Why do I ride? I can reel off all of the politically correct and oft-parroted phrases—loving the feeling of freedom, the open road, getting away from it all, the thrills—as well as anyone. There’s nothing wrong with those phrases. They are all acceptable answers, but none of them truly covers it completely.
To me, those words fail to communicate the elemental and personal nature of riding. There is an immediate and direct connection that opens up within myself just from mounting the bike. It gives me a glimpse of who I really am right at core level. And at the risk of disturbing that fragile link, I’m going to attempt to describe it here.
It’s no surprise some describe riding motorcycles as a religious experience. The state of
To me, riding encompasses not only the certainties and the doubts of riding motorcycles specifically, but also of life in general. Each time I get that edgy urge to push it and tempt fate seems to be some sort of personal test—am I who I think I am? Suddenly, I’m getting in my own face and it’s the only face around. You’ve got to confront the truth of yourself because, really, you are pretty naked once you let the clutch out and go.
Then, there’s the aspect of a definite separation from regular life, like getting the ultimate hall pass. "Taking yourself for a ride" can be a real spiritual treat.
It might just be that we don’t spend enough quality time with ourselves, we don’t make it a priority or there are too many worries or anxieties. It’s been my advice not to ride if those cares are more important than the ride. Then again, the ride often cures them.
It could just be the raw survival aspect of riding that does the trick, but I’m not positive that’s the whole story, either. I think there is the element of seeing how close you can get to your own source flame without getting burned, skimming over it like a seagull or diving in like a hawk to that facet of truth about who you are in those moments of ride time.
I’m not saying the nuances are the same for everyone. There are an infinite variety of ways that your own definitive moments of clarity about riding could have come about. Taking someone for a ride and sharing their joy—or even a close call with disaster—can weld someone to riding. There are moments in that oddly rapturous state, the so-called “zone,” where all is calm, bright and timeless. Those are my favorites—at once both outside of and perfectly in tune with yourself. That’s some heady stuff and very much worth pursuing.
I’ve seen people get into that suspended state, a sort of ecstasy, and actually spook themselves. It’s so different than living in the monotony of the everyday time-stream that it shatters the illusions built up over a lifetime. Maybe they can’t handle their own passions, or it might seem like some moral transgression to feel that good. I really don’t know, but it does look that way. Not everyone should ride motorcycles but if you embrace the kinds of feelings I’m talking about, you came to the right place. There isn’t much else out there that impinges on your senses and transports you like riding does.
One of my favorite achievements has been training riders to sort out the distractions that hold them back from pairing with themselves. Eliminating those tooth-and-claw struggles with basic riding, it becomes so much easier. What other things allow you to reach into that satisfying state of mind and gain control over your own space and time? There are not that many. Riding is an answer.
You know me—I’m going to tell you to go to a school or get out to a track-day and ride. What kind of bike you ride is irrelevant. More to the point, if anything I mentioned strikes a note with you, if you have had any of those feelings or even a brush up against some illuminating and pleasurable riding experiences, don't overthink it—just do it.