The Art of the Ride - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Art of the Ride

Why ride a motorcycle? 

You are exposed to the elements. It requires concentration, involvement. You cannot text. You may get wet. You are fully in control of the thing, especially if it’s a bike without ABS or stability control. There are no seatbelts. 


Riding is what driving was, once — before most of the fun was emulsified by safetyism into mere transportation. To get on a bike is to experience the elemental again. Just you and it even if you have a passenger. Because it’s all on you, which is good. If it has a kick-starter, all the better. Move the kicker up or down just a bit until you feel the engine rotate to just the right spot, compression building. Then a single, perfectly timed downward stroke. It comes alive in a connected way that is as far removed from pushing a button as looking at a Playboy when you were 13 was from the real thing a few years later.

The pipes sing their song, the machine settles into its rhythm.  

Now, you’re ready.

Hear feel the gravel under the tires as you roll out of the driveway, every nuance of the road. You get to know it, intimately, in ways not possible in cars. It is right there inches away from your feet. Your eyes can pick out the individual macadam, trace the cracks. You roll with it, an unwinding ribbon of endless adventure. If you are lucky enough to live in a state that hasn’t imposed a requirement to wear a helmet the proto face diaper you will know the feel of the wind, conveying raw data about speed in a way that cannot be gauged, as by a speedometer and its anodyne numbers.

Here comes a curve. Downshift in anticipation. You do this, yourself. As most people don’t, in most modern cars. There is no Lean Angle Control (I made that up). How far over? Where is my turn-in point? Maybe a little pressure on the rear brake if they’re not linked, as they are in all modern cars to take a little weight off the front end? There is a subtle art in this. And a satisfaction when mastered largely unavailable in most cars, which do most of the setting up for you. And have electronic interventions to safety-net you. Some late-model bikes have them, too — but only so much.

Thankfully so.

Of course, they are working to do to motorcycles what has already been done to cars. They haven’t been able to go as far or as fast because people who ride are a different demographic than those who “drive,” in air quotes to emphasize the difference. Driving having been gelded by safetyism the latter made into a sickly fetish object now generally worshipped by those who close doors and push buttons and do not want to be involved in the former activity of driving.

This was easily managed because almost everyone “drives” in the sense that almost everyone needs to. This includes many who don’t like having to and who for that reason like a car that does as much of the driving for them as is technically feasible.

Including the parking.

Let go of the wheel. Just push another button. In you go. All done for you.

The inevitable elaboration of this is the elimination of driving altogether. In its place, transportation “automated” and “self-driving.” Windows rolled up, cellphone turned on.

Sensory connection to the world outside, off.

Many want this and why not? Most cars made since about 2015 or so are already almost there. Lane Keep Assist. Park Assist. Brake Assist. Trailer Back-Up Assist. Speed Limit Assist.

Why not seal the deal?

It has been harder to get motorcycle people to come along for this ride because they are a self-selected crew that wants to ride. There is no need to ride. Especially when almost any can “drive.” It is analogous to choosing to learn how to weld or to frame a wall. It takes active interest for the sake of the thing itself.

You don’t have to but you want to.

Most riders do not want safetyism. It is a much harder sell, being contrary to the point. Something like Lean Angle Assist should such an imagined atrocity ever become actuality would go over with most riders as well as Advanced Rappeling Assist would find love among rock climbers.

Riding a bike is practical in some ways. A bike is generally much less expensive than a car and always easier on gas. The thirstiest of them use less gas than the typical economy car. They fit where cars do not including the smallest economy cars. Some can tote more cargo than some cars, too.

But these are incidentals perks. Nice to have but not the essential thing. Those who know this already do. If you’d like to know, there’s only one way to.

Eric Peters
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