Motorcycle Crash Test Dummy | Megaphone

"I like to crash!"

Want to freak out your fellow riders? Tell them you like to crash. Given the right circumstances, I enjoy crashing. There, I said it. Now, excuse me while I dodge this giant sack of hate mail hurtling my way...

Don't misunderstand me. I don't have a death wish. I don't particularly enjoy fixing (or paying for) busted plastic and bent metal. And I'm certainly not some crash fetishist who gets off on ambulance rides and having bits of his body wrapped in plaster for weeks on end. That said, the times I crashed and was lucky enough to walk away unscathed remain some of the most thrilling moments of my motorcycling career.

I'm not talking about street crashes, which still scare the boots off of me. If I never crash again on a public roadway, I'll die a happy man. I'm restricting this statement to the benign crashes I've unfortunately become accustomed to in my half-dozen years of track riding and racing. You know: the everyday low-sides where you are well protected, gear-wise, and just slide along the pavement for a few dozen feet before standing up, absolutely cracked-out on pure, uncut adrenaline.

For many of us, the adrenaline rush of a full-goose back-road or racetrack flog is the main attraction of motorcycling. Even if that term has been co-opted to shill everything from energy drinks to crappy carnival rides, there's still an honest sensation to be experienced when you're dragging appendages into a corner, or on the gas and sideways heading out. And while you snack on this sensation anytime you push your bike's capabilities, nothing serves up a full-course adrenaline meal like a good, old-fashioned falling-off.

You kids should know a real adrenaline rush doesn't come from a can. It's a fine-tuned biological response evolved after thousands of years of eluding saber-toothed tigers and other carnivorous killers. In response to fear or panic, a rush of epinephrine and other stress hormones is instantly secreted from your adrenal medulla into the bloodstream. Like a toot of nitrous oxide in your intake tract, these hormones increase heart rate and stroke volume, dilate your pupils and alter your metabolism in an instant. Your brain and body become hyperaware, you (quite literally) feel no pain and your body goes into survival mode. It's correct to say you're never more alive, and when you can experience this biological response fully and walk away with nothing more than a few bruises and some busted plastic...well, I'm not entirely convinced that's a bad thing.

British scientists recently identified a thrill-seeking gene (SLC6A3-9), a diabolical strand of protein that supposedly predisposes certain people toward crazy feats like injecting heroin, jumping off of tall bridges with elastic bands wrapped around their ankles or hurtling around racetracks aboard 425-pound, 170-horsepower crotch rockets. Basically, SLC6A3-9 reduces dopamine transmission along the brain's pleasure pathway, so those afflicted with this gene require a significantly higher level of emotional stimulation to get off. Bird watching, in other words, just won't cut it.

I think it's likely that many motorcyclists (myself included) are so afflicted, and this cursed gene goes a long way toward explaining why we do what we do. Whether it's pushing the limits of long-distance endurance riding, shaving fractal seconds from our lap times or rocking sky-high wheelies just for fun, it's the thrill of flirting with danger that brings us to this sport. On those rare occasions we actually taste that danger-when we fall off and confront a very real possibility of death-the exhilaration is indescribable, and something few people ever experience.

It's a rare gift to know our bodies and experience our biology as intimately as we crashers do. Most of the armchair-bound masses will never know the highly evolved, finely tuned biochemical responses that flood us whenever we fall off. Of course, there are many who would say this is a good thing (some are reading this, I'm sure). But for those of us who are committed to living a fully experienced and actualized life, crashing isn't always a bad thing.