What’s more exciting? Watching a movie or being in the movie? Those were the words Publisher & Editor-in-Chief Christa Neuhauser at RoadRUNNER magazine used when I asked for her thoughts on why motorcycling was such a big deal. And what a perfect sentiment. While watching something may be fun, it can’t top the actual experience—unless we’re talking about getting sawed in half by a maniac with a chainsaw or being eaten alive by zombies, of course. Then I think most of us would agree watching that movie would be preferable.
Christa is not alone in her assessment of motorcycling. In fact, I asked some of our regular contributors the same thing and many voiced a similar notion. James T. Parks stated it like this: “Traveling by motorcycle, exposed to all the elements, and the stimulation of all five senses, puts a rider more into their environment than just watching the “movie” behind the windshield of a climate-controlled vehicle. Touring via motorcycling combines several desirable experiences into one.”
It’s no surprise then, that you’re hard pressed to venture out even a short distance without seeing at least one or two motorcycles or scooters on the road. Many more on warm, beautiful days. To put this into perspective, motorcycles traverse over 1.5 billion miles a year—that’s a lot of miles! And as I’m sure you can attest, these are miles with lots of smiles.
Photojournalist John M. Flores put it this way: “I’m comically inept at skateboarding, ice skating, and rollerblading/skating … basically any activity that raises my feet 2 to 4 inches above the terra firma. But on two wheels I am Baryshnikov, or at least I feel that way. There is something about leaning into a turn that triggers the happiness synapses and stretches my face into a smile.”
Another common theme is the Zen-like state that arises when riding a motorcycle. Our Zen Motorcyclist Bud Miller describes it as a form of mediation. “When I’m on the bike I’m calm, reflective—in the ‘zone’. It’s then that I think of my father, my daughter, about life. It’s a paradox but being so attentive to all that riding requires somehow allows my mind to center and I think of things that I normally don’t throughout busy days.”
The sense of freedom you get while riding a motorcycle is another common factor that pops up among riders. RoadRUNNER’s Managing Editor Florian Neuhauser cited freedom as his strongest allure to the sport but expanded upon the idea by including the feeling of being 100 percent in control. The feeling you get when you’re one with the bike, so to speak.
Photojournalist and adventure riding instructor Bill Dragoo offers another interesting perspective on why motorcycling is such a big deal: “I believe we humans have an innate urge to challenge ourselves physically and to learn. Motorcycling is one of the more accessible avenues to do that and it serves the practical purpose of doubling as transportation.”
Perhaps the challenge is also one of the things that frighten some people away from motorcycling—having to learn something new, as well as the physical aspects of the sport. This is most likely due to not understanding how motorcycling works in general. However, the biggest deterrence is most likely the perceived risks. Most every rider is accustomed to being bombarded by statements about how dangerous riding a motorcycle is by people that don’t ride.
But as Bud Miller points out, “Riding is a skill. Once the skills are acquired the dangers are dramatically reduced. Life is dangerous, it kills us all, we should do what brings us joy.”
And how would you know if motorcycling brings you joy or not if you’ve never tried it? If you’re just not interested, that’s one thing, but don’t let fear stop you from trying something new. After all, you’re just as likely, if not more so, to be killed in a car crash, which is something I’ll be covering in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.
Continuing with the risk and danger aspect, Bill Dragoo brought up another interesting perspective. “For me, my mother knew motorcycling could be dangerous but there were also worse things a growing boy could get into. In fact, while I was busy working late to prepare my Yamaha AT1 MX for the next day’s race, my girlfriend by my side handing me wrenches or hanging out at the practice course, some of my buddies were dodging the police or otherwise engaged in troublesome activities. Perhaps the education earned in the saddle not only guided much of the course my life has taken but it could have kept me out of jail in those younger years.”
So, while there are risks to motorcycling, as with many other activities most of us do on a consistent, if not daily, basis, the sport can be an outlet that keeps you occupied in a healthy and positive way. And since riders are so keenly aware of their surroundings and what is happening on the road, one could argue that motorcyclists are actually safer than those who drive other vehicles. A car or larger vehicle can provide a false sense of security, and as I wrote about in a previous post, is more likely to be involved in road rage incidents.
While there are certainly other reasons why motorcycling is such a big deal, the last point that’s brought up consistently is the social aspects of riding. Whether it’s on a group ride or meeting other riders while on trips or at rallies, such as our annual Touring Weekend event, motorcycling is a great way to meet like-minded individuals and develop new friendships.