As recently as a year ago, had you asked if I was interested in motorcycles, I would have replied something along the lines of "No, not particularly". I did not dislike them, but did not have particular interest either. Motorcycling just did not find a spot in the realm of my daily activity. Neither when I thought of sports - there was soccer, tennis, boxing, yoga, calisthenics and more, nor when I thought about commuting - there was train, bus, taxi, and bicycle that came to mind. I just did not care enough to have an opinion. Fast forward a few months and I relish the wind against my face when I grip the throttle of my mechanical monster and feel its vibrations reverberate to my core. How it did happen, I do wonder myself.
I am an avid lover of riding bicycles. With my headphones tugged in and in my zone, I occasionally encounter what can only be described as resonance - when the rhythm of paddling and resulting body sway are in sync with the beat of the music. My head, the body part bearing the least of the burden of cycling, or at least that most capable of moving freely without impairing control of the vehicle, often unconsciously bobbing with great relish of the experience. The complement of a beautiful sunset, serene grass fields or the smell of flowers and forests, makes for a perfect cycling experience.
However, I digress. With no intent to minimize the unique pleasure of cycling, motorcycling induces an ensemble of sensations that are a superset of those from cycling. The sensations from the combination of acceleration, dominion, the elements, risk, lean, transition, the invisible lane, solidarity and connection make for a unique experience.
Acceleration in automobiles typically elicits excitement, often reinforced by a feeling of security and safety when within the confounds of a car, aircraft or such vehicles that enclose their occupants. On a motorcycle, it evokes supplementary excitation. Possibly from the risk of being thrown off backward as the vehicle jerks forward to serve the requirements of torque you just ordered or from the engine's accompanying rumble.
The feeling of dominion from the enormous powers of determination and maneuverability the motorcycle offers to its rider to utilize as they please. In response, the machine hisses, vibrates, revs, jerks and outputs a myriad of mechanical sounds and movements in direct and instantaneous response to the instructions it receives. Its way of communicating back to its handler in its own language. An unspoken language unique to every rider and their motorbike. A language comprised of sounds and motion, whose vocabulary the rider gets to understand in more depth and detail and with more precision and specificity as to what the machine is saying in every moment, only in due time.
The sensations from the elements - the wind in your face, sometimes dry, other times misty; the changing smells, sometimes foul, other times exquisite; the varying road composition - texture, inclination, slipperiness - all of which are transferred in real time and very raw to you, the rider, pilot, commander of this animal - are unique to motorcycling.
The constant awareness of risk which, perhaps counterintuitively, enhances the satisfaction obtained is also never lost. At least not to the cautious rider. Through this feeling, the machine commands - and for any sensible rider, gets - its due reverence. Reverence which must either be paid, or a bigger price paid. The machine will do what you instruct it to and respond with instant feedback, even when your commands are potentially catastrophic. Hence the non-spoken agreement, if not plea to the mass of potentially destructive metal, before and while mounting it, to be nice to you. To endeavor as much as possible, despite its inherent garbage in garbage out nature, to, to the greatest extent possible, keep you unharmed.
The lean. Heading into a corner, you slow down and methodically tip the vehicle over its side. Then balancing off one side of the vehicle and focusing of the exit of the corner, roll open the throttle as it smoothly tips you right back up to a vertical position in an extremely satisfying motion .
The transition in tunnels. The sky, sun and surrounding nature briskly give way to a man-made realm with evenly spaced lights, ambient colours, an altered field of view and muffled sounds that echo all around. A very welcome transition to a new pleasant sub-escapade.
The unmentioned, designated yet invisible lane. Just like the lined-up four-wheelers, you would rather get to your destination sooner than later. Or just want to get past the truck transporting a scary load. Or sometimes - almost every time - to get to the front of the vehicle queue, just because you can. The thought sets in and at once, the gap between the cars beckons you to take advantage of it. And when you do respond to its call to lane-split, rewards you with an unspoken feeling of time-efficiency.
The solidarity, summed up in a wave to or received from complete strangers on their own very separate riding journey. People whom you may never meet again yet are united in spirit by the bond that is your shared passion for motorcycling. A bond that is consummated in the moment, with the wave.
The numerous levels of connection with the motorcycle, primarily physical, as each of the rider's major limbs connect to the machine and contribute to its output via decisive contact points. Palms connect to the handle bar, right to the throttle, left to the grip. Fingers, right to the brake, left to the clutch. Feet, right to the rear brake, left, the gear lever. Knees, both gripping the tank. Heels to the pegs; butt to the saddle. Each of these contact points with its distinctive role, offering a unique connection to the vehicle. Each one supporting the other in cohesion that culminates in coherent, seamless and coordinated communication with the machine to evoke its enormous flexibility and maneuverability and determine with millimeter precision its trajectory .
Beyond the physical connection, a psychological connection is also almost certainly established. More on a motorcycle than other automobiles, a relationship between the rider, handler of the mechanical monster, and the submissive beast. A relationship more akin to one with an animal - a pet - than with a machine; a pet that would rip your entire arm off without second thought in a second, if your inputs warranted such an outcome.
I had never before got so animated as to utter words out loud, to a non-living thing. My delight or frustration with machines was always conveyed internally. However, when this ensemble of overwhelming sensations rush over me while riding, I let out a loud scream of "Ohhh, yasss!" or "Woah!" or "Beautiful!". And many times, after a long therapeutic ride, pat the tank as you would a good friend's shoulder to say "Job well done mate".