“We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone. ”
–Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values


It was the title that initially caught my eye…

“Ten things every other motorcyclist is thinking, too”

Huh, a column that purported to see into the minds of everyone that rides, to see into my mind. That would be a remarkable feat; they know what I’m thinking sans NSA involvement – Spooky. In my quest for greater self-awareness, as I am often not exactly sure what I was thinking half the time anyway, I dove in eager to see the ten things that I must be thinking. I pored over them one by one, doubling back to ensure I hadn’t missed anything, these ten things that my friends, my cohorts, we all must be thinking. And that was where the problem started.

Thinking the ten things we all think: I wasn’t, not a single one of them, never had in fact. Maybe my old boss was right. Maybe I’m jaded. Jaded and my dog had just died, my old dog. He would have been 16 this fall. Jaded and sad.

And an inline-Four sounded off in the distance, running through the gears as night settled in interrupting my self-critique, pipe singing its song through the woods, and escaping. Bikes have always been an escape machine in my life. Better times on a bike because all time is right now. I rarely make a bad decision I can’t get myself out of on a bike, on the street anyway. And making all time right now squeezed out yesterday or tomorrow, sources of worry, or regret… or mourning. The world looks different from behind the visor; I read asphalt the way an experienced paddler reads a river. It’s captivating, this subtle off camber or that increasing radius corner: The forgiving and the unforgiving.

What I am thinking, “Must adjust levers, (diddle, diddle, diddle)” What Dunlop guru Jim Allen is thinking, “What is Kallfelz doing with those levers.”

This world I can control, as much as anything can be controlled in this world. The pipe plays the song, I direct the orchestra. And it is a song; the big high-compression Singles; a well-jetted, kitted 1075cc Z-1 through a Kerker, a CBX through a set of pipes, my old race Hawk, my Yosh bike through its titanium pipe with that authoritative bark, all unique, all distinctive, all beautiful music… But I digress.

My old boss had called me jaded after returning from a bike intro. I thought at first maybe he was kidding, maybe not, maybe I said something critical about the bike I had rode, maybe he mistook facetious for jaded, I don’t know but it stuck with me. I have never felt jaded swinging my leg over any bike I can recall, but that’s because everything on a bike is right now, it’s the immediacy of the experience, I can’t be “tired, bored, or lacking enthusiasm,” for what is happening right now at speed. I’m not built that way. Are any of us?

That is why riding makes the world better, it takes away room for jaded, or regret, or worry, there is only time for right now. And when I wasn’t in the right now all I wanted to do was get back to it, I lived for the right now. Which brings me back to the ten things that presumably all motorcyclists think about, but I don’t.

Pocono 1985: Simple is as simple does – I had shown up late at riders school just in time to go out for their first lap of the track, no thoughts of binning it, all thoughts of maintaining idle to not stall while waiting for the go sign.

Just a sample of them: “I am going to be mortified if I drop this thing.” Press intros, tire tests, races over four decades, street, dirt, it has never crossed my mind.

How the controls are set up, the reach to the front brake lever, the angle of the levers, ergonomic stuff occurs to me within moments of climbing on an unfamiliar bike. Dumping it? Pitching it into the weeds? Never. I feel safer and more in control on a bike than in a car, for one simple reason, I am safer and more in control of my environment on a bike. The Inuit may have 17 different words for snow as the old saw goes, I have that kind of familiar relationship with asphalt. It’s my friend.

Now, if I’m in the dirt, I know I’m going to end up on the ground, I have bisected the earth in almost every conceivable way one can in the dirt. I have nothing to be mortified about, it’s a given, and I’m not proud. Faceplants in mud puddles that could double as farm ponds, flying Ws through the woods, down the hill into the concertina wire bushes, you name it, I’ve augured into it. I have more launches under my belt than NASA. Subtle throttle inputs on the asphalt turn into ham fisted throttle-to-the-stop exercises in the dirt that to any outside observer would appear to be a cry for help from the determinedly self-destructive. Dirt makes me stupid.

One more small example of what I’m supposed to be thinking: “I hate when people don’t wave to me.” That’s never occurred to me, I don’t care. No, really, I just don’t multitask that well. There’s just no room for any of that in my head. Bikes drag you into the now, demanding your active participation, goading you on to live in the present with every throttle twist and countersteer, every corner is dragging you on to the dance floor, there is no room for mourning my old dog when so much must be attended to. Jaded? By death, by the world, by an office environment, by listicals I fail miserably maybe, but never by motorcycles.

Goodbye old buddy, be a good boy, you were loved.

I ride to act, not to think, any thinking at all is towards that end if I’m doing it right. And there are times where I ride to escape thinking, or mourning, or sadness, or loss, to just get lost in the act of riding.

Ride hard. Look through the corner, farther down the road, roll it on.