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Confessions of a Motorcycle Addict

My wife has more than once suggested that I write an article about “the joys of motorcycling” or “why people ride motorcycles”. I’ve never wanted to tackle such a task, simply because it is too overwhelming. Perhaps, I just wouldn’t know what to say.

As human beings we experience everything differently. There is no “single answer” to the question of motorcycling’s appeal. Nevertheless, you may find the following observations interesting (or not).

Machines that extend man’s power or grace seem universally appealing. What do I mean by this? Take something as simple as a power tool, whether used in the garage or the kitchen.

A power tool that allows you to fell a large tree (a chain saw) or effortlessly carve a turkey (an electric knife) makes us feel more powerful as human beings. Perhaps, in a way, we see an extension of our own physical or spiritual power when we use such things, and it is in a strange way beautiful to us. We can walk and run, but we can’t fly. We can fly with a machine (an airplane) and we can cover ground faster than we ever dreamed of covering with our feet with another type of machine (a car or a motorcycle). Is flying, or covering ground at 100 mph, the fulfillment of a dream our species has had for centuries, but has never been able to fulfill until now with modern machines?

Moreover, do machines that involve us more in the process bring even more joy to us? When you drive a car with an automatic transmission, is it as fun as driving the same car equipped with a manual transmission? For most motorcyclists, the answer would probably be no. The involvement with the machine brings joy.

Few machines are as involving (both physically and mentally) as a motorcycle. When you ride a bike, you have to lean your body to make it turn, you have to lean forward to combat the forces of acceleration, and lean back to combat the forces of deceleration. The wind wants to throw you off the back of the bike at high speeds (not on a Gold Wing, of course), and the temperature of the air and the smell of the environment can’t be overcome with air conditioning and closed windows. To varying degrees, your attention must be on the very moment — your mind can’t wander while riding a bike. This intense concentration is like meditation, in a way, but the stakes are much higher.

It sounds corny to say you become “one with the bike”, but it’s really true, isn’t it? The bike isn’t so much a slave as an extension of your physical and mental being, responding to your commands almost like your hand responds when you command it to pick up a glass of water, for instance. What does all this mean and why am I writing this? I’m not sure, but I guess I got tired of my wife asking me to write about this subject.

I do know that I love motorcycles, and have loved them ever since I rode a minibike powered by lawnmower engine at the age of 6 for hours on end in my driveway. Part of it was the power and the speed, and part of it was the finesse I developed and enjoyed as I would repeatedly drive down the long driveway into my empty garage, slam on the rear brake and go into a long slide that ended up sideways. Learning to control something that was, at first, uncontrollable was great fun. It still is.