Alive to the true, the real, and the other, on the seat of a rolling cy­cle

Motorcyclist - - Contents - BY SETH RICHARDS

for such a soli­tary act, mo­tor­cy­cling is not an ego­cen­tric act. When I’m rid­ing my mo­tor­cy­cle, I know I’m not truly alone.

For mo­tor­cy­clists, the knowl­edge (or ex­pe­ri­ence) of own­ing, rid­ing, and main­tain­ing a cy­cle fa­cil­i­tates the as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween its mem­bers: those who view the world through a hel­met’s open­ing and whose greasec­ov­ered hands are most com­pe­tent when grasp­ing a wrench. Mo­tor­cy­cling en­gages ev­ery as­pect of self­hood.

The in­escapable el­e­ments and the alert­ness re­quired of rid­ing well con­stantly an­nounce our em­bod­ied ex­is­tence. As it car­ries us on ev­ery jour­ney, the mo­tor­cy­cle lays us bare be­neath the heav­ens, vul­ner­a­ble to the va­garies of wan­ing time and the pass­ing miles.

It plays upon our ev­ery sense. Ly­ing in bed af­ter a full day in the sad­dle, my hands tin­gle where the bars vi­brated for hours on end. My closed eyes trace the cor­ners and el­e­va­tion changes of the road. I can hear the howl of the wind in my ears and feel its sting upon my skin.

The mo­tor­cy­cle, as it fully en­gages our forms and fac­ul­ties, is a her­ald of phys­i­cal ex­is­tence. Our bod­ies are the car­riages of our hu­man­ity; they carry our thoughts and our his­to­ries and our de­sires. The mo­tor­cy­cle af­firms that our bod­ies are meant for some­thing—that life’s tri­umphs and hard­ships are not without mean­ing.

Pur­pose­less without our bod­ies to set it in mo­tion, the mo­tor­cy­cle—like us—is only ful­fill­ing its de­sign brief when it finds it­self in re­la­tion to an­other.

In this way, the mo­tor­cy­cle cre­ates em­pa­thy. Its self-re­flec­tive qual­ity be­comes an agent for re­veal­ing com­mon­al­ity that tran­scends its most ba­sic util­ity: It af­firms our in­nate need to be known to each other. We are meant to share in suf­fer­ing and fail­ure and love and bliss.

And in mo­ments of iso­la­tion, when we are caught in the snare of solip­sism, we need only take hold of the bike’s key and ven­ture into the garage.

I tighten my gloves and turn the key in the ig­ni­tion. The fuel pump primes; the bike cranks over. The garage walls van­ish in a haze of ex­haust. The noise of com­bus­tion grad­u­ally fades as my earplugs swell. I open the garage door to the wait­ing world. I kick it in gear, let out the clutch, and the wheels be­gin to move.

I know that I am not alone.

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