Motorcycle Focus – The Joys of Riding

I tried to explain why I like riding my motorcycle so much. I received some good messages about that post, and wanted to expand on them a bit more.

From Brad:

To me riding is more like walking or riding a bicycle, you smell every smell, you feel the wind, its just the road and you, you are a part of your environment. Driving a car isolates you from all of this, its like the difference between watching a movie and actually doing it.

I agree with Brad’s thoughts completely. There’s an amazing difference between riding Ms. Peeps and going the same places in the car. The entire atmospheres vary. In the car, the setting is generally the same, no matter what time of year: it’s dry, warm, and filled with sounds of your choice via the radio (or not). There is a roof over your head and you view the world through the glass windows around you.

This is nothing at all like a motorcycle. I have no control over the weather; when it’s cold I have to dress warmer, when it’s raining I have to remember to put on water-proof clothing. I hear the wind rushing past and the traffic that surrounds me. While I could listen to headphones, I choose not to (I like hearing the engine rev, and feel safer being able to hear the traffic so I know what is coming.) My view is far more expansive, even through the helmet. There is no rear-view mirror in the way, no window posts that block my vision.

Road familiarity

Leo Babauta‘s newest book Focus, (which is a free and wonderful read) talks about achieving focus in your life. While riding, I automatically do this. I pay far more attention to my surroundings. I’m not distracted by a radio, a cell phone, or a passenger (even when I have one). Not only do I know which lights take longer to change than others, or which intersections don’t allow turns during red lights, but I pay more attention to the vehicles around me, and the road itself.

I know where the potholes, manhole covers, and seams in the road are now. That one intersection that recently had some patches added… it still has a rail-road spike in the blacktop, left over from the metal plate that covered the hole while work was being done. I know where gravel remains from recent repairs. I also know which roads generally have warmer or cooler air (did you know that residential roads seem to be cooler, on average, than commuter roads?) Not to mention that I know where the good-smelling restaurants are, which unfortunately means I know the others as well.

Fewer Distractions

So much of my day is filled with distractions, it’s nice to have somewhere that I get to block them all out. When riding, I’m busy watching traffic and the road conditions ahead. Though my mind often races elsewhere, on a motorcycle I focus on a single task: riding. I get to participate in my surroundings as I move through them: becoming part of the flow of traffic, anticipating drivers’ next moves, and telling Ms. Peeps where to go. While riding, nothing else matters.

Now, if only I can figure out how to achieve that focus everywhere in my life…

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