Why do I ride? If you were to ask me that question ten years ago, I would give you a much different answer than I would today.
Truth be told, I don’t know if I could have given any answer ten years ago. If you were to ask me today why I ride a motorcycle, the answer would be very different. Back then I certainly was not passionate about it, and riding was just another thing to do, taking no precedence over anything else. Much like a good marriage, though, I have grown to love and be passionate about it. Riding is my singular passion and I cannot live without it. Today, though, I ride to stay sane; riding is my therapy.
I don’t have any other hobbies; fishing doesn’t interest me and despite my best efforts I just can’t get into golf. What I can do is trail brake going into a turn with my knee skimming across the ground, with nothing to worry about except when to start rolling on the throttle.
I never gave it much thought, the question of why I ride. I thought about it today, though, and I have to ride. When I’m riding my bike I don’t hear the silence, the void left when the generators providing power to the base aren’t humming. Riding takes away the ear-shattering solitude of not hearing ordnance exploding or the scream of the ambulance going from the main gate to the hospital. The aural assault of a war zone at first is uncomfortable and loud. It permeates your being, though, and it becomes part of who you are; I am XYZ, this is my world. Being home, back in the world, whatever you want to call it, is eerie in its silence. There is a void that is filled with thoughts, with worry, with an anxiety that is never resolved. Riding brings back that noise, both literally and figuratively. Every noise on a bike has purpose, some of them good, some of them bad, but they all have meaning and will affect you. Without the noise there is simply…nothing. A dark and terrifying nothing that shrouds your world.
I ride to stay sane; riding is my therapy.
I ride to forget. I forget about my friend, who a week ago, chose to end his struggle with life. If only he had been a rider; he’d be too excited to sleep at night with thoughts of the next day’s ride in his head. I forget about the crushing responsibility of providing for three children. Am I good enough, am I doing enough, do they know or care? These are things I don’t think about when I ride. I ride to fill the immeasurable void that has taken the place of an ex-wife who told me, quite unexpectedly, she was unhappy and wanted a divorce. Is it escapism? Yes, when I think about it, I realize it is. I ride to forget the realities of a life forged by the choices I’ve made, both good and bad. When I’m on a bike, even on the track, it’s just me and the bike. I am not worrying about how I will respond when someone asks me a question or simply starts a conversation. My only responsibilities are to have fun and obey the rules of the track. As I drop the bike off the stands and swing a leg over the seat, the only thing I see in my future is what I see through my visor. Nothing else matters and nothing else has a more immediate impact on me than what I’m doing at that moment. The past and future are the same, irrelevant abstracts that don’t invade my thoughts.
I ride to escape. I’ve been back from Afghanistan for a couple months but crowds still make me nervous; there are too many hands and faces to track. Too many nervous glances. On the track there are no hands to watch, no faces to give away apprehension of combat. On the bike the only battle is that with myself. Can I hit that apex a little closer next time? Can I fight my fear and hold off on braking a split second longer? Can I predict what the rider in front of me is going to do and position myself to pass him? I’m not checking my magazines. I’m not walking down the street with my thumb on the safety. I’m not asking myself if I racked a round. All I’m doing is flowing from corner to corner as fast as my sense of self-preservation will allow.
I ride to express myself. I believe it’s safe to say that my artistic skills really peaked somewhere in second or third grade. I can draw a stick figure like nobody’s business, but beyond that I believe I would starve if I had depend on my artistic skills to put food on the table. Riding lets me be the person I want to be. There are many kinds of riders, and no one kind of rider is better than any other.