Sunday, January 30, 2011

Two-Wheeled Narcotics

I ride a motorcycle. It's the best thing ever.

To be more specific I'm a motorcyclist, which to me is much different than simply owning a motorcycle. Anyone who owns a motorcycle will happily ride during near-perfect riding conditions; middle of the day, 77 degrees, no traffic, and not a cloud in the sky. But in addition to this, a motorcyclist will ride at any other opportunity s/he finds, no matter the conditions. I've ridden during the middle of the night, through pouring rain, to work and back, to run errands around town, and even down to temperatures of 40 degrees. The only reason I'm not riding my bike now is because I don't own motorcycle gear that can protect me from the relative frigidity of a Philadelphia winter. (However, that type of gear does exist, and I will own some in the near future.)

Many motorcyclists have tried to describe the appeal of riding. Some romanticize about the sense of isolation and time for self reflection motorcycling offers. Others will celebrate the camaraderie and community that accompanies motorcycle ownership. And yes, both of these concepts are very appealing. But more than these, motorcycling allows me to be as fully engaged with the world and my surrounding as I can possibly imagine.

Consider this. A motorcycle is practically a chair on which someone has bolted an internal combustion engine (so it's highly flammable), two wheels (so it has half the grip of an automobile), and handlebars (so the rider has to physically hold on). And depending which chair-on-wheels the rider may own, s/he is capable of traveling at speeds upwards of 180 mph. So even at more legal velocities, the performance of a motorcycle can quickly become overwhelming. Oh, and let's add a few 2-ton blocks of steel moving at similar speeds in close proximity to this high-powered chair, just for good measure (many of them driven by people texting their BFFs while looking for their credit card to purchase their vacation tickets to Bermuda). As you can see, the attention that is required to safely operate a motorcycle on the street is paramount and requires active and unconditional commitment.

This is what I absolutely love about motorcycling. It's one of the few things in life one can do that doesn't allow "phoning it in." If only we injected this type of engagement into other events/actions/relationships in our lives...

Let me be clear. There are many challenges in the motorcycling community, and most are reflective of similar challenges in the greater society. In future posts, I will most likely take time to highlight some of these issues in hopes of inspiring discussion.

Nevertheless, motorcycling will be a part of my life until the end. It has become part my identity; as much as where I grew up and or who I consider my friends. I feel if things had been different, I would have wanted to be the first black racer in MotoGP instead of a theatre artist. But for me, it was a matter of economics. I'll save that for another day.

For now, here's a video of one of my favorite styles of motorcycle racing, flat track. I hope to build my own flat tracker in the next couple of years and start learning how to ride this way. I really want to try this!

For more info on flat track racing, look here. See you tomorrow!


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