Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Perfect Moments

Lexus has this ad about being in the perfect moment:

Other than the narrative (I find that I'm lost in moments like this, not narrating them in my head), I like the idea. I was editing footage from riding last week and had trouble finding a frame where I didn't have a perfect moment look on my face:

Even pausing during the high speed sections of that video shows a series of very content micro-expressions.  You might find a perfect moment once in every blue moon in your Lexus, but I find them almost constantly when out on the bike.  I'm starting to get the idea behind the 'you never see a bike in a therapist's parking lot' saying.

The real question is: what is it about riding a motorcycle that causes this kind of continuous immersion in the perfect moment? (redundant perhaps, every moment is perfect isn't it?)

When I ride well I find myself immersed in what I'm doing I lose myself in it.  It's only when conscious thought arises that my corners aren't carved perfectly and my gears are wrong.  Some of this has to do with the fact that I'm still relatively new to motorbiking and very conscious of improving my process, but the majority has to do with the immersive nature of riding a motorcycle.

I even look happy parking the bike at work!
Being in the wind means you are enveloped by the world you're passing through.  Your senses are alive to sounds, smells and the panorama around you.  You aren't seeing the world through a letterbox wind shield and smelling recirculated A/C.  The sensual nature of riding, the wind tugging at your clothes, the sun on your back, goes a long way to making you the ride rather than you doing a ride.

If the sensual side of it isn't enough (and it's often overwhelming, ask any biker who has felt the temperature drop and smelt the ozone as they've ridden into a thunderstorm), there is always the mechanical intimacy of riding a motorcycle to make you forget concious thought and become one with the moment.

Unlike the hand on the wheel, one foot on the gas approach to driving, the motorcyclist is changing gears with their left toe, rear braking with their right, operating the clutch and indicators (and sometimes horn, lights and choke) with their left hand and twisting the throttle and applying the front brakes with the right.  On top of that they are using both arms to counter-steer into corners and their whole bodies to manage those turns.  Motorcycling is a viable and complex form of exercise for both the mind and body.

So what we have here is a mode of transport that is physically taxing, mentally demanding and sensual.  On top of all that, if you do it badly it can very quickly become fatal.  You very quickly want to be able to fall into the zone when riding.  Peak performance and awareness it fosters isn't nice to have but a necessity when operating a motorbike.  Fortunately, getting to that state is fantastically rewarding.  There are a lot of ways to get there but seat time seems to be the magic ingredient.

In a cruel twist, this morning I got the bike out for the short commute to work.  The rain had stopped and the smell of water soaked plants filled the humid air, but my up-until-now bullet proof old Concours wouldn't start, it had a dead battery!  Maybe I left the ignition on?  Maybe some water got into things?  Maybe something broke?  Suddenly that string of contented moments I was looking forward to became a morose push back into the garage after changing out of my gear.  My commute turned from fifteen minutes of bliss to the tedium of driving.  The bike is a wonderful form of therapy, except for when it doesn't work.