Firstly, I’d like to thank Tony Carter for inviting me to contribute to this blog, giving me the opportunity to communicate my thoughts about motorcycling from both a general view and also a specific nature when discussing how we can become better riders.
For my first contribution, I thought it’d be appropriate to start with an obvious question: why do we ride?
Immediate responses straight from the grey matter may include: convenience, economy, freedom, solitude, and fun. All valid and perfectly good reasons to ride. Thinking a little more deeply about it you may mention the adrenaline rush and euphoria of taking part in what I consider to be a sophisticated and energetic chess game, except with bigger and more exciting pieces than the inanimate (therefore benign) pawns, knights, kings and queens.
I would like to quote from my book, Motorcycling: The Ultimate Therapy (to be published early 2018) where I describe my personal feelings about riding:
‘I calculate I have travelled in excess of 250,000 miles since passing my test: a combination of commuting, training and touring. For me, motorcycling is exhilarating and totally absorbing, both physically and emotionally. Every piece of my body is used from head to toe and my brain is switched on like a high powered light bulb. It also engages the senses of sight, smell and hearing. The brain is never on idle whilst riding, but the really clever thing is it cuts the connection to any negative voices in your head; it treats them like a naughty child and ignores them until they calm down and start behaving again. The mind has other more pressing matters to deal with when riding: it requires your full attention.
And this is the point. I am completely engrossed in the technical part of riding; being in the correct gear; ensuring my bike is in the best position on the road, making adjustments when required; travelling at an appropriate speed for all weather, road and traffic conditions, the combination of which would test a chess grand-master. I am continually assessing, scanning 360 degrees around me; planning, looking as far as the sky line to look for and anticipate potential hazards which can either be fixed or moving. Your thoughts are concentrated on making progress; your mind does not have room to consider other information with no direct bearing on your riding or safety. In effect, you find yourself truly living in the moment.’
I am sure the above – to a lesser or greater degree – resonates with your own riding experience, encapsulating your first thoughts on why we ride. What may not be immediately apparent are the longer term benefits that slowly seep and morph into your psyche (a main point of the book). Confidence, self-belief and by default, self-esteem, grow exponentially after achieving our treasured category A motorcycle licences, and continue to develop during our riding career and, further, as I explain in the book, start to effect the way we act and behave in our personal lives (work and home). I will make further references to riding benefiting our lives in later posts.
For now, I’d like to focus on my reference to negative thoughts that seem to disappear into the wind whilst we’re riding. I’m sure many of you, after a ride out or commute, feel refreshed and experience a soporific mood. I write in the book that motorcycling is a pass out from the issues and stresses of daily life; whether for an hour or an all-day ride, you are protected from any human or digital interruption: in other words, being unplugged and off the grid. Further, any problems you set out with always seem to have shrunk into insignificance (and put in their place) by the time you return home. I can’t think of any other activity that has the same impact.
It’s been suggested (flippantly) I could always use a de-stress ball, but given the choice between one of those and my Ducati Diavel, the bike is always going to be my first choice, strangely … besides the fact if I owned up to getting relief from squeezing a squidgy ball, it may well be misconstrued.
Until next time.