RoadRUNNER Zen Motorcyclist

Zen Motorcyclist: To Each His Own

Mar 15, 2016 View Comments by

“In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day—or to celebrate each special day.”
—Rasheed Ogunlaru

I’ll admit I was at a bit of a loss regarding this column. I had the “bones” (as I like to refer to the overall theme), but the structure was lost on me. Then, I visited my dentist, and by the time I left his office, I had the rest of the column in place in my mind. Today, for once, I was happy to have visited him.

Zen Motorcyclist

Sitting in the chair, our usual banter somehow turned to base jumping and paragliding while skiing. My dentist recalled a documentary about an athlete who had lost several friends to these same endeavors. Moments later, I’m shot up with Novocaine, and the ridiculous (and uncomfortable) plastic prop is placed in my mouth. It was then that my dentist and his assistant made the not so obvious, yet all so predictable, leap to discussing the danger of motorcycles. As if on cue, the obligatory statement comes out about how we have responsibilities to our loved ones to give up such dangerous pursuits. I couldn’t respond. And it irritated me how easily non-riders lump our two-wheeled activities into the category of “dangerous pursuits.”

In an age when we are constantly measured against others, the ride for me is a place to measure myself against that thin red line that only exists in my mind. Only I know how well I rode that last curve, how much more speed I might have been comfortable with, how much more lean angle I could have attempted. It’s a lie that it can’t be done safely, that it’s inherently dangerous. It’s a lie that it’s a selfish pursuit. It’s a lie being told by people who don’t have a real sense of what riding gives back to the rider. These same individuals can’t seem to understand that such a hobby can give a rider his own life purpose, strength, and meaning.

It’s not that I want to invite tragedy, but I do sometimes want to be responsible for my own safety—have my skill, smarts, and gut carry me through and out the other side. There are no points to be scored or ground to gain other than the satisfaction that I didn’t turn around and go the other way—that I saw it through. The experience means something when you come back from it, applying the lessons learned on that ride to everyday life.

Zen Motorcyclist: When My Ship Comes In

I’ll ride home this weekend to see my family. I’ll ride over the blue mountains up steep dirt roads with no guard rails. I’ll walk the line I have in my mind that tells me what adventure I’ll settle for and how much I’m willing to risk. I’ll make the rules as I seldom get to do in life. Ultimately, I want to see my family and make it home to my beloved dog, Spud, who I know is standing on his hind legs looking out the window, waiting and expecting my safe arrival. But I also want to live a little more—a little more on whatever edge will give me satisfaction. Sometimes it’s simple acceleration, other times it’s carrying more speed than I otherwise would through a corner. It’s that thin line between too much and not quite enough—and only I know the difference.

Hafiz said, “Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.” I believe that, whether it is a person, an activity, a place, or a motorcycle. If you come back from it being better, more fulfilled, a better person with a better outlook, then it’s worth experiencing. Doing so gives you a little bit each day, each week, or even each weekend to define yourself on your own terms, to decide what benchmarks matter, and to say to yourself, This is what I’m about, for this ride on this day, for the next few minutes, hours, or days I’ll define myself.

We each get this one go-round at life (as far as we know), and mine is better and feels more lived when I find that comfort zone and peek, if only for a second, at what lies on the other side. I don’t need to go there; I just need to know that the choice not to was entirely mine. On every beautiful day, there are those who enjoy staring at it through a window. That is their choice. Others want to get in a car and drive through it. That is their choice. But if we choose to join it, get immersed in it, feel it, and be a part of it on a few small square inches of rubber—that, my friends, is our choice.


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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.