Amongst the many motorized ways in which a person can travel through the world, the motorcycle excites the senses and invokes addiction as much as (I would say more than) any other. The constant emotional dynamic that occurs while in the saddle transcends words, making it difficult to explain to others why we love it so much. I find myself having the very fortunate responsibility of writing these letters for each issue. It allows me to not just provoke topics of discussion amongst all of you, but to have a forum in which I can answer all those questions I’ve not been able to answer quickly, when asked. One question always gives me trouble. And that question is, “Why does the motorcycle create such an obsession amongst riders?” Sure, many of you have absorbed this question, either from others, or even from yourselves. And we have answers for it. But when I begin to answer this question, I often find myself lecturing someone about the topic for longer than they may have wanted.
So it is this forum where I can take the time to think about what I want to say. I can sit for a while and really decide what it is that makes this form of travel so addicting; why we spend so much time thinking about it when we are not “in the saddle.” We all know that it immerses us in the landscapes through which we travel. We all know that the minimalist aspect of Adventure touring does a lot to keep our priorities in check. We all know that the motorcycle is a wonderful escape from the daily grind. But those experiences are not limited to just the motorcycle. There are many other forms of travel that can provide us the same mental and emotional stimulation many of us search for when we go for a ride. Why this? Why the motorcycle?
I have had the privilege, as many of you have, to introduce people to this form of travel. Though some have found it more difficult than others, they have all felt the simulated lure of the “nomad,” and they liked it. Could they have sampled some other form of travel and experienced the same thing? Sure. So the motorcycle, again, has something unique about it that invokes a drive to experience it as much as a life will allow.
So, here is what I have come up with. Many of us have ridden alone and with others. And a nice ride, alone, gives us time to think and work out our lives. It give us an appreciation for our own autonomy, while having us cherish the loved ones we’ve left “at home.” A nice ride, alone, lets us be with ourselves in a way that few other forms of travel can provide. You can “be” alone, however, doing just about anything. So it is not the literal “aloneness” that is unique and special. The motorcycle redefines the state of aloneness, transcending the physical act of being alone.
What do I mean by that? Good question. How do you transcend physical “aloneness?” If you are alone, then you are alone. If you are with other people, then you are not alone. At least basic logic would tell us that. But the motorcycle takes that form of logic and throws it out. Whether or not you are physically alone has nothing to do with your “aloneness.”
Alright, alright. I know. What the heck am I talking about? Let me get to the point as concisely as I can. Here it is.
Of all the aspects of motorcycling that make us think about it almost 24/7, for me, it is the unique aloneness that only the motorcycle can provide. It is one of the few activities where you can be surrounded by people, yet be completely alone, in your helmet, at the same time. When on rides with others, I find myself placing an imaginary cinematic vail between me and the other riders. I watch the bikes in front of me move in wonderful symmetry and sequence, as if part of some choreographed dance, the riders cuing each other through non-verbal gestures and movements. I can be with my “self” all day. The helmet provides me the privacy to let my mind wander freely. Yet at the same time, I am part of something larger, a larger group of people, that is, moving as a collective unit. A day’s ride is a unique experience to each rider, with unique details and events, even when we are all traveling through the same places. Some of us are happy. Some are sad. Some are full of energy. And some are full of pain and fatigue.
But the experience is ours to hold, in our helmets, alone in the world, where no one else can be. Above all else, it is that general experience that places an umbrella over all the specific experiences that occur on a journey. The memory is ours. We can reveal whatever part of it we want, and keep any part of it, or all of it for ourselves.