One of my earliest memories is standing up in my Dad's scooter, just in front of the seat, on the way to school. Another memory is of an American television series, Street Hawk, which was aired in Doordarshan during those days. The show was about a cop Jessie Mach and a super bike (a government secret project). The tag line used to be, The Man, The Machine…Street Hawk. I would watch mesmerized as the amazing bike performed incredible feats under the helm of its owner. May be it was those formative years, but I love motorcycles. I have always found long rides helpful in clearing my mind and uplifting my mood. Faster, faster and faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death. It has become a lifestyle, a recreation and a way of life.
Even when I was in the States, I opted for a motorcycle. In late fall, sometimes the temperature drops very low. Someone has sagely said, there is cold, and then there is cold on a motorcycle. On a motorcycle, one is acutely aware of the cold. It's like being beaten with cold crowbars while being kicked with cold boots, a bone breaking cold. The wind sucks away all the heat out of the body. Caught in a cold November rain, the drops feel like hundreds of razors cutting my face. I always expect to arrive home with my cheeks and forehead streaked with blood. But that's just an illusion, just the misery of nerves not designed for highway speeds. Still, it's hard to give up my motorcycle in the winter and I will rush to get it on the road again in the spring. Such lapses from sanity are common among motorcyclists. Once you let a motorcycle into your life, you are changed forever.
In States, a few people asked me why I ride a motorcycle and others were curious but too shy to ask. I guess if you ask 10 riders why they bike, you will get 10 different answers. You still won't understand why they bike, until you do. So why do I bike? Lets face it, it's a lot more riskier riding a motorcycle. A motorcycle is more exposed to the elements, less protection from flying debris or even worse other riders and drivers. You have to really try to get a car to tip over, scratching the paint and shattering the side mirrors, something that is a constant danger to a motorcycle.
For most of us who ride, we know this is not the case. Whether it be the wind in your face, the sparkle of polished metal or the pull when you open up the throttle, we all get something profound from riding. It is a romantic notion to straddle fire and steel and forge a path across countryside and cityscapes. A motorcycle is not just a two-wheeled vehicle, the difference between driving a car and riding a motorcycle is the difference between watching TV and actually living your life. Cars are like sealed boxes that transport people from place A to place B, the whole time entombed in stale air, sound insulated, temperature regulated, and smelling of carpets. On a motorcycle, I am alive. The air has substance and weight as I push through it. I can feel the coolness under trees and the warm fingers of sunlight that fall through them. I can see everything up, down and around, a sweeping 360 degrees.
Motorcycles and freedom are synonymous. In films like Easy Rider and The Motorcycle Diaries, they are not just two wheels taking the characters from one place to another, but vehicles propelling them on a journey of self discovery. Another reason which make them an attractive option for travelers. Travel, like riding a motorcycle, takes balance. Balance requires paying attention, seeing the good and the bad. Experiencing both, the beauty and, sometimes, feeling the terror. Keeping balance means not leaning too far one way or the other. Most of all, with both travel or motorcycle riding, to keep your balance, you must keep moving. The ride becomes part of the journey instead of just a way to get to the next place on the map.
A motorcycle summer is priceless. The motorcycle is transformed into a joy machine, a vehicle that transports you to a world of wonders. It's light and dark and shiny, mesmerizing you with its beauty and grace. Cars lie to us and tell us we are safe, powerful, and in control; the air-conditioning fans murmuring empty assurances. Motorcycles are more honest, and often closer to the bitter truth. They tell us we are small and exposed, and probably moving too fast for our own good, but that's no reason not to enjoy every minute of the ride. There’s nothing quite like riding down a deserted road with the wind in your hair. Riding satisfies the three aspects of my life, the spiritual, the mental, and the physical. That is why I bike.
The American journalist and author Hunter Stockton Thompson says it all.
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "Wow! What a Ride!!"