Author Archive: Bud Miller

I'm a freelance Moto-journalist, poet, motorcycle enthusiast, inventor and software developer from Hellertown, Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia). I write as Zen Motorcyclist.

Old is New Again

The article “Old is New Again” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 5/23/17.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

—Henry David Thoreau

It’s early February and I haven’t ridden much in weeks due to weather, but I have kept myself busy with other motorcycle-related projects. I find myself at a crossroads physically, dealing with the still lingering side effects of Lyme disease and nerve pain associated with a spinal stenosis flare-up. This while I watch my mother undergo chemo treatments without complaint. Compared to her trials, mine seem miniscule, but when you’ve self-identified as an athlete for most of your life and then are no longer able to, it’s a difficult transition.

I wasn’t raised to complain, but pain is pain and causes limitations that you can’t ignore forever. Once you’ve raised a child and buried a parent, however, life loses some of its ability to knock you off your stride. I do find myself having to adjust course, redefine myself, and accept some new physical restrictions, though. Thankfully riding isn’t one of them; but the time I would normally have spent working out has been replaced by remodeling my home and, of course, tinkering with and upgrading my motorcycle. This year’s additions included LED headlights, engine guards, grip pads, tank pads, and a peg lowering kit.

Zen MotorcyclistLast summer I replaced a worn-out chain and sprockets and, rather than throw the old parts out, hung them on a pegboard in my garage in a pattern that resembled a sort of misshapen face: the draped chain formed a wide smile beneath two dirty, mismatched sprocket eyes. I started thinking it’d be a pleasant diversion, and a nice addition to the home I’m decorating, to make something from the parts. A clock seemed like an obvious choice.

I’ve never considered myself particularly crafty, and if you’ve read any of my old blog posts you know that my history with tools is at best a humorous one. I found the clock-making process, however, to be cathartic and motivating. I figured I’d either end up with something original to hang in my home, or a mess of a conversation piece to hide in the garage and laugh about over a beer and to remind me of a pleasant distraction during a particularly stressful winter.

I’m happy with the way the piece eventually turned out. I’m glad to have had a few hours every other day over the weeks it took to finish it to focus on creating something unique, rather than dwelling on mom’s impending treatments and my own nagging pains. The welcome distraction of cleaning and painting, finding the right clock movement and perfect curved glass to cover it and the materials to hold it all together, served as a metaphor for me. Though the parts may be worn-out and past being useful in the manner intended, they needn’t be discarded and can, with a change of focus and intent, be put to another use: to start over and live a second, previously un-imagined life.

The clock I made now hangs in my sunroom. The chain and sprockets it is made from propelled me some 15,000 miles over the better part of two years. I’m sure each link represents a dozen memories from that time. Several people have told me I could make them to sell, but the value to me isn’t in what it might be worth but rather in what it represents. By craftsman standards I’m sure it would be considered amateurish at best. Just like motorcycle riding though, the lasting value is never in the arriving, in the completion. The lasting value is in the process; in how much you change, reflect, and grow along the way and in what memories the effort leaves you with. In the words of Henry Miller, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

Regarding my recycled timepiece, I will always see far more in it than there is to look at. This may even become a winter ritual. When the weather warms, I’ll get started on the next recycling project, maybe a pendulum clock this time, or a lamp of some sort. I can’t decide; but I’m in no hurry. It’ll take another 15,000 miles or so to get the parts ready …

The Road Not Yet Traveled

The article “The Road Not Yet Traveled” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 7/31/17.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”  -The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

 

When I started blogging for RoadRUNNER five years ago or so, I used the title “The Road Often Traveled” for my first few posts. Commuting by motorcycle was what I thought I knew something about, so I borrowed and butchered a line from Robert Frost’s 100-year-old poem. I often heard it referred to as “The Road Less Traveled,” but the title is actually “The Road Not Taken.”

I recently had a phone conversation with the head of marketing for a sports eyewear manufacturer. It turned out to be an unexpectedly in-depth conversation not only about how I started riding but also writing, as well as my professional career path. It got me thinking about the Frost poem and about how decision leads to decision and one path leads to another. After a bit of research, however, the poem has come to mean something new to me.

You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “the road less traveled” used to sell everything from cars to vacations, to self-help books. You’ve seen it inscribed on mugs and on inspirational posters. While Frost’s poem is easily one of the most searched pieces of literature ever written, it is also one that is almost always misinterpreted.

The poem speaks of a traveler coming upon two roads diverging in a yellow wood. In most cases (car commercials, for instance), the words are used as a celebration of rugged individualism and people boldly choosing the path that not many do; but the poem isn’t about that at all. Rather, it’s about reconciling our decisions later in life, looking back and coming to terms with our choices long after they’ve been made. As the poem says, both roads are equally worn and there is no difference between them—a fact many eager to push product always miss.

Frost initially wrote the poem to poke fun at his friend, English critic Edward Thomas, who had the habit of regretting whatever path the two happened to take during their walks in the countryside. After coming across this fact about the poem, I felt better about it. I had always thought the poem somewhat sad, since the narrator says he would speak of his choice of direction many years later with a sigh. I’d always thought that sigh meant that he’d lament having not chosen the other road, that, given the chance, he’d want to go back to see how things might have turned out had he chosen otherwise.

As a motorcyclist, I can point to the specific events that prompted me to start riding, of choosing that “road.” I’ve written about them often in the last few years. In the broader sense though, I’ve given thought to the other “roads” I’ve taken in life. Recently my friend and coworker Brian asked if I’d ever thought about what career path I might have chosen if I hadn’t pursued computer-aided design. As is the case with my decision to start riding, I couldn’t help but smile and say, “No, actually, I am where I’m supposed to be.”

The decision to begin riding motorcycles was the most natural I’ve ever made. I needed my brother’s company after our father’s death. To look back with a sigh and imagine having not decided to ride isn’t a question at all—never was, never will be. Truth be told, I can’t think of a path I’ve been down that I’ve regretted or would choose not to go down again. You are the sum total of the roads you’ve traveled, and if you love yourself (and you must) then you must love those roads, those choices that made you who you are. Rather than an arbitrary choice to be re-examined with a sigh years hence, I’ll look back on riding, as I do now, as a liberating decision that expanded my circle of friends and created a vehicle of expression for feelings that might otherwise have gone unexpressed.

Riding itself can be seen metaphorically as “the path less traveled,” and, my friends, it certainly has made all the difference. When I hear advertisers get Frost’s poem wrong, I have to laugh. More than 100 years later he’s still having fun with us while at the same time making us think.

Wherever you find yourself on your road, I hope that you are looking ahead to your next choices and content with those already made. After all, that road, your road, really is the road not yet traveled.

Prescription Motorcycle Eyewear from ADS Sports Eyewear

What’s in the Box

If you’re anything like me and wear glasses while riding you know the limitations of standard prescription glasses in terms of both comfort and safety. Standard frames can be uncomfortable inside a helmet, can be hard to get on through a helmet, quickly become scratched, dirty and worn. I dislike riding with my everyday glasses for those reasons as well as limitations they place on my peripheral vision, which is critical to riding safely.

Thankfully the people at ADS Sports Eyewear have a line of eye wear for not only motorcyclists; but a wide range of activities. I’m on my 2nd pair of Wiley X glasses. Sadly, my first pair now rests at the bottom of the Lehigh River, lost during a kayak excursion (because I failed to use the strap included in the package). I missed those glasses immediately and couldn’t wait to replace them with something similar from ADS.

Fit

The Wiley X wrap style glasses contour to my face and tuck nicely into my helmet as though they were part of it. That’s important in riding since regular non-wrap style frames limit peripheral view. The Wiley X however, given the contour (the edge of the frame is closer to your face than standard glasses), enlarge your field of peripheral vision to be the maximum possible. The effect is similar to what a helmet with a wider eye port would allow.

My ADS frames are extremely light, flexible and stylish. The progressive lenses are perfect even though no doctor visit was done and no direct measurements performed.  ADS used my current prescription along with photos to create the lens shape that perfectly matched my physical features.

Technology

ADS makes use of the most important improvement in prescription sports eye wear: Free-form Digital Lens Surfacing (available on all but bifocal lenses). When traditional lenses are put in wrap style glasses there is a “fish-bowl” effect in peripheral vision. Free Form Digital Lens Surfacing eliminates this effect by digitally recalculating the curve at each point on the lens.

Customer Service

ADS works with each customer via email and regular mail to obtain measurements that ensure a perfect fit, even to the point of shipping a pair of frames (with return shipping pre-paid) so that a photo of the frames on your face can be used to make critical measurements for progressive lenses (which I opted for). As a motorcyclist who dislikes contact lenses I am more confident, safer and have much better vision on the road through the use of wrap style, prescription glasses from ADS Sports Eyewear. I highly recommend contacting them for your sports eye wear needs. With such name brands as Oakley, Ray Ban, Under Armour and Nike, to name just a few, ADS Sports Eyewear has frames in any tint, fit and prescription imaginable to suit any sports activity from motorcycling to skiing to baseball, shooting and racquet sports.

More Alike

The article “More Alike” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 3/27/17.

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” —”Human Family” by Maya Angelou

There are times when the deadline to finish this chronicle sneaks up on me. I am by nature a procrastinator and work better under pressure. As it happens, I’m writing this one from a hospital waiting room as my mother undergoes a biopsy. She’s been in remission for 16 years now but her doctor recently discovered a mass that has us all concerned. I, of course, rode the motorcycle here.

My mother has been an example to me that being kind and compassionate is more important than being right. She, more than any other person in my life, is the reason I am so concerned with riding safely; so that the woman who taught me love and kindness never need hear that I’ve been injured. I have no interest whatsoever in causing her pain.

I’ve taken a bit of a step back from social media of late and feel relieved to have done so. Kindness, at least online, seems to have taken a back seat to contention, argument, judgment, and sadly, the reposting of fake news. It’s something I see and hear little of among the motorcycle community, at least those I ride and trade emails with. The previous RoadRUNNER Touring Weekend was completely devoid of that kind of tension, even in the midst of a politically polarized year. Motorcyclists usually leave such things at home and simply enjoy each other’s company.

We tend to lean toward the good, toward positivity and open-mindedness. Whether that is true of all motorcyclists or just true of those I call friends is of little consequence. The important and lasting thing is that the vehicle itself, and its transformative nature, seems to promote positivity rather than the negativity it can be so easy to fall victim to. When in each other’s company, we discuss our children, our spouses or significant others, our travels, our trials, our griefs, and joys, and not our political or religious affiliations or our resentments and social grievances.

So, as I sit here and wait to talk to my mother’s doctor, the silliness of carrying around angst of any kind seems to melt away much as it does when riding. My only concern today, right now, is smiling toward and sharing a kind word with others in the waiting room. Sometimes hardness hides hurt; sometimes we’re just so guarded we need the other person to smile first, and I kind of like being that person.

I have a friend, Quinn, who I’ve seen disarm complete strangers with kind compliments and a wide smile. It’s funny how such small gestures can lighten someone’s load and bring them joy. I’ve seen her do it on several occasions. That Quinn is 10 years old serves as a lesson to me that our perceived differences are learned; we aren’t born with them. We could all stand to be a bit more like her, a bit more concerned with smiles and seeing commonality than in identifying difference.

I’ve always disliked labels; they are an all too easy way to define someone, and too often we allow them to stop us from connecting with others. Everyone has a mother and no one wants to sit where I’m sitting now, having just sent her, fearful and fragile, to undergo a procedure with such hateful potential. As sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, we all share the desire for our loved ones to be home, healthy and happy. As motorcyclists, we just want to share the road and the experience with each other. We’re lucky—we have the bike as a commonality. I can’t help but think though that it shouldn’t take a sport to connect with people whom we may not otherwise agree with ideologically. Maya Angelou’s “Human Family” says what motorcyclists, in my experience, feel and exhibit innately. “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”

When I see mom in recovery I’m going to read it to her. She’ll love it, because she lives it, and is the kindest person I will ever know. Ride safe, my friends.

 

MCrider Training Videos episode 3

How To Be Smooth On Your Motorcycle

My friend Kevin Morris at Ridergroups.com has produced a series of quality training videos every rider should see. It’s all too easy to convince yourself that you’ve ridden enough to be completely competent and believe that you need no further instruction. However, all of us, no matter our level of experience can benefit from the videos Kevin has produced. I urge you to take a look. I learn something new from every episode and I’m sure you will too. Here is episode #3.

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MCrider Training Videos episode 2

Can You See Me Now?

My friend Kevin Morris at Ridergroups.com has produced a series of quality training videos every rider should see. It’s all too easy to convince yourself that you’ve ridden enough to be completely competent and believe that you need no further instruction. However, all of us, no matter our level of experience can benefit from the videos Kevin has produced. I urge you to take a look. I learn something new from every episode and I’m sure you will too. Here is episode #2.

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MCrider Training Videos episode 1

My friend Kevin Morris at Ridergroups.com has produced a series of quality training videos every rider should see. It’s all too easy to convince yourself that you’ve ridden enough to be completely competent and believe that you need no further instruction. However, all of us, no matter our level of experience can benefit from the videos Kevin has produced. I urge you to take a look. I learn something new from every episode and I’m sure you will too. Here is episode #1.

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Innovv K1

Below is a bit of raw footage from the Innov K1 I have mounted on my 2012 V-Strom. 1 minute from work I was cut off by a cager who neither looked nor signaled a lane change. It’s for these specific incidents that I am happy to have the K1 system. A review of the unit appeared in RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring and Travel and can be read here. A longer example appears below.

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