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What is it that you enjoy so much about motorcycling?

Recently I was asked, “What is it that you enjoy so much about motorcycling?” Like many riders, my first response was, “If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand.” It’s the kind of answer you give when you don’t have a good answer or haven’t taken the time to think about your real reasons for doing something. But it’s a little like asking, why do bears hibernate during winter, or why do salmon swim upstream to spawn. It’s just what they do.

It’s a family thing

So, why do I enjoy it so much? In my case, like the bear or salmon, I was born into it. Motorcycles have been a big part of my family since before I was even born, starting with my grandparents. Some of my earliest memories are of riding a motorcycle, sitting in front of my dad, and holding on to the gas caps. I was maybe four or five years old.

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The Five Senses

It is hard to define why I like riding so much. Some of the things are physical. The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of being on the road on a bike instead of a car. Things just seem more vivid. Your view of the surroundings is always better on a bike. I hear the sounds of crickets, frogs, birds, really everything, far better when I’m on the bike. And the smells, good and bad, are noticed much more quickly on the bike. Have you ever driven your car along the seashore and tasted the salt? Probably not, but if you’ve ridden your bike along the coast close enough to hear the waves crashing, then you already know you can taste the salt in the air. Maybe, it’s the elements. Really, who doesn’t like being outside on a beautiful sunny day? The sun beating down, warming your body to its core. It’s good for the soul. The wind? You can certainly sense changes in humidity quicker on a bike than you will in a car. You will notice changes in temperature that vary with elevation too. And you definitely can’t forget the rain. If you ride, sooner or later, you will end up riding in the rain.

Camaraderie

Lone wolf or in a pack. Lots of riders like to ride in groups. I’ve done plenty of that. I would rather lead than follow, and I’d rather ride alone than be followed. Then again, I’ve always been fiercely independent. Riding alone re-enforces that. I’m not relying on anyone else to lead the way, set the speed, or determine the next stop for gas, food, or to use the facilities. Not being followed means I’m not worried about losing someone in traffic, or wondering when they are going to need to stop for something. Plus, even when riding alone, you’re not alone. Most riders will wave to each other when they are approaching each other on the road. There is always someone interesting to meet when stopping for a break. And if you are broken down on the side of the road, someone will almost always stop to see if you are alright or need a hand. There is a camaraderie among riders. Even perfect strangers.

Mind games

The mental game certainly comes in to play as well. Whether it’s threading your way through a traffic jam on a multi-lane highway, anticipating something entering my right of way, or negotiating a particularly exciting set of curves, you have to be thinking about what you are doing, what’s happening next, and what you are going to do if something unexpected happens. There isn’t time to be thinking about the argument you had with your spouse, you need to be focused on the job at hand. Let your subconscious work out that stuff.


This article was originally published on February 22, 2017.

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