The Utterly Baffling Biker

We’re minutes away from collapsing from heat exhaustion on our rally ride the other week when I start to hear voices.  We’re riding through Elora on our way to Fergus and a flock of cruisers have just pulled out in front of us.  The large man on a Harley ahead of me creates concussive sound waves that knock birds out of the sky whenever he cracks the throttle, which he has to keep doing because his Milwaukee iron doesn’t idle very well.


Between hundred and forty decibel POTATO POTATO, a voice, as clear as a bell was talking directly into my ear. It was telling me about carpets, I should buy them, but they’re all out of off white Persian.

From this far back you can’t hear yourself think.
I wonder if he’s in his happy place.  I’m not.

Am I losing my mind? It took me several moments to realize that the three hundred pounder in beanie helmet, t-shirt and shorts on his baaiiiike in front of me had the radio so loud it was like I was in the front row of a concert, if it was a concert about carpet advertising.  That we were at the end of a marathon ride and I was exhausted didn’t put me in the greatest of moods, but genuinely, other than making me think I’d lost my mind, what was the point of this man?


Mushin: literally means no mind,
but he’s doing it wrong.

I’ve had Lee Park’s Total Control on Kindle for a while.  I got lost in Park’s OCD maze of suspension minutia, but the latest chapters are much more accessible and are about your mindset when riding.  Lee describes the perfect motorcyclist in Zen terms: completely in the moment, aware of everything with no specific focus drawing attention away from that whole.  You should be using all of your senses to do this.  He’s quite serious about how you should approach the zone of peak performance while riding (and make no mistake, you should treat riding like a competitive sport – one you don’t want to lose).  None of it involves pipes so loud they cause small children to cry, a radio turned up so loud someone a hundred yards back can hear it clearly or wearing a beanie helmet and next to no clothes.


There is much I really dig about motorcycle culture, but it all has to do with excellence.  Watching a thirty-eight year old, six foot tall Valentino Rossi win a race again at the pinnacle of motorcycle racing last weekend was an example.  Watching Dakar riders survive the marathon they run (if marathons were run over two weeks) is another.  Watching a skilled road rider showing how it’s done on a high mileage bike with a kind of effortless ease, that’s impressive.  I’ve got a lot of words for what I saw last Sunday, but impressive isn’t one of them.


At one point I’d closed up on him while he was adjusting his radio.  I revved the bike to let him know I was there and he practically jumped out of his skin.  As far as awareness and respect for the act of riding goes, I’m just not seeing it.


They puttered down the road ahead of us when we pulled over in Fergus.  A steady stream of traffic followed them down the road at their leisurely but loud pace.

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