Mental Peace Through Motorcycles

I am so fricken mad right now! I feel like I could rip someones head off. All I can say is thank God for motorcycles! I wonder if anger and frustration are what led the pioneers of motorcycling to seek out the solace of their workshops, to be able to disappear into the black and white world of the mechanical object, or the minutia of motor work, to drift off into the buoyant sea of no complaining and no expectations.

For me, bikes are easy. If a motor is tired, you rebuild it. A motor never talks back or makes excuses for why it won’t perform. If it doesn’t work, there is usually a very simple explanation. There is very little gray area when it comes to dealing with bike problems. Relationships, on the other hand, just never seem to get repaired properly. There’s always some loose wire that disconnects at the most inopportune moment, usually triggered by something we say or do.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find this out about those early days of experimentation. Some of my happiest memories have come from time spent in the shop working on a project. For me, there is nothing greater than the sense of accomplishment I get from doing a complete rebuild on a bike, taking a total turd and turning it into something much better is very rewarding. It may be a turd covered in chocolate, but it is still fulfilling work.

The quiet time I find by going into the shop is very healing, it’s meditative, one could say it’s almost Zen. Has anybody out there read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? Even if I am doing some crummy job like changing a tire, my mind becomes focused on the task. I then let go of all my troubles and worries. When I am rebuilding a fork or a shock it’s even better, the focus required creates this zone like, meditative state. There is no room inside my head for relationship trouble or family problems when I am doing suspension or motor work. I come away feeling cleansed, refreshed, like taking a hot shower for the mind. It’s almost like a dopamine high, except I don’t need to take drugs to get it.

Another great thing is the sense of anticipation of going for a ride you get while doing a service or installing a new part, especially if you do it early in the week and have to wait until the weekend to get out with it for the first time. I might even start the bike up and quietly ride up and down the street because I’m jonesing so hard and not being able to ride is killing me. If you live some place where this isn’t possible, I’d be willing to wager you have sat on your bike in the garage and blipped the throttle. You know you have! I do it all the time and I am constantly riding. How do you guys manage to survive living where it snows?

Riding takes me to a completely different level of concentration and focus. A portion of my brain simply turns off when I am on a bike. It’s a good thing believe me. I absolutely live for the times when I can go riding. Sometimes I’d do just about anything to get away from my thoughts. My brain can be a nightmare at times, constantly asking questions, second guessing decisions I’ve made, telling me what I should be doing with my time rather than what I am doing

For me, going riding is like going on a short vacation. Even the anticipation of going riding can turn a bad day into a good one. If you ride bikes, the next ride is constantly on your mind. Before you go you are all amped up and excited, thinking about all the things you will do this time out; going over that difficult obstacle over and over in your mind, visualizing clearing that gap jump you haven’t been able to bring yourself to go for.

The simple thought of going riding will put me in a good mood. Because I know when I’m at the track I am going to have fun. I’ll be hanging with my boys laughing and joking, turning some laps. Riding is the perfect distraction or diversion from life’s ups and downs. Here’s how I see it, as long as you have something to look forward to, life is good.

You see, it works, my spirit is lifted! The bad mood is gone.

Benjamin