The Movie That Refreshed A Love Of Riding
The other night, while the wife was working on some budget stuff, I was thumbing through our DVD collection while cleaning up a shelf. The movie “Why We Ride” caught my eye, and I decided to pop it in while I worked, since I’d not viewed the documentary in several years. Soon I was transfixed, seated on the floor, gazing at the beautiful scenes of riding, soaking in the stories and testimonies of motorcycle riders, racers, builders and adventurers. I’d intended to merely click through various scene selections, but instead found myself captivated again by the sweeping cinematography and the people therein, watching it from start to finish. From road trips to racing, asphalt to dirt, senior adults to children, the sheer love of riding the movie displays across all lines was palpable. By the end, I was in tears, so thankful I’m able to experience the joy of two wheels and a motor. My wife Lisa, a non-rider, had slipped in near the end, and as I sat through the credits where each person interviewed for the movie was identified, she remarked, “That was really good.” Yes dear, it was, and is.
When the movie first debuted in theaters back in October of 2013, I attended a premiere in Atlanta with a couple of riding buddies. The theater was (sadly) about half full, there was no fanfare outside, but the movie left us all buzzing with enthusiasm by the end. The writers and producers had captured perfectly the indescribable joy and love of motorcycling we all know and ride with. Not since “On Any Sunday” had a motorcycle movie told our story so well. As soon as the movie was released on DVD in 2014, I bought it for my collection. I’ve clicked through various scenes off/on in the years since, but watching it start to finish the other night rekindled something in me. Even now it’s hard to find words for why I sat there with big tears in my eyes, and a heart welling with thankfulness at this passion I’ve been privileged to indulge all these years.
Rob and his beloved Bonneville.
Reflecting on all the places a motorcycle has taken me over the decades and miles, all the wonderful people I’ve met that I’d otherwise never have the privilege of knowing, and all the deep memories I’ve accumulated that I’ll cherish to my grave, I thought I’d endeavor to explain in a nutshell why I ride. Rather than recount my life story of riding (you can read that here), or what riding does to my mind and heart (which can be viewed here), I’ve chosen another tack. As I contemplated my emotional reaction to a fresh viewing of “Why We Ride” it occurred to me that coming off the difficult, stress-filled and frankly painful year we all endured in 2020 (and appears will continue in 2021), I see with greater clarity the soul nourishment that time on two wheels gives to me. As we all languished under the at times draconian lockdowns in a futile effort to stem the COVID tide, my motorcycles became not just a pleasure and passion for me, they became my means of escape. With a wife who works in a front line medical facility dealing with the pandemic daily (of which she’s remained free from miraculously), my work required confinement, video calling and conferencing, and all too often, resultant loneliness. Yet, as we shared in our “2020 Year In Review”, Road Dirt enjoyed exponential growth, and we still took to some amazing rides and roads, with amazing folks.
My times astride motorcycles have calmed my anxious thoughts, focused me on things I can control, and actually improved my overall health- lowering my blood pressure, relaxing my heart rate, coordinating mind and body on the action of controlling the machine at speed. I find a peace behind the handlebars that few other activities afford me. Cutting through the wind, carving corners, scenery flashing by as the bike propels me through time and space, the sounds of exhaust and wind roaring outside my helmet, the smells of the land fresh in my nostrils, the throbbing machine beneath me and yet firmly under my control, man and machine in sync with each other. As biker Jay Allen in the movie explained, “It’s a bombardment of the senses.” Bret Peterson, NAHA national champion hill climber, shared, “It’s my release, it’s my medicine in this crazy world.” Who among us can’t identify with that?
Rob’s fellow Road Dirt writer/rider Ted Edwards, at an overlook above Wenatchee, WA. We think his expression captures “Why We Ride”.
I rarely feel more alive than when I’m on a motorcycle. While I may feel inadequate at various other tasks (I’m not that good with a wrench, even worse with a power tool), though I’m not the biggest, strongest, most intelligent, most eloquent, or most highly educated and cultured, when I’m on a bike, I’m at home, in my element. Life makes sense on two wheels, if only for a little while. Robert Pirsig, author of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” wrote, “In a car, you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a cycle, the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.” Yes, that’s it. Presence. No walls, no roof, no windows, no cage. Present in the moment, in the elements, in real time. The sense of presence is indeed overwhelming, or better, intoxicating.
Riding is in my family heritage, in my blood, in my heart, and will be in my legacy. Riding is life, breath, soul nourishment for me. Olympic runner Eric Liddel once mused, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” That’s me when I ride. The Almighty is smiling as I throttle through the countryside, enjoying His creation, drinking in the experience, relishing the speed and freedom. I can feel it. That’s why I ride.
Why do you ride? Drop a line or two in the comments below!