Why do we do it?

By Simon Bradley

Over the next few weeks we're going to run a series of features examining why on earth we take our lives in our hands and go out riding motorbikes. It's a difficult subject and one that obviously sits very close to our hearts. Being different people, we have different reasons. Not always easily worded ones, either.

As editor I get the dubious privilege of going first. So here's my attempt...

For me, motorcycling isn’t just a way of transport, it’s a way of life. That doesn’t mean that I’m an outlaw biker, dedicated only to feeling the wind in my hair and the flies in my teeth or indeed that I have no other interests in life. Neither, in fact, could be much further from the truth. But the real story is that, having tried a brief period bike free (while in the new and all encompassing early stages of a relationship), I came across an inescapable truth. I am a biker. Giving up riding meant giving up an essential part of myself, and that simply wasn’t possible. I’d look at a bike going past and feel not jealousy, just a hollow longing for something I was denying myself. So I went back to biking on the quiet for a while before (inevitably) getting caught out and re-entering the world of biking officially. She still doesn’t like it very much but 15 years later I guess we’ve learned to compromise a little.

But what’s it all about? I know that I never feel more alive than I do on a bike or shortly after getting off one. I know that if I drove or took the train to work then I would get there warm and dry but it would take me ages to get switched on and ready to actually do my job, while when I rode in I would be ready to rock as soon as I got to my desk. I know that even on the crappiest most miserable day I would get to work grinning, even if it was because I knew I’d be able to park easily as few others would have ridden in. On a simple getting to work basis, biking saved me time and money while being fun as well. If you work in or around any large town, there’s no better way of getting to and from the office.

Now if that all there were to biking then we’d all be on scooters. Clearly there’s something else. there’s something which makes us look at the increased risks of getting cold, wet or hurt and still consider them less important than the benefits. I’d be lying if I said that the downsides have never featured in my life. I’ve broken bones and removed skin; I’ve been so cold that I couldn’t feel my extremities until they started to thaw out (which really hurt) and I’ve got wet through too many times to count. And yet, like so many others, I still ride.

Maybe it’s a freedom thing. Certainly on a bike the everyday hassles of life get left behind – generally you’ve got no mobile phone so you’re uncontactable. A rare thing in today’s world. So what about the bikers of 10 or 20 years ago who were probably unreachable as soon as they left their desks or homes anyway? What was the appeal to them?

Maybe it’s a control thing. Certainly a biker is more in control of their destiny than many others. All your inputs are more direct, the bike gives more feedback than any car and your exposure makes you far more aware of your environment than you would otherwise be. And yet you’re far more vulnerable to things outside your control – especially the actions and errors of other road users.

So what is it that makes otherwise perfectly rational people disregard the clear risks to their person and continue riding motorbikes, even after injuries and accidents? In reality, it’s something that defies description. It’s all the things above and then some more as well. It’s the sheer thrill of accelerating hard on a big bike, the satisfaction of getting a series of corners exactly right, the fantastic feeling of harmony as you and your bike work perfectly together. It’s the feeling of being part of the journey, rather than just enduring it, the smells and sights of the open road, the knowledge that you can go anywhere you want, when you want. It’s the feeling of schadenfreude as you leave that impotent queue of car drivers behind, knowing that not only will you get there before them but you’ll be able to park for free and you’ll have enjoyed yourself as well. It’s feeling so alive after a good run, it’s the shaking, laughing recounting of the day’s close escapes, it’s the babbling incoherence of your first trackday, it’s the terrifying screech as you get your knee down for the first time, it’s picking yourself up off the ground and realising that yes, you are still here although the bike looks a little second-hand. It’s all of these things, and none of them.

So why do I ride?

Because I can’t imagine anything else...

We’d really love to hear your reasons for riding, and ideally to share them with everyone else as well, because we’re trying to understand what makes everyone tick. So why not let us know?

Got something to say about this? Make your comments here!

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