The Mentality of Motorcycling
So much of proficient motorcycle riding is all in your head. We assume a measure of risk every time we throw a leg over and throttle out. Most people are unwilling to take that risk upon themselves. That’s what makes us motorcyclists different, sets us apart. We control our fears, conquer our reservations, and prepare ourselves as best we can to enjoy what we love- two wheels, a motor, and an open road before us. It all begins “between the ears.” This truth became abundantly clear to me on a recent road trip with friends.
It was to be the perfect weekend excursion into the mountains with my mates. Pleasant weather forecasted, a cabin booked in the high country, with four bikes and riders prepped for some curve carving at elevation. But as so often happens, “a series of unfortunate events” conspired to steal our trip and our joy. First, one of the guys ran late in meeting up south of Atlanta, delaying the group from meandering up to the northeast side to rendezvous with me. When they finally did set out, another rider’s bike broke down outside Conyers, 25 miles south of me. A new battery didn’t fix it, so I volunteered to pick him up with my truck and trailer. After getting the broke bike back to my house, the rest of the crew following me, I gave my friend my own motorcycle for the weekend, and I transferred my gear to a loaner bike Triumph had signed out for me, a 2022 Tiger Sport 660. And off we (finally) rode, hours later than we had first planned.
Rob and company- (L to R) Darin, Lyle, Savannah
We now would be arriving at our mountain cabin well after dark, according to GPS. By the time we made GA 60, a winding, at times tightly curved road above Dahlonega, we rode in pitch black darkness. For 30 miles. I led, so we took it carefully, praying we wouldn’t meet any oncoming lane hoarders or nocturnal critters. We finally came to our turn-in for the cabin- a left side road, in a curve, that became dirt/gravel as soon as we turned in. Oh, and there was a downhill locked gate before us. As I stopped and went to put my right foot down, it found nothing but air, and both man and machine fell over on the right side. Where the pavement had ended, I just so happened to step into a dip from the asphalt to the gravel, and my short inseam worked against me. I hoisted the bike back up, tired, shaken, and now upset that I had scuffed this beautiful Triumph.
We got the gate open, then found the gravel road wound around a downhill tight left corner where another rider dropped over in the loose amalgam, followed by a 90 degree right turn and a steep drop to the cabin down the hill. Whew. We were all exhausted from the day, the tense night ride on “Twisty 60”, two bike drops in as many minutes, and the issues with the cabin location. We unpacked, settled in, and tried to put the day behind us.
Gravel rash. So unbecoming.
That night, I barely slept. Tossing and turning, I stressed over dropping the Tiger 660, worried about climbing and negotiating that twisting, loose dirt and gravel road back up to GA 60, and if my limited dirt skills would foul my attempts to escape. One of the riders, Darin, who is actually a very proficient off-road rider, assured me the next morning, “You’ll be fine. Just throttle up, steady pressure on the rear tire, don’t let off the gas, even if the bike moves beneath you a little. Slow but steady. You got this.”
After breakfast, I stepped outside and looked up the hill we had descended in the dark the night before. It didn’t look as steep anymore. I walked up the dirt/gravel road, mentally mapping the best path up and around, all the way to the gate and back onto 60. “Dammit, I’m going to do this,” I declared to myself. “It’s not going to defeat me. I’m getting up this hill no matter what it takes.” And when it was time to ride, that’s exactly what I did, what we all did. It all depended on shifting my mental state and trading anxiety for focus and determination.
A glorious rest-of-the-trip. Comment below if you know where this is.
The rest of the riding and the trip was peaceful and beautiful. And the lesson stuck with me, that the battle takes place in the mind, before it ever plays out in execution. That’s a pretty good life lesson which can be applied to many circumstances we face. If you’re riding through a rough patch, on a ride or in life, the key might be to make up your mind and throttle through. Motorcycle riders are characterized by a “can-do” spirit. We examine how and what we can improve, then we “get back on the horse” and roll out. It all begins in the mind and the will.
Ride safe, ride confident, ride life.