Between career, family and responsibilities, I haven't been tearing up the twisties much lately. In fact, I recently realized that I hadn't been out in the canyons for a good five months! So last Sunday, I did something about that: I jumped on my old Ducati and headed to the Rock Store in Southern California's Santa Monica Mountains. This return to my once-regular back-road barrage gave me a new appreciation for this sublime weekend ritual. After 20 miles of twisty contemplation at 5000 rpm, I also drew some conclusions about exactly what the Sunday-morning ride means to me.
It's meditation and reflection, time working things out in my head while my body is busy with the mechanics of riding. Last Sunday alone, I thought out a design for our front-yard landscaping, figured out my work schedule for the next two weeks and sorted out how to build a racebike to beat that guy at the local track. The Sunday-morning ride can help dissipate the fog, concentrate thoughts and occasionally spark a great idea. It can also help you work through bad times, such as the death of a loved one or a soured relationship. Riding, like other forms of meditation, encourages mental health.
If I get up early enough, I have the roads to myself. At 8 a.m. Sunday morning, there are few other vehicles to harsh my mellow. If I ride alone, there is no voice commanding me to go left or right. After all, there is only room for one set of hands on the handlebars.
The benefits aren't merely mental, though. The Sunday-morning ride gives me a chance to get my blood pumping. Throwing my motorcycle left and right down twisty Piuma Road is enough to get my heart rate halfway to redline. Moving around on the seat as I lean into the turns is a good light workout. There is a reason racers spend so much time training: Riding hard is a sport, and quite physical.
The author in a Zen moment at SoCal's legendary Rock Store. We won't pass judgment on his
While I enjoy the solitude of the Sunday-morning ride, it's also a chance to bond with like-minded folks, sharing the thrill of being out in beautiful weather doing what we collectively love. Because I ride motorcycles, I've interacted with paupers and millionaires-we all share the same passion. A universal force calls us together in stops along the road to kick tires, swap lies, talk shop and build relationships. The mechanics of this strong, instinctual convergence of motorcyclists is one of nature's mysteries.
Want to get to know someone better? Invite them on a ride. A few hours later, you'll suddenly have much in common: the raccoon that tried to commit "suicide by front wheel," the nerve of that guy in the VW Jetta and that great apple pie at Phillipe's Restaurant. Stopping for food is, after all, one of the greatest pleasures of the Sunday-morning ride.
After an hour or two in the saddle, most bikers are ready to worship at the altar of the roadhouse lunch counter. Great food is a great excuse for a ride. While "foodies" have only recently discovered the delicious fare at certain out-of-the-way restaurants. bikers have known all along that a truck stop 50 miles from home makes the perfect destination. (By the way, if you ever make it to the Rock Store, you've got to try their chili-cheese omelet-mmmmm!)
Finally, the Sunday-morning ride is something we can do regardless of economics. In uncertain times, a 100-mile motorcycle ride represents a cost-effective escape from reality. For the cost of a few gallons of gas and a cup of coffee, you can extract yourself from the chaos of modern life for a few hours. Tired of dropping a Benjamin going to a restaurant or a concert? Go for a ride instead. Until someone finds a way to charge for breathtaking views, fun roads or fresh air, a good day's ride is about the cheapest entertainment you'll find.