Cold on a motorbike is like being beaten with cold hammers while being kicked with cold boots, a bone
crushing cold. The wind's enveloping hands squeeze the heat out of my body and whisk it away.
Caught in a cold October rain, the raindrops don't even feel like water. They sting like shards of stone
thrown from the skies by a demon intent on smashing through my visor. I expect to arrive at my
destination with my face streaked with blood, but that's just an illusion in my mind. The misery of
nerves endings that evolved to be comfortable.
Despite this, I cant give up my motorbike even in the cold of winter and I rush to get on it in the sun of
a summers day.
Lapses of sanity are common among motorcyclists. When you let your bike into your life you're
"Motorcycle Entitlement" is stamped on your driver's license as if "motorcycle" was just another of
your physical characteristics, or maybe a mental condition. But when warm weather finally arrives
with a rush of warmth, all those cold snaps and demon rainstorms are paid off in full because a
summers riding is worth any price.
A motorbike is not just a two-wheeled car. The difference between driving a car and climbing onto a
bike is the difference between watching TV and actually living your life.
We spend most of our lives sealed in boxes and cars are just more rolling boxes that shuffle us from
home-box to work-box and back. Entombed in stale air, temperature regulated, sound insulated, and
smelling of air freshner and ashtrays.
On a bike I know I'm alive. When I ride, even the familiar seems strange and glorious. The air has a
weight and substance as I push through it and its touch is as intimate as water is to a swimmer. I feel
the cool wells of air that pool under trees and the warm spokes of light that fall through them. I can
see everything in a sweeping panorama, unrestricted by ceiling or dashboard.
Sometimes I hear music. Like hearing phantom telephones in the shower or false doorbells when
vacuuming; the pattern-loving brain, seeking signals in the noise, finds acoustic ghosts in the wind's
But on a bike I hear the whole song. Its rock 'n roll by a dark orchestra hidden in the air and
discovered with the surge of speed released by a twist of the wrist. In the summer, as the speed
builds, smells become uncannily vivid. All the individual tree smells and flower smells and grass smells
flit by like notes in a great roaring symphony.
Sometimes the smells evoke memories so strongly it's as though the past hangs invisible in the air
around me, waiting there for my roaring two wheeled time machine to unlock it. A ride on a summer
afternoon can border on the rapturous. The sheer volume and variety of stimuli is like a bath of joy for
my nervous system, a massage for my brain.
A systems check for my soul.
It rips the smiles out of me. I can find myself dour, depressed, apathetic, numb from the painful
experiences of my life. And then, on two wheels, big, ragged, windy smiles flap against the side of my
face, billowing out of me like air from a decompressing whoopee cushion.
Transportation is merely a secondary function. A bike is a joy machine. A machine of wonders, a metal
bird, a motorized prosthetic. It's light and dark and shiny and dirty and warm and cold, all lapping
over each other. A conduit of grace. A catalyst for bonding the gritty and the holy. I dont think of
myself as a biker, but I've had a handful of scooters and bikes over the years and slept under my
share of bridges. I wouldn't trade one second of either the good times or the misery.
When I put my helmet on, the stress and strain of daily life vanishes. The burdons I carry fall away
like leaves from an autumn tree.
When I am riding, you cant see my face, you cant see who I am. But inside... inside there is a smile. A
cheshire cat grin that isnt there when my full face mask is off.
Learning to ride was one of the best things I've ever done.
Cars lie to us and tell us we're safe. That we are powerful, and in control. The air-conditioning fans
murmur empty assurances and whisper, "Sleep... sleep...".
Motorcycles tell us a stark and more useful truth: we are small and we are exposed, and we are
probably moving too fast for our own good, but with every face tearing acceleration, every sweeping
corner, every amazing ride...