Why We Ride
There is cold, and there is cold on a motorcycle. Cold on a motorcycle
is like being beaten with cold hammers while being kicked with cold
boots, a bone bruising cold. The wind's big hands squeeze the heat out of
my body and whisk it away; caught in a cold October rain, the drops
don't even feel like water. They feel like shards of bone fallen from the
skies of Hell to pock my face. I expect to arrive with my cheeks and
forehead streaked with blood, but that's just an illusion, just the
misery of nerves not designed for highway speeds.
Despite this, it's hard to give up my motorcycle in the fall and I rush
to get it on the road again in the spring; lapses of sanity like this
are common among motorcyclists. When you let a motorcycle into your life
you're changed forever. The letters "MC" are stamped on your driver's
license right next to your sex and height as if "motorcycle" was just
another of your physical characteristics, or maybe a mental condition.
But when warm weather finally does come around all those cold snaps and
rainstorms are paid in full because a motorcycle summer is worth any
A motorcycle is not just a two-wheeled car; the difference between
driving a car and climbing onto a motorcycle is the difference between
watching TV and actually living your life. We spend all our time sealed in
boxes and cars are just the rolling boxes that shuffle us languidly
from home-box to work-box to store-box and back, the whole time entombed
in stale air, temperature regulated, sound insulated, and smelling of
On a motorcycle I know I'm alive. When I ride, even the familiar seems
strange and glorious. The air has weight and substance as I push
through it and its touch is as intimate as water to a swimmer. I feel the
cool wells of air that pool under trees and the warm spokes of sunlight
that fall through them. I can see everything in a sweeping 360 degrees,
up, down and around, wider than PanaVision and higher than IMAX and
unrestricted by ceiling or dashboard. Sometimes I even hear music. It's
like hearing phantom telephones in the shower or false doorbells when
vacuuming; the pattern-loving brain, seeking signals in the noise, raises
acoustic ghosts out of the wind's roar. But on a motorcycle I hear
whole songs: rock 'n roll, dark orchestras, women's voices, all hidden in
the air and released by speed. At 30 miles an hour and up, smells
become uncannily vivid. All the individual tree-smells and flower-smells
and grass-smells flit by like chemical notes in a great plant symph!
ony. Sometimes the smells evoke memories so strongly that it's as
though the past hangs invisible in the air around me, wanting only the most
casual of rumbling time machines to unlock it. A ride on a summer
afternoon can border on the rapturous. The sheer volume and variety of
stimuli is like a bath for my nervous system, an electrical massage for my
brain, a systems check for my soul. It tears smiles out of me: a
minute ago I was dour, depressed, apathetic, numb, but now, on two wheels,
big, ragged, windy smiles flap against the side of my face, billowing
out of me like air from a decompressing plane.
Transportation is only a secondary function. A motorcycle is a joy
machine. It's a machine of wonders, a metal bird, a motorized prosthetic.
It's light and dark and shiny and dirty and warm and cold lapping over
each other; it's a conduit of grace, it's a catalyst for bonding the
gritty and the holy. I still think of myself as a motorcycle amateur,
but by now I've had a handful of bikes over a half dozen years and slept
under my share of bridges. I wouldn't trade one second of either the
good times or the misery. Learning to ride was one of the best things
Cars lie to us and tell us we're safe, powerful, and in control. The
air-conditioning fans murmur empty ssurances and whisper, "Sleep, sleep."
Motorcycles tell us a more useful truth: we are small and exposed, and
probably moving too fast for our own good, but that's no reason not to
enjoy every minute of the ride.
Author - Randy Urbina
Long, long ago, in a land far far away and south from here, Randy Urbina bought his first Harley, it was a
1946 Knucklehead which he purchased for $125.00. Now and then Randy would write his thoughts
and feelings about his adventures riding his Harley. Randy's sister worked for a bike magazine
in southern California years ago (late 70's early 80's) and once in a while she would read through
his piles of papers seeking things for her editor; the article above is one she picked. The article
went out to the world and when the web became more popular it appeared on many
sites and was aired on PBS in 2000. Many years later Randy re-located to northern
California and joined the Sacramento HOG Chapter. Randy showed the original article to
Scott Mason and it was published here too in 1998. Although this article has surfaced
in many places, remember that plagerism is the greatest form of flattery.
Now, 2008, Randy is a member of the Folsom HOG Chapter, Scott Mason has since passed,
Randy's sister has since passed, and the magazine has since been dissolved,
but Randy's sincere passion for riding lives on in the article above.
And now, 2010, Randy is no longer with us (Randy's memorial service was held on
Sunday, May 17th 2009 in Orangevale), but still, Randy's sincere passion for riding
lives on in the article above.
This page also posted
here (without frames
here) with permission on the
El Paso Texas H.O.G. Chapter website, sponsored by
Barnett Harley-Davidson, El Paso, Texas;
and, interestingly enough, Randy, formerly of southern California, formerly of the Sacramento HOG Chapter
(the chapter that was disbanded on 31DEC08), formerly of the Folsom HOG Chapter, and, sadly,
now six feet down, well, Randy apparently has a double in El Paso Texas HOG Chapter... check it out...
Also see Why I Ride by Russell Holder