This won’t be your usual swansong about the beauty of travel on two wheels but a personal story I’ve shared with very few. And now you.
My first ever blog on Wire was a story about how my curiosity and childish quest for thrills caused me to stumble across this magnificent hobby. Like most things in life, this too started as innocent, victimless misconduct but developed into something far greater than Zarko the then 8 year old could fathom.
While it’s true to some extent that boys never grow up, or as I like to refer to it as the Peter Pan Syndrome, childish giggles and thrills will only carry you so far. Just like I stopped playing with toy soldiers making “battlefield noises”, I should have stopped toying around with motorized bicycles. But I didn’t. That’s because it developed into something much more than just play for me.
You see, just like childish play and giggles eventually pass as you grow older, the same goes for the cheap thrills that riding provides. While the speed and power of the damn thing are as exhilarating as they are potentially lethal, that’s not why I ride.
Riding for me has become an escape. It’s meditation at triple-digit speeds. I once tried real meditation at a workshop but couldn’t fight the burst of laughter when Mr. Zen over there in the corner produced his “aa-hh-mmmmm” noise. I tried yoga too, but accidently fell asleep in the process, and was asked to not come back. It might sound like I’m mocking it, but I really am not – I’m almost envious of people who can do that. I tried all of it, and just couldn’t.
Riding gave me that safe space. Safe space from pressure at work, while studying, and as a family man. People depending on me. Some weeks my “to do list” looks like a novel. I do not know where to begin and where to end.
While the speed and power of the damn thing are as exhilarating as they are potentially lethal, that’s not why I ride
But I put on that helmet, and all of, it at least for a moment… goes away. And here is why. You set off with your left hand operating the clutch, your right hand adding some throttle and covering the front brake just in case. Your left leg works the gearbox. First gear is a push downwards, rest is up as gain speed. Your right leg is trusted with the rear brake. Even your butt has a job as the Center of Gravity General – perhaps one of the most important jobs of the bunch.
And then, there’s the brain. Which has ‘the’ most crucial role. To keep you alive.
Riding is an all-consuming task using all your limbs and most of your brainpower. So, you can’t do anything else but ride. You have no radio, no music, no phone calls, no texts. No climate control to tamper with, no cruise control. Autonomous driving? Please.
You also find yourself hypersensitive to your surroundings and practicing what my instructor referred to as defensive driving.
“Ride as if everyone is out to kill you. Which they might as well be”. This boils down to thinking about what your fellow road users are doing, what you think they are going to do and how you would react to it. Did that driver see you or is he distracted? What is the road condition? Did it just rain? Is it still slippery? Are there leaves on the ground? Is there gravel or dust? What’s around that bend? If you miss any of this, you might potentially see yourself in a ditch. Which is probably an annoying place to be.
My point is, because the brain is so hyper focused, there’s no room for trivial unimportant thoughts. It is straight from the first page of the textbook “Living in the moment; Volume 1”.
I put on my handmade Arai helmet and when I shut the dark and slightly illegal tinted visor, it is as if I’ve shut off the outside world. I feel calm surging over me. There’s emptiness and solitude in the helmet. Your own little carbonified bubble. While you’re more exposed to the elements, and in a way more connected with nature on a bike than you would ever be in a car, for me at least, I find it also refreshingly detaching.
I put on my handmade Arai helmet and when I shut the dark and slightly illegal tinted visor, it is as if I’ve shut off the outside world
Because there is an identity-depriving element. As I pass you by, you won’t have any idea of who I am, what I do for a living, what my political views and aspirations are, my religion or the color of my skin. You don’t particularly have any educated hypothesis on how I dress, talk, act or think. You can’t have any opinion on any of that, because all you see is a man on a motorcycle. That’s all that I am in the moment. And in today’s polarized, highly opiniated, quick-to-judge bottomless world, at least for a moment or two, that’s all that I wish to be.
So why do I ride? To stay sane in an insane world. To gain strength when I need it most. To keep going when it’s easy to quit. To reflect. To meditate. And sometimes, just sometimes… for the childish giggles and “vroom vroom” noises.
I hope you have something in your life like I have this. If not, try to find your “vroom” and your inner peace so that you’re not forever at war. Because otherwise who knows, you might do something as idiotic as buying a motorcycle all of a sudden.