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 though various scene selections, but instead found myself captured again by the movie and the people in it, 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. 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 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 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!

Rob

14 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Thank you Rob for a great read and so happy Why We Ride still has the same impact on you that it does on me. I love the quote you used from Chariots of Fire. That is one of the quotes that hangs on my vision board in my office and I am sure I glanced at it once or twice while making the film. But to answer your question “Why do I ride”? Because It’s when I feel closest to God.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Hi Bryan,
      I’m honored and happy to hear from you, so glad you enjoyed my musings on your fantastic film. It still inspires, and I know will continue to for many years. So thank you for the perfect encapsulation of what’s so often difficult for us riders to explain to those who don’t. Like Jeep owners are prone to say, “If you don’t ride, you won’t understand.”
      Keep in touch with us,
      Rob

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    It wasn’t until I started riding, and had that moment where I fully embraced, “Why We Ride” that moment became my religion!

    Reply
    • Avatar

      It certainly can be a spiritual experience Ginger, absolutely.
      Thanks for your comments!

      Reply
  3. Avatar

    Riding saved my life. I started to ride a few months before I took on the sole responsibility of taking care of my grandmother who suffered from Dementia and Alzheimers. I did this while working full time. With no assistance from any family member her care was very overwhelming. To the point I had to decide…. or….. and I found my answer while I was riding. Riding was my healing. My way to let it all go. My “Wind Therapy”. My license plate is an abbreviation of “Life Preserver”. The first thing you give someone who is drowning. Riding saved me then and continues every time I ride.
    Loved your story of watching the Movie start to Finish. Now I think I will get out my copy and give it a watch, again.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Thank you, Cynthia, what a powerful rider testimony that is. Thank you for sharing it. Love and prayers for you and your grandmother as you care for her.

      Reply
  4. Avatar

    It’s life affirming and death defying at the same time.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      That’s a good way to term it, Lawrence. Indeed it is.

      Reply
  5. Avatar

    After waking up early this morning to 6 inches of fresh snow you motivated me to watch Why We Ride again on Amazon Prime. It helped to exorcise the demons brought about by the crippling malady known as PMS (parked motorcycle syndrome). You’re preaching to the choir out here brother…..we get it and, like you, are “Ride Lifers”! Hope we can hook up this summer for another Pacific NW adventure. Keep the Road Dirt content comin’…..I enjoy every article!

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Thank you T, appreciate you rascals up there in the great PNW!

      Reply
  6. Avatar

    Thanks for another great article, another that confirms you’re one of us and you just get it.

    Oddly, I didn’t see the film until recently, even as a 45-year rider. I found it for free on Amazon Prime, and as you say, it speaks for us. As I told my wife, I feel most like myself when I’m on a bike.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Thanks for your comments, Marcos.
      You’re right, the movie really speaks what we long to communicate to non-riders- those deep stirrings riding gives us, that are hard to capture in word.

      Reply
  7. Avatar

    I’m a 100% disabled veteran. When I got injured (tbi & spinal cord) I couldn’t walk. Subsequently, I sold my bike. Over the years I’ve regained some use of my legs and some strength as well as confidence.

    With some help & a smokin’ deal, I recently purchased a 2020 Harley 107 Street Bob fxbb. Once again I get to ride. Not until I found myself cruising along a farm-to-market road in Brazoria County did I come to the full realization of how much I truly missed that freedom.

    “Freedom and responsibility we speak of easily, nearly always without recognition of the iron courage required to make them effective in our lives.” J. Glenn Gray

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Well-said, Jack. And happy to hear you are back on two wheels. Your courage is an inspiration, man. Blessings on ya.
      Rob

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *