My 6-year-old son Ian yesterday asked if we could take a ride on our 1954 Velocette MSS 500 when we got home after school, work, and all the rest of normal life. It is of course impossible to say no to such a request, even if it means a slightly late bedtime or that I don’t do the dishes until 9:30 that night.
On the ride, via our Bluetooth-equipped helmets, Ian said, “What’s great about riding a motorcycle is that you can see everywhere, because you’re in the outside air.”
The purity of the observation was magnificent. In this moment, the enormity of what we feel about motorcycle riding, but don’t always consciously observe, washed over me: Motorcycling has improved everything, making life happier, freer, more active, more engaging, more fun and focused, electrifying my presence on earth while calming my spirit. I feel good because of riding motorcycles.
All I’ve ever wanted to do is share that with people. Riding is not for everyone, and it never has been. For some of us, we never feel more ourselves than when in balance on two wheels. Even when it becomes routine, the activity is full of unseen nutrients that nourish us from the center of our being. When I am forced not to ride for some period of time, there is genuine spiritual malnourishment that is immediately relieved when I get back in the saddle, the very moment the clutch engages and I move forward again in balance.
Motorcycle riders know it is risky. We choose it—to avoid all risk is worse than death. If you can’t feel this truth in your soul, stop reading and go do something else. But if you have even the faintest whisper of interest or curiosity about riding a motorcycle, you must explore this. Do not wait.
Ian started on a balance bike when he was about 18 months old. He never used training wheels because training wheels only train us how to not balance. Sometime later, after simply “playing” with his balance bike for months, he was rolling down our little street feet up for a quarter-mile at a time and shredding the corners of a chalk-line racetrack he made with his nanny on the local park’s basketball court. When it came time to ride a pedal bike, it took about 10 minutes of figuring out pedaling; then he rode all day. Not long after, when he was in the last few months of being 3, he asked if he could ride the Yamaha PW50 we had waiting in the garage. Same again, about 10 minutes in, he was riding around the yard. By sunset, I’d hand cut an oval and a “TT loop” on our quarter-acre plot.
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We have camped in the desert and ridden for miles and miles over rocks and sand. He’s cartwheeled his PW50 at pretty well top speed. He took a board out of the fence in our yard with his front wheel. He looped out on a super-torquey Torrot TT 10 electric mini-motorcycle. Through this, he understands he is at the controls; I am not kidding when I say it has expanded his vision of life on earth. He has looked across the desert, miles back to our camp with its orange tent on top of a Ford Transit Sportsmobile, and it blew his mind that he rode his bike this far.
Ian is finally tall enough to reach the passenger footpegs on some motorcycles, and because of his now two-and-a-half years of riding experience, he makes an excellent passenger whose being is fully centered on the bike. His desire to ride got us out at an otherwise unlikely time. School night. Mom out of town. Grocery shopping. Dirty dishes. Bath time. Laundry. Waning daylight as fall looms. It became one of the greatest nights of our lives, riding a motorcycle helping us recognize joy and also heightening it. We were alive together, father and son, in balance, perfect in the outside air in the beautiful golden light as the sun descended in the west, we could really see everywhere.
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