I was just recalling a day last year, when i got bored and went for a ride on the nearby Ahtanum Green Dot trails.
On my Ninja 650R.
I enjoyed the trip, got my bike a little dirty. At one point, a path that appeared to have a simple up-and-over turned out to be a 200yd hillclimb that would have made a Jeeper think twice. By the time i realized this, i was already committed and any attempt to stop would have meant dismounting and k-turning a 420lb streetbike on a steep,soft incline. I pressed on, praying i wouldn't spin up the back tire, and miraculously made the top...and immediately set to finding a way down that didn't involve going headfirst down the same hill...
Anyway, the trip was fun, if ill-advised, but the responses of everyone i've related it to are that it's nuts to ride a streetbike offroad.
What happened to all the diehard motorcycle adventurers?
It's kinda funny. I like talking to car drivers, who can't understand that someone could be out in traffic without the protection of a car around them. The admission of this by someone tends to make me judgmental of them, unfairly or not, and this is why...
Feeling the need to be surrounded by a steel cage in traffic suggests to me that the person is a very passive driver. It says to me, "It's likely that I'm going to be hit by another car at some point." I generally can't imagine that these people are actively avoiding collisions at all times. They are probably terrified of being on a motorcycle because they don't want to use all of their attention looking out for all the people who aren't looking out for them.
I love the question, "Aren't you afraid of somebody hitting you?" Yes, and that's why, when I'm surrounded by oblivious, moronic cattle in 3,000lb battering rams, I'm constantly matching wits with the vehicles around me. It's generally not difficult, as there is a decided lack of wit in most cagers, but when they gang up on you, it can be a challenge to keep track of what all of them are doing. But I keep my eyes up, and my mind focused on WHAT I'M DOING.
Generally, I guess what bothers me about this conversation with habitual car drivers, is that, while they are questioning my sanity and judgment, it feels like they are admitting to me that they are the type of person who would rather be talking on their phone, or fiddling with the radio, or painting their nails, than actually driving. They obviously have a patent fear of other vehicles running into them with no warning whatsoever, which tells me they are not generally very attentive. And this places them in the part of my brain marked "enemy". After all, fair or not, it is my judgment, and the assumption that all drivers are inattentive, deaf, blind, and just generally MORONS, that has allowed me to avoid 99.9% of the potential collisions I have been through. And that other one....well, she had to work pretty hard to take my ass out that time.
So, yeah, if you can't imagine being on the road without the security of a steel cage wrapped around you, I don't like you. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is.
Of course, given where I'm posting this, I'm guessing there aren't many people reading this who fall into that category. :mrgreen:
I often have these existential crises. I got to thinking last night as I was laying in bed after another beautiful 400 mile day. The sun was out. The roads were beautiful. We used every bit of our tires. It was THAT kind of day.
I got to thinking. If i remember correctly, my motorcycle, a 2006 Suzuki GSX-R 600, was assembled in a plant in Hamamatsu, Japan. Given that thousands of bikes just like it were built that year, it's fair to think that dozens of them rolled down that assembly line that day. It was built by robots and people, and the people working that line...did they ever consider what they were building? A motorcycle. I wonder if any of the workers whose hands touched my machine ever pondered where it would end up.
To them, it was likely just another motorcycle. A collection of parts, one of an endless line of them that rolled by, one after another, as they took a moment to fit the swingarm, or tighten the pegs on... could any of them imagine the future in store for THIS machine? That it would be bought new by a man half a world away, and used to fly and frollick over stretches of pavement that they would probably never see? That it would be dropped, hit by a car, lose the plastic cladding around it, and still be seen as an irrevocable part of who that person was? That it would be cared for with that man's own two hands as much as possible, parts repaired and replaced whenever needed without a second thought, no matter how hard that man had to work to afford it? That it would bring such joy, and peace, and fellowship to his life? I wonder if they ever took a moment to ponder the passion, the LOVE they were building? That they weren't just building a mechanical contrivance meant to move a person, but a unique piece of art with the power to move the soul?
The ability to go out and ride, to focus the body and mind, and center the soul, has probably helped me maintain my sanity through many hard times. I would give up, and have given up, many things that people take for granted, for the privilege.
To the people of Hamamatsu, Japan, working in the Suzuki Factory, thank you for your work. Thank you for tightening those bolts. Thank you for adjusting those linkages. Thank you for the part you have played in saving my soul. It is far more than a machine you make. It is a means of living far outside the sheltered, fearful existence of so many.
To the people everywhere who design and build motorcycles of any kind, thank you. Everyone here has one thing in common; a passion for the experience that YOU provide us with.
So, last week I jumped on a bicycle for the first time in about 5 years. Thought I'd take it easy, seeing as I haven't ridden in a while. So I only rode about 8 miles last week.
Today, I jumped on it again. I set out to take a proper ride. From where I live, to the end of the Greenway trail in Union Gap, and back again, 24 miles according to my stepdad, who has an odometer on his bicycle.
Took some motivational thinking to do it all in one leg (I had a Command Sargeant-major of Her Majesty's Royal Marines screaming obscenities at me inside my head.....don't ask) But the part that surprised me is that it wasn't the gruelling push that I thought it would be.
You see, I'm overweight, and have been smoking off and on for - what, six or seven years now? So I figured it was going to be a REAL push to make it today....especially given the tequila that I was imbibing last evening. But while I have a slightly winded sensation at the moment, and the slightest hint of a headache, I actually feel a LOT better than I thought I would.
I can only credit the motorcycling I have been doing almost obsessively with helping to maintain some semblance of physical fitness in my otherwise largely vegetative and self-destructive lifestyle. Spending whole days moving about on a sportbike is far more physically taxing than the same trip in a car...and I think the winter riding with exposure to sub-freezing temps with wind chill and wet weather has probably done interesting things for my conditioning as well.
I think I may have to engage in a more active exercise regimen. I have the tools here, I have just lacked the will. I think my goal should be to make today's bicycle trip a 3-5 times a week thing, time permitting. And I have weights at my disposal....should probably make use of them as well.
But right now, I'm starting to crave carbs and protein.....Think I'll go have cheap chinese food.....everything they make is chicken or rice based......:ninja:
It always amazes me to see people get tired of riding. To see the ads for a bike for sale, that say, "I only rode it a few times." To see bikes with so few miles on them.
You see, I started riding off-road when I was but a wee tyke. When I was five, my parents got a little Yamaha 75 four-wheeler for me. I remember jumping on it and riding away like a bat out of hell. I rode for about 5 minutes before my dad started reading the manual to see how to adjust the restrictor after I came around a corner too fast and picked it up on two wheels. I can't remember an awful lot about that thing, but I do remember tearing it up out in the California desert for hours on end, going around and around on the 5-acre lot that our house was on, until the engine would start to cough and sputter. I learned early how to switch over the fuel valve to reserve so I wouldn't have to push it back to the shed for gas. I couldn't tell you if it was a 2-stroke or 4; it seems like my dad had to pull the sparkplug and clean the electrodes with a piece of sandpaper almost every other pit-stop. But I don't ever remember him having to pre-mix the gas.
Later I graduated to a Honda Fourtrax 125. Now we were cookin' with gas! This thing had GEARS you could change! I remember my dad telling me to keep it in 3rd or less, but I also remember sneaking it up into 4th occasionally, or even - gasp! - 5th. Man, I was ROCKIN along on that thing.
About the time I was 9 or 10 years old, somebody broke into our shed and stole both quads. I was crushed. I lost most my interest in visiting my dad; there was nothing to do out in that desert without a motorcycle of some kind, except stand around and be hot.
My cousins had a couple of dirt bikes, until their parents separated. My aunt didn't like motorcycles. I only got to ride them a couple times.
For the next several years, I almost never got to ride a motorcycle of any kind. On occasional spin on a friend's dirtbike, that was about it.
In 2006, I bought my Gixxer. 600cc's of sexy, top-of-the-line japanese speed. I jumped on that thing thinking it would be like the dirtbikes I had ridden before. IT WASN'T. I was terrified for the first two days. But I got the hang of it quickly. I had my mishaps (cold-tire lowside, but I put sliders on when I bought the bike) but I learned from them. I put a lot of time and effort into riding the best I could. And it was everything I always thought it would be.
3 years and almost 40,000mi. of street riding later, it's never worn off. I'm still the guy who calls people up wanting to ride when it's 30 degrees outside. I've met fellow riders of all types, all ages, all experience levels. I absolutely LOVE riding, every chance I get. If I didn't have at least one motorcycle to ride, I'd probably be a far more depressed and bothered individual. My life has seen a lot of ups and downs of late, but the ability to go out and see, smell, and feel the world in ways car drivers will never know, is still here.
I think it's funny when people ask me about the appeal of motorcycling. They think it's dangerous, and uncomfortable. But the fact is, if they can't understand the appeal, then nothing I can say will do anything to explain it to them.
I hope it never wears off. I love it. It's been good to me and my sense of well being for 20 years, and I hope I'll always be able to go out, in the open, and get in touch with the world, be one with it, dance with it. Yes it's dangerous, but the greatest things in life always carry a price. And for me, it's a price I will happily pay.
The shadows dance across me as I glide along, the green fingers of the flora reaching out over my head to lace together, embracing as long lost friends under an endless sea of azure, in turn brushed gently by white peaks, surrounding my world as grandstands, filled with warm, laughing spirits. The breeze fills my senses with hints of pine, the faint scents of a million perfumes meet me even as I see splashes of bright color amid the lush greens. A gray serpent uncoils before me, beckoning me onward, carrying me hither and yon among the dancing fairies stealing glimpses of me through the legs of the ancient giants. Great white dragons drift lazily above me, carried by the gentle currents of the open expanses.
I climb, on towards the warm smiling face that greets me and embraces me as I sail under it. Below me, I feel the skin of my conveyor through steel sinews, tautly drawn from my fingers to caress the passing cosmos. My ever trusty steed listens intently to my thoughts, conveys them to action precisely without hesitation, revels in the euphoria of my rollicking advance. The world swings gracefully about me as I bend from one side to the other in a single fluid movement. Like flying within the world, rather than above it, I am an ethereal transient of it; wholly part of it, yet only for one fleeting moment. There is nothing behind, and what will be is yet only theoretical. There is only now, and the world around me is within me as well. My physical being serves only to add perspective to the universe of warmth and color and joy that envelopes me and welcomes me. There is no room here for pain, or sorrow, and fear is but the faintest twinge of warning, reminding me that to misstep is to destroy this being. Time ceases to exist, only beauty and thought....
But not today. Today my steed sits quietly. Today is a cold touch of uncertainty. Today the seconds parade endlessly by. Today, I wait, and I dream.
These are a couple of blogs I originally posted on Myspace. I thought They really are a little more appropriate here.
--Sunday, April 22, 2007
The joy, the pleasure, the sadness...
I've been riding with some new people lately. Last weekend, Jake, Mo, Fabian, and myself went out for a nice jaunt. Everything went nicely until we hit the south wenas. I was leading, and made better time than anyone else, and, as is our rule, I stopped at the junction before changing routes. After a few minutes without seeing anyone else, however, I got worried and started heading back, hoping that the others had gotten lost, or found a different road. But soon enough, i came to a corner and found a bunch of people clustered by the side of the road, a bike on it's side in the ditch.
Long story short, Fabian went down when a car going the other direction encroached in his lane in a corner, forcing him into the ditch. He was unconscious, but breathing, warm, and had a good pulse. We left him as we found him until the ambulance arrived. He spent his weekend in the hospital. He cracked his hip, but not badly. His bike was beat up a bit, but still rideable. He'll be riding again soon.
The point is this: Those of us who choose to ride for the joy of riding, also must come to terms with the fact that we risk life and limb for the privelidge. No matter how good you get, how experienced, you can never fully take away the risk involved, never predict what's waiting for you around the next bend. Fabian kept saying, "I can't believe this happened to me," and, "It wasn't even my fault." I tried to tell him that you can't EVER believe that just because you don't ride stupid, you're immune from the unthinkable. When he went down, he was going less than 40mph, but he is still very lucky that he didn't become a statistic.
Motorcycling is one of the most liberating, pseudo-spiritual experiences available to mortal beings, but the potential cost is higher than many who engage in it realize. Fabian asked me, if it had been me bringing up the rear when that car crossed over, if I think I could have saved it. I told him maybe. Perhaps, with my experience and reflexes, I could have threaded the needle and kept it on the road. But then, maybe I would have stepped out and high-sided, or locked the front and washed out in front of the car. Bottom line is, Fabian wasn't the only lucky one last weekend. Every time we go out, all of us are lucky to make it home in one piece. That's why the mere act of riding is so life-affirming, and why, when we pass another cyclist on the road, we do that little wave. It's a mutual salute to a kindred spirit, a fellow warrior, braving the gauntlet the same as us.
--Saturday, May 05, 2007
People who are better than me
Went for a ride last monday. Met two guys in Packwood while I was eating lunch, One riding a BMW R110S, the other on a Moto Guzzi V11Sport. BS-ed awhile, then went our seperate ways.
I went West to Randle, then turned south towards Mt. St. Helens. NF-25 is a nasty, twisty, rough ribbon of poorly maintained pavement that takes you south around the vol to cougar. Being of the "slightly nuts" version, I loved cruising along in fourth gear, enjoying the view. Eventually, though, I reached a point where the road was basically impassable, and turned back down. After a few corners, I stumbled across the two guys I'd met in packwood, parked by the road and enjoying the view. I pulled up, chatted awhile, and then we all decided to head back down. Being the least experienced of us, I let them lead off, expecting a brisk but pleasant pace.
That thought went right out the window when the guy on the Bimmer pulled a snap-wheelie and tore away, the Guzzi in hot pursuit, and yours truly getting my hustle on to keep up. Long story short, the BMW rider left me for dead, and the Guzzi pilot had me pushing the limits of my comfort zone to keep up. I want to emphasize, however, that I never let the push to keep up take me outside my comfort zone. I lost sight of the Guzzi through a few blind switchbacks, unwilling to fully commit to an unfamiliar corner on a public road, but my bike's superior chassis, brakes, and stronger top-end let me rapidly eat up the distance on the turn entrances and exits.
When we reached Randle again, I thanked them for an awesome ride, and parted ways again. You see, riding with someone who pushes you just a little bit, helps you focus your mind and body, without drawing you to the point of scaring yourself, is a liberating, exhilirating experience. The trick is to recognize your own limits, and draw bakc before you get sucked in past the point of no return. That's what I try to teach the less experienced people I ride with, and that judgement ability, or lack thereof, is Why I'm so picky about who I ride with.
---Wednesday, April 30, 2008
When the road lies haphazardly over hill and dale,
Smooth and undulating as a maiden's hair-ribbon
Discarded hastily in throes of passion,
Then come we,
Humble goblins to dance and play.
Soaring through dips and bends,
As graceful acrobats prancing upon a wire.
Flesh and forgings blend
As mechanical contrivance melts away to become nerve and sinew.
Then, as one, we tickle the vary earth itself
Until her laughter joins with the howling of our steeds
In a raucous symphony of joy and fear.
And we are as spirits,
Freed of the sorrows of the flesh
Free to laugh and dance with the goddess forever.
Hope Y'all enjoy.