Motorcycle Riding – a Moving Addiction

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I have been riding motorcycles since I was 16. Since then, there have not been two consecutive years in my life when I did not own and ride a motorcycle. I had them all. BMW, Zündapp, NSU, Horex, Münch, Laverda, Benelli, Moto Guzzi, Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, you name them, and of course, Harley-Davidson. I went through rigorous training in Germany, where my Yugoslav riding teacher even taught me how to act in the event the bike slips on slick autumn leaves or on wet cobble stones. I am now 83. I never had a serious accident, and I am still riding my Harley-Davidson Softail Heritage Custom 200th Anniversary Edition.

I ask myself often: why am I still doing this? It is clearly dangerous, and I know I should quit and yet I would rather sacrifice a few years of my life than give up motorcycle riding. Stupidity? Old-age blockheadedness? Lack of responsibility? Give me liberty or give me death?

No folks. Motorcycle riding, if done right, becomes an addiction. What I am going to write about here is totally novel – at least as far as I was able to ascertain. I have never found anything written about this elsewhere. It is the phenomenon of total infinite vision.

To ride a motorcycle, you must move with it. If you do not move, you will sooner or later have to put your feet on the ground or you will fall on the side. When moving, rider and bike become one kinetic unit. You can only change direction by shifting your body’s center of gravity to the side counteracting the bike’s gyro force, which wants to keep the bike and you going straight, while at the same time slightly pulling on the “distal” handle of the handlebar, i.e., the handle that is further away from the center of the circle you are attempting to ride. When turning left, you pull on the right handlebar and vice versa. This becomes increasingly difficult, the faster the unit moves and the less of the total weight is contributed by the rider. This is the main reason why small, or light-weight people should not ride heavy bikes.

Humans have an innate urge to change their perception of reality and experience of self. This is why children like seesaws, carrousels, and swings or why they swirl around until they get dizzy. This is also why so many people take mind-altering drugs – at least initially. It is why many people like fast movements and unusual perspectives. It is also one of the fascinations of fast motorcycle riding and even of not so fast motorcycle riding, because it is a unique experience to maintain balance due to nothing but the gyro effect of the bike, especially when riding on curvy mountain roads like e.g. the Dragon Tail.

But this is not the true mind-altering, perception-changing, addictive bike riding experience. Do me a favor. Stick your right index finger in the air approximately a foot away from your face. Look at your finger with both eyes open. Now try to set your vision to infinite. Do not focus on your finger. Look at something behind the finger, far behind it. Keep trying this until you manage to switch off the parallax compensation of the eyes, which is the automatic function of your eyes that enables focused stereoscopic vision. When you succeed in setting your vision to infinite, you will no longer see one index finger but two with about a half inch “space” between them. (From a cognitive point of view, one might ask the question “What is that space between the two fingers? Does it really exist?”)

This kind of totally passive unfocussed vision directed unto the infinitive can also be achieved when riding a motorcycle. Just practice off-bike with your finger until the change in vision comes naturally and effortless. Then ride your bike and try the same – without the finger, of course. Just unfocus your vision. You will know that you succeeded when you get the impression that the bike no longer moves. It feels like you and the motorcycle are standing still, and the world is coming at you. The riding experience turns into a real-life video game experience. Reality rolls toward you like on a screen. This is most impressive when riding on long straight roads or over long bridges, and it is outright stunning when riding through a long tunnel like the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in Norfolk. It reminds me of the experience of being born and passing through the maternal vagina. Scary yet impressive and once you experienced this phenomenon, you become addicted, and you want to experience it again. I can only describe it as total perception or as being born again. I suspect that many motorcyclists have had the same experience and are also addicted to it, but nobody talks or writes about it.

Still, the experience of total perception can make motorcycle riding even more dangerous because riding without the perceptive crutch of focused vision can affect your balance and destabilize your orientation. It should only be tried by truly experienced riders and preferably on a road without oncoming traffic or best on one with no traffic. While I do not recommend that anybody try this, I have to admit that this unique experience is the true reason why I find it so hard to end my biking days.

If you are a motorcycle rider and have had the same experience, let me know.

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