I just bought a motorcycle. Which means that I’ve pretty much spent the last fortnight on a motorcycle, thinking about a motorcycle, fixing a motorcycle, almost crashing a motorcycle, gazing longingly at a motorcycle and pushing a dead motorcycle around a parking garage looking for a jump.
I could try to give you some useful advice here, like „Don’t take the Motorcycle Safety Course with a fever,” or „When the floaty elf tells you to ‘ramp that shit,’ don’t listen — that’s just the fever talking.” But that stuff is probably pretty apparent to most of you, and if it’s not, try listening to the elf a few times; some lessons you can only learn from mistakes.
So instead, I’m going to tell you about a few very obvious fundamentals that, honestly, any idiot could figure out — but that nobody ever seemed to mention to this particular idiot before he got himself into this mess.
A few motorcyclists just read that heading and thought something like „Fuck yeah, we go too fast! We’re daredevils, bro. You suckers can keep your cages, we’re free.” (Yes, some bikers refer to cars as „cages,” because literally everything has its embarrassing elitist jerks.) But I’m not talking about the reckless velocity of dudes without enough brain cells to comprehend mortality. I meant exactly what I said: „We all go way too fast.”
First, let me say this: I’m not a wizened old hand at this motorcycling business (for example, I refer to it as „motorcycling business”), and so far I spend most of my bike time wobbling to a terrified stop after every pothole. But my limited experience atop a motorcycle has taught me a valuable lesson already, and it is this: All of us — every human being alive today — are traveling way, way faster than we have any right to.
And I don’t mean „We’re in too much of a rush,” like it’s some symptom of our modern world; I’m saying that, since the advent of the engine, humanity has always flitted about at a ridiculously incomprehensible speed. It’s just that we’re removed from it in our cars: They’re aerodynamic and sound-proof and shock absorbing and sealed off from all external stimuli to make commuting an isolated and relaxing experience.
But on a motorcycle, you sit right down on top of an engine with wheels, and the second you start moving, you realize that even our posted speed limits are still three to eight times faster than our species was ever meant to go. Our stupid eyeballs and ears and brains simply cannot reconcile our established rate of travel without all the buffers of a car around us, because our instincts understand that this should not be possible.
But on a motorcycle, suddenly you comprehend the wrongness of speed. You feel every tiny bump in the road as you hurtle over them at a sacrilegious pace, the wind screaming in your ears, because that’s what happens when you try to outrace the very air itself, objects flying by too quickly for your eyes to fully register.
„We are running way too fucking fast!” your primal brain screams. „How did this even happen?! ARE WE FALLING?” And then your rational brain glances in the rear view mirror and says „Speed up, man, this is a school zone: You have to do at least 20 mph.”
You’ve probably heard that phrase before, or something like it: „Drive like they’re all out to get you,” your drunken, paranoid uncle might have told you, right before he took you out for „driving lessons” that always seemed to start at one bar and end at his house. But I mean it literally here: If you ride a bike, every other driver on the road despises you. As soon as you set ass to motorized cycle, you become Unclean.
I don’t know if it’s something in the perceived image that mounting a slightly narrower than normal vehicle makes you more of a man, or a tough guy, or a reckless daredevil, but traffic hates motorcycles. Not only hates them, but possesses a rage so intense that murder is the only solution. Other drivers will tailgate the crap out of you, regardless of your speed, and that’s kind of a bigger deal when, y’know, you don’t have a tail or a gate. So there’s a several-ton steel box traveling more than fast enough to crush you to death in a nanosecond, and its operator has decided that his safe stopping distance is „up your asshole.”
And there’s no way to make him back off, either. He’s comfortable there, inside your asshole; he shows no signs of moving. He’s going to make a life up in your colon — hell, he’s already planting a garden and having his mail forwarded there, so you better get used to him.