Why ride?

Sunny Day in December

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.

Walk Around

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.

Somewhat amused

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?.

Ride safe.

For more of my feelings about riding please check out my column on RoadRunner Motorcycle Touring & Travel magazine’s website.

I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Motorcycle Blogs.

9 Comments

  1. @ZenMotorcyclist

    Excellent stuff Sash! It was wonderful hanging out with you guys on South Street. Small world when kindred spirits meet and spend some time together who formerly had only know of each other through blog posts. It was special and we hope to do it again.

    Reply
  2. SashNo Gravatar

    It was great to meet you and Cori! We are thrilled to have other riding friends like yourselves. 🙂

    Your words really resonated with me as you wrote:

    "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."

    Sometimes I just feel good. That's it. I just allow myself to feel good. That's something I never did before riding.

    The key to my experience is to go into each ride with as little expectation as possible, let each ride form itself, and only focus on the road ahead. If I think about a destination, where I've come from, what I need to do next week, I miss the moment.

    Also it allows me to listen to my heart. I can feel what I'm longing for. I can indulge in deep gratitude. I can immerse myself in the greatness of the universe.

    I also listen to my body, which I think most of us have forgotten how to do. We've been put on such a schedule, when to sleep, when to eat, when to work, when to shit, that we forget to listen and just live. On my motorcycle I just live. I stop to pee when I need to. I eat when I'm hungry. I drink when I'm thirsty.

    Being in the moment, in my heart and in my body is why I ride. 🙂

    Reply
  3. gautamNo Gravatar

    Bud, you nailed it just right. Perhaps this might resonate with you

    when that throttle opens up … on a long empty stretch of a road,
    when things turn a little blur,
    riding just fast enough that I leave myself far behind,
    and its not escapism or getting a high or thrill of ridding dangerously,
    its when you unexpectedly experience for fleeting brief moments …
    …. of how attaining "moksh" would feel like

    Reply
  4. Segun Bayode

    That was apt. I am a newbie in riding but when people around me got the wind that I wanted to learn how to ride, all he'll broke lose. There were so many agitations from friends and family. Some wondered why my wife would allow such while some believed I was indulging in dangerous game. I forgive all comments becose they are all results of the little understanding they have about riding and more importantly me as a person. Here in Nigeria, in some parts of the country, we have commercial motorcyclist and most of the people complaining patronize them. The question that I keep asking them is that if you can trust a commercial biker who you do not know his riding background to carry you safely to your destination, how much more yourself especially when you decide to come to the front seat. I think I should come up with a more comprehensive article on why I decide to ride.

    Reply
  5. AstirNo Gravatar

    This is amazing, you have captured the why so well. I have always said riding in my Zen when people ask, but never had the skill to elaborate. Now I will refer them to this.

    Reply
  6. BudCADNo Gravatar (Post author)

    Hi alii, thanks for stopping in and for the feedback. Nice to know people are finding something to comment on here. Riding can create empty spaces for me too at times. One of the best things about riding!

    Reply
  7. alii1959No Gravatar

    excellent post. I too commute everyday regardless of the weather and have noticed the things you mention. I cannot even explain to myself why after my short ride from work I often wind up sitting on the seat not moving, not thinking, just simply being thankful that I was able to ride again!

    Reply
  8. andrewmentzerNo Gravatar

    Great perspective, Bud. I look forward to following your blog.

    Reply
    1. BudCADNo Gravatar (Post author)

      Thank you Andrew. Glad you found us. Hope you find something of value here and I appreciate the feedback. Guest posts are always welcome too.

      Reply

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