Changing Gears

I’ve taken up the hobby of motorcycling in the last couple of months.  My nature is to resist acceptance of anything that seems cliché, so when a lot of oft-heard sayings suddenly became applicable to me, it was annoying.  I tried very hard to find a personal reason for feeling like I did, but for the most part had to accept that I was just like everyone else.

The first observation of my new hobby is that it slows my life down dramatically.  Before, I would hop in the car and go.  Now I have to pull the bike out of the shed, push it over to the driveway (exhausting, at times), safety check the bike, warm the bike up, get the gear on, then go.  This can be a 15-20 minute delay.  Then once arriving at the destination, park the bike safely, de-gear, lock up helmet, then continue.  Another 5 minutes.  Then more when leaving again.  The closest parallel I can come up with is that it’s like travelling with an infant.  And that is something I never was and never will be envious of.  But, it forces me to slow down, which I think has some benefits.

Next observation, my appetite is diminished.  By about half, I’m figuring.  This one I’m still trying to figure out.  Either the stress from the ride (because it’s pretty much high-alert most of the time), the dehydration from the heat and gear, or the natural workout from battling wind forces – another observation – is cutting my food intake.  This doesn’t happen on weekdays when I’m driving the car.

Third observation, riding is kind of a workout.  This is something that reminds me of a previous experience, indoor skydiving.  In both cases, your body is trying to maintain a form against wind forces causing lots of muscle micro-motions that eventually tire you out.  To a lesser degree, you are also shifting your weight fairly often when riding, which could work some muscle groups that don’t see activity otherwise.  It makes me think of someone who had ridden a horse for the first time and said that muscles he’d never known about were sore for days.  I sure don’t expect to get ripped from riding motorcycle, but I did lose almost 5 pounds after a couple of weekends.  It’s probably lost water from dehydration, but I can hope.

Final personal observation, everything is new at first, then it becomes normal.  Wearing gear seemed odd at first, but now feels normal.  I felt weird putting on this and that and the other.  Eventually you become less conscious (or self-conscious) when gearing up.  When I’m in a car, I feel very unsafe without wearing a seat belt.  I wear my seat belt even if I’m the only one in the car that does.  I am sure I would feel so much more unsafe without my gear and I don’t think any peer pressure could keep me from wearing it.  Start good habits from the beginning.  Going over 45 mph was scary at first, now 55 is normal.  You need to get used to the feeling of wind, vibration, and engine noise.  Then it becomes “normal” sound and sensation.

Lastly, all the “I told you so” things that I felt.

  • You have much greater control with a manual transmission – check.  I’d never driven anything but an automatic.  I’m not convinced I want a stick-shift car, though.
  • You have much greater control on a motorcycle – check.  The braking, acceleration, and cornering are much better than a car.  You give up a lot of safety being on a bike, but it’s mitigated by the ability to get away or get around a dangerous situation.
  • You feel more in touch with nature on a motorcycle – that’s a little over-romanticized for me, but I have to agree that being in the open air is a much greater experience than being in a car. 
  • When you’re riding, you don’t want the trip to end – I guess so.  I have ridden past my planned destination often and purposely missed my turns nearly as much.

Last Saturday and Sunday, I didn’t drive the car at all.  This weekend, I didn’t drive Friday, Saturday or Sunday until dinner.  When I got in the car to get dinner, it felt odd.  I guess that is the first sign that being a rider is what I really want to do.  If I didn’t have such a long and dangerous commute to work, I probably would ride very day.  I regret I did not take up this hobby years earlier.

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