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Motorcycling: Love of the Machine

Why are people so enamored by a machine that can kill them?

Photo by Harley-Davidson on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Harley-Davidson on Unsplash

They're dangerous. People die riding them. They're not practical. We all hear the reasons why motorcycles are bad for our health yet despite the risks, we still ride. Why is that?

For many, it's the freedom of the open road on two wheels that nothing else can match. The experience is sublime. It's meditation with a machine. You take in what's around you, using all your senses. You must concentrate all your energy on riding (no texting, eating, etc.) as each turn, intersection, and road requires your full dedication and attention.

For myself and another therapist colleague who goes by the moniker, "The Angry Therapist", we believe that riding is an act of therapy itself. While traditional therapy has its values, sometimes being alone on the seat of a bike free of distractions can provide the emotional space needed to declutter your soul.

Is it no wonder that so many people ride motorcycles when traveling through various intersections of life. Grief, death, loss, bankruptcy, job uncertainties are all beyond man's control. So in an attempt to make sense of our lives, some get on a motorcycle and traverse the country.

Male or female, young or old, the desire can cut across gender, age, education, social, and cultural backgrounds. I myself bought my first motorcycle prior to the birth of our son a few years back. I called it a "pre-baby" crisis where I wanted to take a multi-day trip through rural Eastern Washington before I would be bound by the responsibilities of parenting a newborn. What I remember about the trip was how quickly I learned to trust and respect my motorcycle.

Up to this point, I had ridden mostly scooters with the occasional motorcycle rental. A scooter you could manhandle and thrash around but a full-fledged motorcycle commanded your respect. I had to respect the power output and ride within my abilities. I was amazed at how quickly I also had to trust this motorcycle and its capabilities. During the first couple of hours riding, it rained on me. Keep in mind, I don't like riding in the rain due to fear of sliding. But motorcycles can handle the rain, I kept telling myself. Despite the wariness of the rain, my motorcycle didn't miss a beat and the tires stuck to the pavement despite the rain. The three-day trip helped conquer some fears I had that were unrelated to riding a motorcycle, such as the deeper fear of whether I'd be a good enough parent for my son. The riding helped calm my nerves and just as it allowed me to be present in every changing moment of the landscape, topography, and climate, I transferred the same mentality to parenthood.

Others may be experiencing different fears—fear of divorce, fear of death, or fear of a career change. There's no better way than to do something that you're afraid of and conquer that fear head-on. It can be riding on a motorcycle but it doesn't have to be. This is just an example of how I've used riding to help me with my fears. For others it could be taking a solo trip, returning to school, opening up a business, or asking someone out on a date. Regardless of the scenario, I hope this gives you the encouragement to know that risks are worth taking as our lives are but finite moments in time. Why let more time elapse when your journey is waiting for you to begin?

More from Sam Louie MA, LMHC, CSAT
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