What is motorcycling? This is the million dollar question and there probably are as many answers to this as there are motorcyclists and mine is just one of them. Quite obviously any logical thinking person doesn’t need to use too much imagination or thought process to work out that motorcycling involves riding motorcycles.
I think it’s much more than simply riding.
Riding can be like mediation; no one describes this felling better than Robert M. Pirsing in his best-selling book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Even in a small or large pack of bikes, you’re still just one; there’s just you and your machine.
Your mind locks into survival mode, your senses heighten, the glands that create endorphins start exporting them, and adrenaline pumps and you enter a state of blissfulness akin to none other. Now try experiencing all that in your car while you’re on the highway.
The road, the bike, the wind and you; the purest moment in riding is the isolation. In its purest form, motorcycling is all about you, the road and your bike and that’s it. Everything else is just accessories or benefits.
After all, anyone can ride a motorcycle and they do all the time. We see them daily like the pizza delivery boys making their way through traffic at all times of the day or night. So do the cops or postal delivery riders. But are they really motorcyclists? Not in my opinion they are not.
Now let me make it clear at this point I hate titles and pigeonholing anyone and I love anything that has two wheels. I’m not one of the holier than thou righteous bros spilling out “Harley Only ” doctrines. In my opinion it doesn’t matter what is the country of origin of your motorcycle or how much horsepower it packs.
But I do have to get out my ruler of “the motorcycling book of definitions” and to respectfully refer to those who use motorcycles like the pizza delivery boys and others as just “motorcycle users” or “ users of motorcycles”. Unfortunately they are not what I’d refer to or call motorcyclists or bikers, unless of course they actually own and ride bikes outside of work hours. As they probably don’t read this magazine, I’m not expecting any hate mail or death threats just yet from them either.
Let’s consider why and where I’ve formed this view. It is an observation as to where motorcycles and their riders evolved. Horses were used for numerous things since man first threw his leg over them many moons ago. From Native Americans to the marauding Mongols in Asia back to the cavalry of the Roman hordes. But not all those who rode horses used them for warfare and certainly not at the time motorcycles were invented.
Cowboys lived on their horses, others choose to race them for social activities and even the bad guys had them for a fast get away. Motorcycles are iron horses, which formed a natural evolution from the men who rode horses as a means of their daily transport to motorcycles.
So when the first two wheeled steeds came across the prairies it wasn’t mums and dads that were riding them to drop the kids at school or to go shopping. Like today they used carriages; but horse drawn ones.
Here in lie the differences between those who ride horses and those who used them. No different than today with those who ride motorcycles and those who use them.
Then who were the men who rode horses at the time of the invention of motorcycles? From the beginning those who owned horses were men of means, they had statue and substance, they were a certain calibre of man, individuals of fierce independence. Those men who rode motorcycles back then had that same connection to those who lived with and rode their horses’ daily. This connection then spawned the brotherhood of motorcycling.
Those same men became the grandfathers of what is now a global nation of bikers and the connection or oneness between man and horse became the same bond between man and machine and this is one of the things that defines being a biker or motorcyclist.
They didn’t use their motorcycles during business hours then drive home in their car. They didn’t drive their car to the gym or the football or to visit the in-laws on the weekend. They lived on their bikes and not just on every second sunny Saturday afternoon. A motorcycle wasn’t some fashion accessory nor was being a motorcyclist a phase they went through and then grew out of. Motorcycles weren’t just a means of transport; it was a way of life. It was something that burned deep inside them, like a hunger that can’t be satisfied. Something you just can’t get enough of and so it should be today.
Motorcycling crosses many boundaries of age groups, economic differences, genders, races and cultures. It also teaches you many fine attributes from survival skills to mechanics, camaraderie to oneness, social skills and respect. Taking you out of your comfort zone to places you never dreamed of. Getting in touch with your surroundings and the elements regardless of what they may be. From the severe heat of the desert to the bitter cold of mountain top. There is sadness and joy. But of all the things motorcycling gives, gets and takes; the greatest thing of all is it gets you in touch with yourself.