Can we explain why we ride? Motorcycles and moms…

Me, my mom and best friend. I am the rider in the group.

Funny, I try to explain why I ride to non-riders and I get that stare, you know the one. It’s sort of a blank look, a questioning stare, an empty glass in need of refilling. I talk about motorcycles, the roads, the scenery, the people and what I get in return is a “ya, uh huh”. I believe there is nothing quite like the sport of motorcycling and it’s nearly impossible to share the desire to ride with those that do not ride, they simply don’t get it.

I did see a change in my mother’s attitude after she read some of my ride reports. There was a light that went on, and now she is still glowing and has that mother’s knowing smile. I believe that if she was a bit younger, I could get her on the back of my bike and take her riding with me. She would love the adventure. We have spent time adventuring together, from moving cattle over Kingsbury Grade with me on a horse and her driving the cattle truck stopping to gather up stray calves, to walking the beaches of Negril when I was eight months pregnant, and turning down offers of spliffs from strangers. She was never one to shrink from adventure when my father would load us into his pickup truck to take us ghost town exploring in Nevada. She would load her shovel for bottle digging and wear her mosquito repellent and pack a lunch. She has always been a trooper, so when I began riding I was surprised to see her cast that look of doubt upon me. I knew that look could be melted down and re-cast, If only I could explain why I ride.

Explanation came in the form of photos. Photos of everything I saw and experienced as I took to the road on my motorbike. After she viewed the first photos, and read my words, suddenly she understood, having been an adventurer herself. Motorcycles were no longer simply “death machines” waiting to take her little girl, but machines representing vehicles of freedom, of vision, of experience. I would ride the 600 miles between me and her and she would have the garage door open and waiting when I arrived, having watched my progress on my Spot Satellite Messenger. I would ride right in and park next to her SUV and she would saunter out to the garage and exclaim how much fun it was to watch the ride via Spot, how big my motorcycle looked, how much stuff I was carrying, how safe my gear appeared and how I needed to watch the weather better. There was always a lesson somewhere. But isn’t that the case of the “ride”, a lesson tucked somewhere among the miles of travel? A lesson of chosen roadways, lack of petrol, weather, motels, gear or route. I learn from every ride. I take something new home with me, to share here or over coffee. That’s part of the beauty of riding, it supplies wonder and surprise.

I exercise the utmost safety when I tour, watching for surprises. I wear good gear, a bright full face helmet, lots of reflective stripes. I keep my bike soundly tuned, clean my chain, make sure my tires are properly aired and have good tread. I have my Spot for safety, a cell phone and GPS as well as paper maps. I carry water and food and emergency first aid. I am as prepared as I can be. That is truly the best we riders can do out there; be prepared, ride with vigilance and keep our skills honed.

I take to the road now, camera in hand, seeing things from this bike seat vantage I never dreamed possible. I feel the rain, pushing against me, like roughly applied massage. I lean into the wind that tries to hurdle me off the roadway, I know these elements intimately, like lovers sneaking up upon me to cop a feel, smirking. I also celebrate the sunshine, the distant vistas, the seemingly endless mountain or desert roads. I feel fortunate to be able to share this by way of digital photography. A picture speaks a thousand words and for those who don’t ride, they at least are able to see the glamor and the glory. My mom, she appreciates the secret handshake and, with her knowing smile, she now understands my appetite for the ride.

How about you? Is there a special non-rider who “gets it”? How do you explain why you ride to those that don’t?

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