I’ve mentioned this before in a previous blog, but I remember when taking the MSF riding course many years ago the instructor asked the class this very question. Several tentative hands shot up and gave answers like fuel economy, parking advantages and other practical reasons. The instructor nodded his head, “Yes, yes, those are all good reasons,” he said. “But what about for fun?”
While some people may arguably start out riding a motorcycle because of the benefits it provides economically, practically and environmentally, those people I feel are few and far between. Most people have a desire to ride a motorcycle for more esoteric reasons. After all, using a motorcycle for transportation isn’t a necessity it is a passion in most cases.
Riding (as opposed to driving) requires absolute concentration and awareness. It is demanding both physically and mentally and challenging as well. You must become super aware of your surroundings, of other vehicles on the road. You must pay attention to weather and road conditions. You must know your motorcycle intimately; its power, maneuverability and limitations as well as your own. On a motorcycle, you must practice “present moment living”.
The most acute sensation while riding a motorcycle is that of being in the scene. In a car, you are completely closed in and have many available distractions to pass the time: radio, cell phones, GPS devices, mini televisions, air conditioning, etc. You are in effect in an environment that mimics that of your home or office with all the comforts those provide. You are looking at the outside world from a closed off point of view, surrounded by thousands of pounds of metal, glass and rubber. Driving a car is, for the most part, unengaging.
While car drivers generally see other drivers as competitors, motorcycle riders see other riders as companions. There is a great camaraderie amongst motorcycle riders, a feeling of being part of a giant family or community. Rarely is there hostility between riders like you see with drivers. We’ve all seen the one or two fingered low wave that bikers give one another as opposed to the middle finger salute that drivers frequently share between themselves!
Motorcycle riding involves passion and a sense of freedom through intense oneness with the machine and one’s surroundings. Unlike cars, motorcycles provide riders with the thrill of risk-taking, adventure, escapism and individuality. On a motorcycle all of your senses become heightened. You smell everything from pine or eucalyptus trees to blooming jasmine and orange blossoms; burned fuel and oil; rain, sea or lake water and even skunks and roadkill. You can more acutely detect temperature drops or increases and can feel the wind rushing around you as the road flashes beneath you only inches from your feet.
In my novel and the upcoming sequel, I often use a motorcycle ride as a form of therapy for several of my characters. Because you must be fully engaged in what you and others are doing as well as your surroundings, motorcycle riding can help clear your head of the chatter that drives most of us crazy every day. If you do it right, you can achieve that Zen state of being in the Now.