RoadRUNNER Zen Motorcyclist


Apr 21, 2013 View Comments by

CharacterI recently watched a 2011 Oscar winning documentary called Undefeated which is about the Manassas Tigers high school football team from Memphis, TN. and their coach Bill Courtney who struggles to teach his players something they can carry with them into life long after football is over. There’s a scene in which coach Courtney says: “You think football builds character, it does not. Football reveals character”. In fairness I believe coach Courtney was paraphrasing long time NFL coach Marv Levy; but the quote and the way it was delivered struck me because I think the same can be said of motorcycling.

Personally, for me, what has been revealed is that I’m contemplative, not really a thrill seeker, although some would argue that riding itself is the definition of thrill seeking; but I disagree. Anyone who rides knows that there are many ways to ride: aggressively, recklessly, conservatively, cautiously, etc. I’ll admit there’s a certain thrill in cracking the throttle and imagining myself going toe to toe with Rossi, Pedrosa, and Lorenzo on a MotoGP circuit (even as I mosey along at 65 mph on my commute); but most of my rides are sort of sedate. I keep up with traffic and I am aggressive when conditions either require or permit it; but I’m no speed demon.

I just love the solitude, both when I’m riding alone and the singular alone time I get to share with Cori when we ride two-up and it’s just our voices in each other’s helmets and the warm, close press of her behind me.  It is said that 90-percent of communication is non-verbal and on a motorcycle that’s certainly true. You can say an awful lot without ever speaking. Shared beauty is intensified, it’ll always be so.

Whether riding solo or two-up you have time away that can’t be interfered with. You can ride all day and night; the moment is yours and only yours. For me, one of the major draws is that I am inaccessible in a time when most everyone is always accessible. Motorcycling is an analog activity in a digital world. People ride for a wide variety of reasons, but I think it all comes down to the simple desire to express your true character in a place that can’t be touched, tainted or interrupted.

As it turns out I’m also capable of a lot more than I’ve ever given myself credit for; which motorcycling has definitely helped me to discover. I’ve made just about every mechanical screw up you can make when working on my bikes; but each was a learning aid and as time has passed they’ve become fewer and farther between. The desire for self sufficiency creates a confidence which spills over to other areas as well, it can’t be helped. Before you realize it, your character is revealed as you let go of the grip that indecision and fear had previously held over you. Author Spencer Johnson said “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?“. It’s a good question to consider because fear is, more often than not, the only thing stopping us. Thanks in large part to my desire to learn to ride I can say there are still things I fear; but that fear has lost its power to affect my actions.

Riding can teach you a lot about yourself, expand your horizons, and inspire confidence. Like most anything you put your soul into it transforms you or, maybe more accurately, helps you to transform yourself. The longer you do it, the more you learn, the more confident you become, and the more of your character is revealed. Ride safe friends.

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About the author

I have been motorcycle commuting since 1998. I created Zen Motorcyclist (formerly Commuting Motorcyclist) in 2011 and work as a motojournalist, software developer, CAD designer and IT/CAD manager in the Surveying and Civil Engineering field.