Why ride a motorcycle? Wind in the hair? Maybe but I’m bald so that’s not it. Remember the famous Seinfeld episode “The Contest” in which Jerry explains male masturbation to Elaine by saying: “we have to do it, it’s part of our lifestyle”? I think about it a lot (why I ride, not masturbation, stay with me here…) and there are a lot of answers. The simplest I guess is because I enjoy it; but there’s more to it than that. I started riding after my father died way too young. He was 57. I doubt I’d have started riding had he lived. He’d have, in his quiet way, dissuaded me from taking it up. That’s what dads do. Sons push boundaries, fathers enforce them. When he died I think maybe I took it up to help me ease into his shoes, that and wanting to be nearer my younger brother Dave.
In the end the only real reason to do anything is because to not do it means you’re living a little less than you want to be living. I’m an unlikely motorcyclist. I hate roller coasters and I’m not what I’d consider a thrill seeker. Part of me, though, is a poet and part a wanderer (of the mind if not always of the body) and it’s those parts of me, I think, that riding satisfies. I’m not terribly religious, never really was; but I do tend to think in large concepts and never more so than when I’m out riding. I think sometimes the world, your world, the world close to you, can become too much and you need an escape, someplace to park your thoughts while the answers come find you. That thing, for me, is motorcycling. On a motorcycle I always seem to be moving toward something, some greater, larger thing that I need to move towards more than I need to move away from something else. If you really think about it, the solution to most dilemmas is arrived at, not by thinking about them; but by not thinking about them. Riding expands me, opens me to what is possible just beyond the ever elusive horizon.
People talk to me about the danger of riding, in fact more people have told me why they don’t ride than have told me why they do. Danger shouldn’t stop you from doing something, it should only stop you from doing it poorly and carelessly. I’ve felt the danger, I’ve crashed and walked away. Riding has its dangers, sure. I think, though, that the danger serves only to sharpen my focus and brings me closer to that fine edge that separates one world from the next. When I say that I’m in no way inferring that I enjoy danger or have a death wish. In fact, I’m saying the exact opposite. The fact that motorcycling is dangerous and that I have so many people in my life that I have no intention of losing frivolously makes it that much more life affirming. Riding forces me to think about my life, to protect it, reflect on it. To that end I practice, I wear safety gear, I read, I study and I learn as much as I can so that this thing that I love so much doesn’t one day cause me to lose the things that I hold even more dear.
Motorcycling, and I don’t just mean “riding a motorcycle” because anyone can do that, is like rock climbing, hang gliding, base jumping, or any other so called “extreme” sport you can name. Motorcycling, done right, demands physical and mental acuity such that, paradoxically, your mind is free to wander. It’s a hard concept to relate to people but part of you can become so focused that another part is free to daydream, philosophize and create simultaneously. Motorcycling, unlike anything I’ve ever done, is a meditation of sorts, a state of heightened physical and mental alertness that creates a calm that, for me, occurs few other places in life. I’ve ridden a lot. On some rides I create, on some I forgive, on some remember, others forget. Always, though, I feel, and that’s really why I ride. Hell, isn’t it the only reason to do anything?.