimfold to easily stay closed (unlike leather wallets) which contributes to its slim feel. I assumed I’d use the SlimFold only on the motorcycle but it’s quickly become my only wallet. I no longer need to find room in my minuscule bicycle bag and I can work all day with it in my pocket without ever noticing it. If you’re tired of lugging around a thick wallet do yourself a favor and checkout the offerings at SlimFold. You’ll be glad you did.



Helmet Halo

Helmet Halo logo

My helmet at YogaNext to the cost of the motorcycle itself your biggest riding expense is most likely your helmet. If you’re anything like me you don’t like putting your costly lid on the ground or any other surface apt to be dirty, hot, wet or sticky; unfortunately there are times when I have little choice. When I get to the office and the forecast calls for rain and it’s time to put the cover on I’m forced to put my helmet on the hot asphalt. In my cubicle at the office my choices are the floor under my desk or on my desk where I have precious little room. The Scala Rider attached to my helmet is also a concern due to its position on the chin bar. I’ve broken a few brackets when setting my helmet down in the past.

Halo StackHelmet Halo was designed to be a compact motorcycle helmet holder that eliminates these worries. Helmet Halo is made of tough plastic designed to stand up to abuse (trust me I’ve abused it in testing). Helmet Halo is inexpensive, portable, comes in four colors and can be coiled up for transporting. If I could wear it as a bracelet when not in use it’d be perfect; but even as is it’s pretty close.

(Note: Helmet Halo does not attach to a helmet in any way, it is merely a stand to hold a helmet upright.)

Please visit Helmet Halo to order.Helmet Halo

To Feel Normal Again

May_June“To Feel Normal Again”, Zen Motorcyclist’s latest column can be read in the May/June 2016 issue of RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel. Available now.

The full article is now available on my RoadRUNNER blog

The issue is available here in both print and digital versions. RoadRUNNER can also be purchased for Nook   Apple and Android devices and at Barnes & Noble and other bookstores. As always my Zen Motorcyclist blog for RoadRUNNER can be read here.Normal