There are many reasons people will give for why they ride motorcycles. But there is only one honest one: Because it is fun. It's really as simple as that. It's the exact same kind of addicting thrill and satisfaction that others get from skiing, surfing, scuba diving, or any similar pastime that never gets old to those who get sucked in.
Yes, you can cite tons of practical reasons why motorcycling can be a good thing. I do all the time. For me, personally, it's the only way I could even imagine working at my current job. my commute to Electronic Arts in Redwood City from my home in Berkeley is 35 miles each way, on some of the most notoriously congested freeway in the entire country. Riding my motorcycle means not only do I save tons of money on gas, and get to cross the bridge without paying toll in the carpool lane, but because it's legal to lanesplit in California, I am essentially immune to the daily traffic mess. I have to ride much slower, yes (the accepted lanesplitting wisdom is to never go faster than 10 mph faster than the flow of traffic), but at least I can keep moving, unlike all the poor saps trapped forever in their cars. My commute takes me about 45 minutes on average on my bike. On those occasions when I'm forced to drive, it takes twice as long, each way. That's 3 hours of commuting a day--and, frankly, I would just go fucking insane if I had to do that every day.
So, see? I can make a good, logical case for it. It's fast, it's cheap, it saves me a huge amount of time that I can otherwise devote to my family and my work. But all of that wouldn't mean a dang thing if the greater truth didn't exist: That I still get a palpable thrill every single time I hop on the bike and ride.
Some people, I think, are just two-wheel types. Before motorcycles--and before I got too lazy--I used to ride my bike all the time. (And, man, I really need to get back into it.) That was, by far, my preferred form of exercise, and my wife and I would ride in Berkeley whenever and wherever we could, rather than take the car. We also used to be pretty good at it--riding way up into the Berkeley and Oakland hills, on inclines that now make me tired just to look at.
Conversely, I've never been a car guy at all. I really just kinda hate cars, and I hate driving them. It's just not me. And it's not because I'm a motorcyclist. My hatred of driving predates my motorcycle riding. I don't know what it is, honestly, but I just find sitting behind the wheel of a car an utter burden. I'd rather walk, or ride a pack mule, or just sit in the dirt and go nowhere. I get tense and frustrated in cars. I get impatient. It brings out a lame side of me: Yelling at other drivers, aggressively passing people who annoy me. George Carlin had a great line about driving: "Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac? " That's how I get. It's just too much stress for me.
Maybe it's about control, at least a little bit. On the bike, I feel completely in charge of my own destiny. Barring a total roadblock by emergency vehicles or something, there's nothing I can't get around, there's no way to get stuck on the motorcycle. Whereas in a car, if you're stuck, you're stuck. That's part of it.
But I think the bigger truth is that it's just a particular frame of mind, and state of being, that being on a motorcycle puts you in. Again, it's like skiing. On a motorcycle, you are completely in the moment, always. There is simply no way to ride and not be 100 percent focused on the riding, every moment of the experience. It's all about the journey, in this case--not the destination. Riding requires intense concentration, and thus requires you, for the most part, to bleach your mind of any extraneous noise. This doesn't mean that those thoughts won't invade your mind--because they can't help it. It's like meditation that way. You have to acknowledge they're there, but then gently push them aside and get back to the business of riding. For me, those 70 miles a day are actually a form of meditation. It's 90 minutes out of my day in which what I am doing is riding a motorcycle, and not preoccupying myself with anything else. It's a form of rejuvenation, and even, at times, as ridiculous as it may seem to some, of spiritual uplift.
It focuses my mind and reduces things to one essential, primal goal: Stay alive.
Next time: What I ride, and why.