The sign in the truck made my head tilt to the side with curiosity, like a Labrador hearing the far off squeak of a chipmunk. It was a worn, hand carved wooden sign that the muddy truck displayed proudly on its back window as it hauled a rack full of dirty snowmobiles. It declared a simple, often misunderstood saying:
Loud Pipes Save Lives.
I agree, loud pipes save lives, just not in the way people think.
They do it not by warding off traffic, keeping drivers at bay. Not by making us audible or conspicuous, attracting the attention of teenagers driving slammed Subarus with their heads pointed down at their cell phones.
They do it by saving us from life, liberating us from its fear, worries, anxieties and pressure.
Because of all the ways to carry gear on a motorcycle, nowhere is there room to pack meaningless worries, no place for borrowed stress from an unknown future or spare mental energy left to expend on anxiety.
Fear thrives on an unknown future and the future on a bike is only the next gear, the next apex, the next stretch of road. A motorcycle does not afford us time to contemplate anything but right now. We are going too fast to think too far ahead, too immersed in the present to look too far into the future.
There is only the wind and road, the smell and sound, the coming corner. We are immersed in the balance and lean and mechanical ballet of motion, the wind at our chest and the pounding heartbeat of our exhaust whose relentless cadence occupies the space in our brain previously packed with worry, fret and fear. There is no room to ponder the past or get gripped by its tentacles of regret and shame. The motorcycle vanquishes it all with speed. Demons live in the past and we are hurtling ever forwards.
This magical exit of internal combustion massages the PTSD riddled brain of war veterans and first responders. It gives the troubled teen their release from their wasteland of social pressure and virtual friendships. It fractures loose the shackles of doldrums chaining the ordinary man to his office cubicle, and gives those of us born with the explorer spirit a new niche to conquer in a world completely mapped by Google.
What else could give this release? Only a brilliant exhaust.
Oh God yes, that sweet, dreamy exhaust, burrowing into our subconscious like a song from long ago with bass to vibrate our hands, tingle our feet and soothe our troubled souls, sending all of these sensations straight to our head like the first caffeine hit of the day.
Many adjectives are used in vain to describe bikes that deliver this sensation: personality, character, soul. Bikes that are too refined, too polished to do this are ridiculed as appliance-like, or worse yet, soul-less. And if that describes your bike’s ailment, the perfect prescription just might be a magnificent muffler.
Because we ride to feel. To imbibe the moment and be the machine. To be in motion while sitting motionless.
Sometimes to forget, sometimes to run.
Run from the past, the present, the pain. To flee the decadence, the decay, the death.
We ride to explore, to express, to excite. To feel and be free.
It’s transportation and therapy, temporary and transcendent, tangible and timeless.
It’s paycheck and play, purposeful and passionate, public and personal.
It’s a cacophony of cadence, a megaphone for the machine.
It’s the lifesaving magic of a loud pipe.