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The first time I kicked a motorcycle into first gear (thank the heavens my first time wasn’t with an electric switch-n-start) and felt the throttle roar under me, I understood why people got addicted to drugs.
Okay, I didn’t. I was 14. But I was addicted, nevertheless.
My friends who don’t ride often ask me about why I devote so much of my time (and life) to riding a bike. And my response is very polarizing- they either find it extremely profound or consider it to be along the veins of something a 15 year old girl writes in her highschool yearbook.
My response is this: when I ride, I am alive.
And I love riding because I am addicted to the feeling of being alive.
1. You feel alive
Borrowing from above –
Technological prowess has allowed most of society a level of comfort and security that not even kings could have comprehended a mere century ago. But ironically, this is also the sole reason for many problems in the first world.
We spend most of our lives in boxes- shuffling from our workspaces to our apartments to bars to the movies to government buildings, and waste our spare time projecting our insecurities onto our Instagram stories and Linkedin profiles trying to convince the rest of the world of something we’re not, through smaller boxes we have in our hands all the time.
But on a motorcycle, you don’t have the filter of air conditioning and TV screens and room fresheners. No temperature regulation or sound insulation, like when driving a car.
You’re alive. So alive, in fact, that even the mundane seems glorious.
The air feels heavier, the feeling akin to that of swimming in a pool as you cut through it with your motorcycle.
2. The philosophical revelations that come with it
Advertising has fooled us into thinking that tailored suits that cost $400 are a symbol of ambition, expensive watches are a symbol of wisdom, and that monster trucks and sports cars are vehicles of security and power.
On a motorcycle, you’re naked. You’re exposed. And vulnerable.
You are faced with the simple truth that shows once these lies that have been circulated by the marketing industry: that you are small.
The lack of a stereo sound system harping mass-produced music from radio stations forces you to tune into your surroundings- the truck that passes by you, the faint crashing of the waves by the beach, the jerk behind you who honks too often to let you know that you’re in his way.
All of these remind you again and again- that you are small.
That this story is not about you, about the jerk behind you, about what your friends think of you, of the people that contributed to your troubled childhood. You are just a character in this massive non-story, and you’re only the protagonist through the lens with which you watch it play out.
3. The freedom
Probably one of the most cliche (and expected) responses to “why do you ride?”, motorcycles offer you a sense of freedom that simply is not present in cars.
When you’re driving a car, you’re watching life through a TV. You know about your surroundings and that you are in control- but take those 5 doors and 6 windows away- and you are on your journey.
The twisties, the lane-changes (within reason- don’t endanger yours and others lives just for the thrill of it), the speed- cars don’t really offer much in the way of these.
Some days when I’m speeding through empty highways, it takes me back to when I was much more naive but carefree kid, riding my bicycles through the woods alone (didn’t have a lot of friends growing up), and I realized that I still am that kid.
And it’s liberating.
4. The speed feels like nothing else
Note: Do not ride fast on public roads, track days should satiate your need for speed. Safety should always take precedence over thrill- implementing safety measures in the present guarantees more chances for thrill in the future.
But more than the speed, it’s the ‘push’ while you accelerate that really hooks you. Something about the contrast between the absolute power of the automobile beneath you and your frail body (armed with adequate gear, hopefully) invigorates you while you ride, and sends you into immediate withdrawal after you get off.
5. The community
I travel solo a lot. My parents were a product of the 1960s counterculture era, and even though they grew out of it (hard to hold down a job with a hippie lifestyle), they retained some of their free spirit values- a few of which were instilled in me.
When you travel solo, you’re forced to converse with other motorcycle riders. And a lot of these people are motorcycle riders as well.
This kind of maverick lifestyle begets a certain open-minded approach to the world. It’s hard to be judgemental about different people when you meet so many people outside of your lifestyle, and find out how similar people are, despite being so different. And it does wonders for your mental health.
Bikers operate along a similar vein, due to the similar nature of the experience. You look out for each other, sometimes wave to each other, let a lone biker know if there are any points-of-interest or helpful stops they can make down the road.
The community, despite being so dynamic also enables you to make incredibly close bonds- a lot of which are long term- with an ease seldom seen outside the motorcycle community.
Because (borrowing from one of the points listed earlier), you all share the same insight you develop after traveling the world- that we are small, the world is huge, the universe is indifferent, and that the only things that are constant are the connections that we make.
Due to all the points listed above, it makes you more mindful
It can be confusing to find avenues that allow you to alleviate the stress you accumulate over time.
But ever since I bought my first Kawasaki ZX-11, I knew I found mine.
Sometimes I feel like I’m flying. Some days I feel bad for the cars sharing the stretch of asphalt with me about their inability to lean into a curve.
Some days, I just want to escape. And I do.
The headspace that comes with the focus on the road and your bike and the corners and the engine and the revving comes with a sort of tranquility that allows you to reset and view things with a more grounded perspective once you get back home.
I used to have to work extra jobs to fund my motorcycle habit when I was younger. Despite the extra hours and toil, it never felt that way. Because my motorcycle is the best investment that I have ever made- and I spend A LOT of money on things I don’t need to be spending on.
The safety and maintenance issues are always in the back of my mind- but the amount of meaning it’s added to my life still makes it worth it for me.
And it’s going to be worth it for you too.