From the first warm days of March to the closing days of autumn, I am likely to be traveling on two wheels.  Taking the bike out in March for that first ride as the last of the snow melts away, to breaking the ice off my seat to take that last ride, are seasonal rites that I have faithfully followed for thirty years. In earlier years when I was riding my shovelhead, this rite of spring required several hours of “wrenching” to be up and running for “road day”. Carburetors needed attention, points needed cleaning and adjustments, batteries need charging and even with all that attention, getting the bike started was often frustratingly difficult.  My present motorcycle is fuel injected and stored in a warm dry location.  I shovel whatever snow is left in front of the overhead door, press the start button, raise the door and go…   Oddly, I miss all of that fussing, cussing and swearing at the damned un-cooperative motorcycle.

  Though I am not as enthusiastic as I once was, I still respond to the allure of motorcycle riding.  In earlier years, I strove to be the first out and the last in.  I rode in sub-freezing temperatures and miserable conditions to prove how tough I was.  I no longer feel a need to prove how tough I am, because I am not tough anymore!  However, I still ride in climates that many would find extreme.

New Hampshire has the highest per capita motorcycle registrations in the union, an odd statistic considering the relatively short season.  On the other hand, what summer we do have is ideal for riding and New Hampshire has no shortage of beautiful rides.  From the mountains to the lakes, to the coast, through all those quaint quintessential New England towns, there is never a lack of things to do and places to see.   I prefer the back roads that mostly go from nowhere to nowhere.  I spend so much time on dusty gravel that my motorcycle is rarely ever shiny.  I have had to dodge wandering pigs, stubborn goats, and errant cows in addition to the expected moose and deer.   Being stuck behind a farm tractor spilling manure over the roadway can tax a rider’s patience.  It’s always been my luck that as I downshift to third and crack the throttle, another vehicle comes up over the rise and I have to quickly return to my lane.  On a really bad day, that other vehicle is a state trooper.

Riding on a motorcycle is an entirely different experience than riding in a car.   On a motorcycle, you are physically responding to the road.  In curves, you have to lean according to the laws of momentum and centrifugal force.  That imaginary centerline that goes though the driver and the machine is tangible, YOU FEEL IT!  When the road dips, you feel yourself lighten and rise from the seat.  Responding automatically to the forces of gravity and the characteristics of the road, being synchronized with the machine as it responds to commands from feet and hands; it’s all part of the magical “oneness” that riders describe when explaining their love of motorcycles.

Motorcycle riding also stimulates all the senses.  In a car, the whole world is one temperature… the inside temperature of the car.  On a motorcycle, you find pockets of cool and rushes of hot air.  You feel the breezes and smell the seasons.  On a hot summer day, you can smell the hot asphalt as the air above shimmers. Freshly mowed grass, newly spread manure, summer flowers, campfire smoke are but a few of the scents that will fill your nostrils as you move through the countryside.

 The sounds of the world are held back by the glass enclosure of an automobile.  On a motorcycle, the bellowing of frogs, the call of birds even the rustling of the wind through the trees can be heard above the sound of the motorcycle engine.  So, all the senses are engaged when riding a motorcycle.  With most motorcycle enthusiasts, the emphasis is in the traveling, not the destination, which is contrary to almost all other forms of travel.

The Zen aspect, the sensory aspect, the physical aspect of motorcycle riding all contributes to the exhilaration of being in the wind.  Combined, these aspects of motorcycling allow the rider to reconnect with kind of joy he left behind in his childhood, the joy of bicycling down a hill with reckless abandon!

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