This I Believe

Susan - Phoenix, Arizona
Entered on July 6, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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This I Believe

I believe the sport of motorcycling is misunderstood and maligned by an unfortunate majority. I would also like to believe that as an unqualified apologist for this great past-time, I can change a few minds with this essay.

I have been riding motorcycles for more than five years now. Like most riders, novice or advanced, I have heard unwanted dire warnings from friends, family, co-workers, and total strangers.

My father used to warn that motorcycles were “flying coffins.” Most people use the trite saying, “There are two types of motorcycles, those that have gone down and those that will.” Some have questioned whether I love my family, stating my obvious death wish must override every speck of familial love and common sense I possess. Just as people who don’t ride can’t see why I don’t appreciate the dangers, as a motorcyclist I see non-riders as an ignorant, vast group who would join me on the road if they only knew.

Like long-distance runners and mountain climbers, I have had moments of great clarity about my life while I’m scissoring, swooping and sweeping around curvy roads that cut through our amazing landscapes. It has something to do with escaping my rut, getting out and seeing America as few do, anymore. Schedules, fax machines, voice mail…they disappear for those on a bike, riding a twisty, scenic road near Panguitch, Utah or Alpine, California.

It’s difficult to worry about the mundane when you are planning a ride from Placerville, California to Phoenix, Arizona…I did this once and went from the cold spot in the nation (Truckee) to the hot spot (Death Valley). I started the day with a heated vest, and a scant few hours later I was roasting in Bishop, California.

That’s what I love about motorcycling: it challenges me to stay safe in a world of distracted drivers; I must anticipate every need when packing for a trip, but keep it simple due to limited cargo space; I need to zealously maintain my bike to avoid breakdowns.

Have you ever noticed most motorcyclists aren’t in a hurry? OK, ignore the young, helmetless 20-something crotch rocket rider who just zipped ahead of you in traffic. But for the most part, motorcyclists want to ride with traffic (for their safety) or slower than traffic, enjoying the sights, smells and sounds of the world around them. Trust me, this is not something that is experienced the same way in a car.

When I was growing up, one bike maker told a great truth with a wonderful advertising slogan: “You meet the greatest people on a Honda.” When I ride, especially solo, all kinds of people talk to me at gas stations and rest stops. Sometimes I hear about bikes they had, or ones they dream of having. Kids wave to me from cars. Other women congratulate me for doing something they perceive as male oriented. While I enjoy this momentary connection to people, many others ride to be alone, and bikes help achieve this, too.

If you have ever thought about riding, take a step! Go to a beginning rider’s course. I dare you! I’d like to meet you on the road someday.

In the words of John Lennon, “I hope someday you join us.”