Friday, March 4, 2016

What is so great about a motorcycle? It's you

Author Melissa Holbrook Pierson and motorcycle.
While draining oil from my Royal Enfield Bullet the other day I was suddenly struck by how small it is.

"What am I doing?" I asked myself. This tiny machine, tucked between my legs, has carried me 40,000 miles.

But it's so small! It is only a bit longer than my outstretched arms, lower than my waist and no wider than a bar stool.

It has only two wheels, the absolute minimum.

It has only one cylinder, the absolute minimum.

It has only one headlight, the absolute minimum.

It has no weather protection except fenders, no luggage room except its toolboxes and no instruments except a notional speedometer and ammeter.

It is almost nothing. Yet it does what any larger vehicle, up to and including a Boeing 747 does: it moves me around the world.

It does so more slowly than a 747, of course. But its speed is in fact incredible, given that (unlike in a 747) I am riding without so much as a seat belt.

Here I am, unattached to this thing at more than 60 mph, and yet I have the audacity to complain that it won't go any faster!

That's crazy.

In her book "The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles," author Melissa Holbrook Pierson explores the strange hold these seemingly rudimentary machines have on us. She writes:

"Inherently unstable at a standstill, the bike is waiting for the human to help it become its true self. Out there running, it can seem as solid as stone."

That may be the answer.

An automobile, hunkered on its four wheels, is a perfectly obvious idea. Its driver gives directions; the vehicle gives everything else.

The motorcycle is not obvious. It's the solution to a need, carefully distilled to its very essence.

The motorcycle gives the minimum you need to move. You give the rest.

That is just another way of saying that the motorcycle gives you all you need.

P.S. OK. It's all you need in Florida. In Minnesota, maybe, you're going to need a Jeep this time of year.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3/05/2016

    When you consider the first motorcycles were designed to replace the horse, then yes, her argument makes perfect sense. A man and his horse is a beautiful thing.


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