Thursday, November 17, 2011

Motorcycle Journal: Ride to Live, Live to Ride

   There are no words really to describe The Ride. It's something you can really only understand for yourself once you've experienced it. It's something like waking up for the first time, and really seeing the world around you. It's breathtaking like a sunset or a sunrise, and powerful like the ocean. I suspect it's similar to what the cowboys felt in the old west when riding their steeds, or something like the Wright brothers or The Red Barron must have felt soaring with the eagles. It's something like Freedom.

   It's all these things really, but then again, it's something more and something all it's own. I've ridden since I was so young I don't remember a time before riding. But I know the difference between driving a car and riding my bike. Even a bicycle can't get close to touching it. Somehow it's the wind on your face, and the feel of the road passing just inches below your feet. It's the smell of the earth, and how the temperature changes from the bottom of the valley to the top of the hill. Even over the noise of the wind and the bike, it's the sounds of the world around you. It's leaning into the curves, and the wild power you've willingly placed yourself on top of. 

   I've grown used to non-riders never understanding. They go on about the danger, and how unsafe riding can be. They love to tell about someone they know who used to ride and now can't walk, or even talk. And you know what.... I feel sorry for your loss, and theirs, but it's worth all the risk. Everybody dies, but not everybody lives. And I'm not one to think avoiding the former is worth giving up the latter!!! 

   Maybe that's why it seems it's the risk takers who so often become Riders. Or those that wish they were more outwardly risk takers, the ones with the seed inside, that for what ever reason, never bloomed. The quite, mild, accountant who on weekends likes to ride all over the countryside on his chrome steed. In everyday life he may play the part of the mouse, but on his own time maybe he dreams of being the cat sometimes. It's not that riding makes you some kind of bad ass, but man or woman, you have to have some balls. A bike is somewhat like the sea. You have to not show your fear, be strong and confident, and treat it with respect or it's will consume you. It's also much like a wild animal, never quite tame, unpredictable. I can't tell you how many times a dog, cat, opossum, deer, or raccoon has been waiting right in my path as I round a corner at 50 MPH. Or sand, dirt, leaves, and crazy cage drivers have been laying in wait unexpectedly to send to me to the pavement. 

   Cool nerves, a level head, quick reflexes and a good amount of skill can save you in most cases. And sometimes you just have to clench your butt hole and ride it out. Even OVER the dog if you have too. And then sometimes nothing can save you. If your lucky you get some road rash and a bruised ego. And sometimes it's worse, but the cost is still worth the payoff.

   I've always felt there were non-riders, those that never had the urge and can never justify the dangers. Then there are riders, those that ride because they want to impress someone, maybe even themselves. Or they can't afford other transport, maybe they've done the math and are saving gas, or want to save the environment. But they are not riding to Ride, just to get from A to B, or to impress the guys, or see if it's true that a bike can be panty remover. Then there are The Riders. This group rides for the pure joy and freedom of the ride. For them it's the Journey, not the destination. It's not about getting there, but HOW you get there. It's about The Ride. And if someone is impressed, or panties happen to come off, all the better, but it's about The Ride first. Once you get where your going it's almost sad, because now your going to have to stop.

   The wife had never ridden a bike, and she's wasn't exactly happy when I bought this one. At least until I took her on her first Ride. She loved it, even told me it was OK that I had bought it now. SHE's the one who bugs me to go riding when we have someone to watch the baby. SHE's the one who bitches when I get to go somewhere on the bike without her. She's got a taste of The Ride, and she likes it!

  But I will admit, sometimes to truly enjoy the ride, you have to have the right equipment. For me I have to have some kind of eye protection. I don't know if it's because I wear glasses, or just the way my eyes are, but I have to wear goggles, I can't see at speed otherwise. I can see better WITHOUT my glasses at speed, but then I can't see anything because I don't have my glasses on. Also I've ridden in 20 degree weather, but I'll admit anything below 50 and you really need some good riding clothes. If your going to ride in below 40 degree weather, you needs some really good winter riding gear, or it's not going to be much fun. Wind chill at 50 mph is insane. But when it gets really cold, if your riding just to get somewhere close by it's easier just to drive a cage. Getting in and out of all that gear, and being comfortable when you get where your going takes a bit of effort and time. 

   Riding in the rain isn't so bad when it's warm, and isn't bad at all if you have the right equipment. The key here is the right equipment. Eye protection of some sort is really handy in the rain. And if you get to the point you can't see you have to be smart enough to pull over and wait it out a bit. You don't have windshield wipers and cages can't see you as well either. You also can't avoid as easy as on dry pavement. Riding in the rain is more about being smart then being good. Or tough. 

   And if it's icy out....forget it. Leave the bike at home, walk if you have too. This and the rain are both cases where balls can lead you into trouble. In fact, with ice, the bigger your balls get the smaller your brain. Even if  you can keep the bike under you on ice, cages are going to cream you for sure. Their brains seem to shrink around bikes anyway, and on ice they can't even stop hitting other cages. Ice and bikes on city streets just really don't mix. I've ridden in the snow, on the farm, but in the city I don't ride till they have the streets clear and ice free. Not just for me, but because of other people who can't drive worth a hoot on the stuff. 

   I love to ride, and will ride whenever I can. I wrote this so maybe some non-riders might understand where us Riders are coming from. And maybe one of them will one day become a Rider too. If you Ride, nothing I've said here will surprise you, and may even seem to be understating The Ride, but words just always seem to fall short. 

Ride safe, and keep the rubber parts on the ground!

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