There really is a lot to like about riding a motorcycle. It's exciting, fascinating and wholesome good fun. Well, it might not be wholesome and good if you were in an outlaw biker gang, but I'm sure it would still be fun.
Anyway, I thought I'd share a few reasons why I like motorcycling. Here goes:
1. The character of the motorcycle
Every motorcycle has its own unique character; something you don't get in your average car. British motorcycles have traditionally been brash, sporty and loud. German motorcycles have traditionally been meticulously engineered and smooth as silk. Italian motorcycles are expressive, impractical and reflective of Italy's love for speed and style. Even the Japanese have managed to give their motorcycles character: precision, focus and reliability.
The motorcycles produced by each country reflect their values and ethos and in turn, make each motorcycle an entity unto itself. When you talk to someone about a BMW, a Laverda or a Honda, connections are made between the motorcycle and the country from whence it came. It just goes to show that there is no correct way to build a motorcycle.
2. Being exposed
On a motorcycle, you have nothing around you. You are exposed; part of the environment. In a car, you're surrounded by this large metal box that insulates you from the world in which you are traveling. You view the world moving past your windows almost like you're watching a television. You can see the trees, the weather and the roadkill but you can't experience them. You can't feel the temperature change as you go into a shaded area, you can't feel the cool rain on a hot summer day and you can't smell the three-day-old dead opossum.
Yeah, you can get an open-air experience with a convertible but whenever it gets too hot, cold or rainy, you can put the top up and shut off the world. You don't have that luxury on a motorcycle. You have to adapt, improvise and overcome to deal with whatever nature throws your way.
3. The sound and the fury
Yes, a motorcycle with some loud exhausts annoys the neighbors, aggravates the dog and scares the old ladies, but, man, does it sound good. To go along with the unique character of each motorcycle, the uniqueness of a motorcycle's exhaust note is another beautiful thing. A rabid enthusiast's ear can tell the difference between a BMW flat-twin, a Ducati V-twin, a Harley Big Twin or a Norton parallel twin. Few sounds on Earth can match the high-pitched wail of a Japanese four as it screams to its astronomical redline.
And, because the engine is right in between your knees, you get to experience a bevy of sounds you miss when the engine is buried under a car's hood. You can hear valves clacking, cams spinning and gears whirring. It really is a symphony of sound.
The British term 'flat chat' is in reference to the noise produced by the valvetrain in British motorcycle engines. It seems that when the riders were going as fast as possible on their bikes, there was so much valvetrain noise that it seemed like the engines were talking. That's cool.
Two wheels, a gas tank and a seat; what more do you need? Sure there are loaded out barges like Honda Goldwings and Harley-Davidson Electra-Glides that have radios and such but the real draw toward a motorcycle is the utter simplicity of the machine. A proper motorcycle has everything you need and nothing you don't. The simplicity of the motorcycle also manifests when you travel on it. With a lack of storage space, you're forced to take what you absolutely need.
However, the simplicity of the motorcycle is diminishing with our increasingly technological world. Simple carbs have been replaced by complex EFI. Electronic control modules are popping up on new motorcycles like acne on a teenager's face. Still, simplicity remains in motorcycles like the Triumph Bonneville, Royal Enfield Bullet and the iconic Russian Ural.
5. The sense of speed
I often find myself thinking "wow, I'm really moving along, here" only to look down at the speedo and see I'm doing 40 mph. It's really kind of funny. Since you're so close to your surroundings on a motorcycle, the scenery you're moving past fools you into thinking you're going faster than you are. It is kind of sad, though, when you're running up through the gears thinking you're Valentino Rossi and you get passed by a minivan. I mean, not like that's ever happen to me. Nope, that's never happened to me.
6. The jargon
Flat chat. Hoops. Pillion. Clip-ons. Tickover. Mag. Thunper. One lung. Shovel. That's just a few examples of the jargon that comes with riding a motorcycle. Even the motorcycle brands have their own names: Bimmer, Trumpet, Soozook, Yammy, Duke/Duck, Goose, Beeza, Kaw, Hog, Big Red, Velo, Squariel, Triton, Tribsa, Norvin.
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