Zen Motorcyclist: Joy Made Double

Zen Motorcyclist: Joy Made Double

I recently met a young man named Matthew at my garage who came to rent my Bonneville T100 for the day. He said he had grown up in my area and now lived out of state but wanted a bike to ride for the day with his old riding buddy. We got together through a new company called Twisted Road that matches owners and riders. I never thought I’d be comfortable with loaning out a bike of mine to a stranger, but lately I’ve found myself encouraging my inner optimist to win out over my inner pessimist.

I’ve been customizing Bonnie for nearly a year, so handing a stranger the key was a somewhat foreign feeling and a decision I wrestled with. I don’t let just anyone ride my bikes, and in the past I’ve rarely accepted offers to ride those of others; but I did my due diligence and decided to give it a try. As I walked Matthew around the bike, explaining everything I thought he needed to know, I realized just how much I loved this particular bike, a fact I vocalized to my new friend with an earnest wink and smile.

Once he departed for his ride (and before household projects had a chance to ruin an ideal riding day) I mounted up and took off on my Street Triple. I was intent on visiting my mother, Mary, who is now fighting her fourth onset of cancer.

I left early and had a few hours to wander. As it happened, I found myself riding behind my own motorcycle for a few miles. I didn’t realize it at first. I just found myself, as I usually do when following another rider, trying to see what kind of bike it was and listening for the exhaust note. Bonnie is unrecognizable compared to when I bought her, and she sounded loud and angry thanks to the British Customs pipes. Sweet ride, I thought, before realizing she was mine. I passed Matthew with a wave, knowing he was having as much fun as I have every time I take Bonnie out on the road.

I had similar feelings about renting out my bikes as I did about renting a room in my home through Airbnb; but despite my hesitancy, it’s led to some great interactions. Our trepidations are usually far worse than reality turns out to be. I’ve had doctors, musicians, and therapists stay with me, and I always find it interesting to talk to new people with different perspectives, all of whom have all been respectful and courteous. I expected nothing less from fellow motorcyclists, and Twisted Road seems to have covered all the bases.

Letting a stranger take a bike I’d made my own over countless hours in the garage also represents an attempt on my part to be less attached to things, even things I love. My mother, as I mentioned, is struggling with her fourth cancer and is in constant pain as she awaits treatment. As I rode toward the mountains to see her on a perfect riding day, I found it easy to let go of any concerns about the fate of my borrowed bike. Compared with her current misery, my fears are laughably minor.

The older I get, the easier certain concerns melt away. I’m becoming more and more comfortable with agreeing to ride my friends’ bikes and allowing others to ride mine. I take keys when I’m offered them now and have let friends know that my spare is always available to borrow.

Later that day while Dawn and I sat outside Lost Tavern, Matthew texted to say he was on his way. He returned Bonnie without a scratch, with a full tank of gas, and a familiar smile on his face (one I’ve worn often), having spent the day on my one-of-a-kind touring through the Poconos with his old riding partner. He and Dawn had a brief talk about philosophy and Eastern religions, she handed him a “namaste” sticker to match the one on Bonnie’s side panels, and he was off.

You can fool yourself into thinking there’s plenty of time and that holding on to things is a way of making them last, but that’s a mistake, one Mom points out often. I appreciate the fact that someone else got to enjoy my handiwork for a day and that we made a new connection.

So, if you find yourself visiting Pennsylvania between Philly and the Pocono Mountains without a bike to ride, look me up. I have two custom Triumphs and can ride only one at a time. What sadder sight is there than a motorcycle inside a garage on a warm spring day? As the proverb goes, a joy that’s shared is a joy made double.

In Zen we don’t find the answers. We lose the questions. —Zen saying