Do You Dream of Riding a Motorycle?
As a professional motorcycle guru and founder of Class: M1 Private Motorcycle Training, I’m always happy to help turn riding dreams to reality for our clients. Indeed, we’ve put thousands of safe, happy riders on the road since 2012.
Still, dreams aside, motorcycling (or scootering!) isn’t for everyone. Often, initial inquiries come from potential new riders who’ve simply decided to decide whether or not to ride. The decision can be complex and is always uniquely personal.
In my new book, The Craft and Art of Motorcycling: From First Ride to the Road Ahead (June 2023, Quarto/Motorbooks), I dedicate an early chapter to the subject, “Deciding to Ride”. After years of counseling the bike-curious, it was clear that it deserved a chapter unto itself.
Deciding to Ride
I’m pleased to share a short (sneak peek!) excerpt with you now:
With The Craft and Art of Motorcycling in your hands, it seems you’ve decided to ride. Congratulations! Or maybe you’re deciding to decide to ride? The choice, like the squiggly black arrow on a Curves Ahead sign, promises exciting, good stuff to come.
Motorcycles offer much more than just transportation. Motorcycling can be a Dorothy-in-Technicolor-esque life changer, and I’m always thrilled to help a new rider open the door to Oz! But sometimes that journey to the magical land can include a scary witch on a broomstick just outside the window.
RISK AND FEAR
Because the decision to ride comes with an element of risk, excitement is commonly accompanied by some degree of fear.
The fear that comes along with starting anything new, though particularly when involving some risk, is largely learned, or psychological, fear—danger imagined, not imminent. This type of fear can offer important cues for caution, or it may simply inhibit and constrain us.
Evolutionary, or biological, fear, on the other hand—the fear of an open flame, or saber-toothed tiger, for example—can help keep us safe.
When it comes to motorcycles, riders-to-be can become programmed with fear before ever swinging a leg over the saddle. The potential risk and danger are real, but potential danger is not actual danger.
Others can project their psychological fears onto us. I know I was taught to fear motorcycles growing up. Hearing—or experiencing firsthand—motorcycle horror stories can lead to a deep-rooted phobia.
Simply acknowledging learned fear aloud helps us face it and allows opportunity to begin managing it. I start by reassuring new riders that everything we do is progressive and systematic—step by step. It’s one of the essential virtues of private, 1:1 training: to move forward at an individual’s pace and comfort level.
Ultimately, if, let’s say, the Pacific Coast Highway is the destination, there are many different routes to get there—some straighter and quicker, some more winding and slower. Your ride, your route.
THE POWER OF PURPOSE
At some point before showing up to learn to ride, the choice is made to do it. The fear that comes along with it can be managed. The choice to ride itself, I’ve found, really comes down to this: Does purpose exceed fear?
Purpose can be strong and variable:
• Simple: I just want to ride!
• Individual: I’ve always been fascinated by motorcycles but was taught to fear them, or made to promise never to ride them. Now, I’m ready to do it for me.
• Legacy: My grandfather loved motorcycles and I always dreamed of riding them, too. Now, I have the time.
• Community: My family member/friends and I want to ride together.
• Threshold: I’ve just gone through a big change/challenge in my life and I need this reward.
• Practical: I’m sick of . . . my expensive, gas-guzzling car. . . traffic . . . parking!
Fear can also be strong and variously informed:
• Caution: My family member/friend was in a horrible motorcycle accident.
• Projection: Everyone says I’m crazy to want to ride—it’s too dangerous!
• Tolerance: This is so against my personality—I’m usually cautious and quite risk-averse.
• Responsibility: I have young children and I/my partner feel(s) unsure about the risk.
Balancing purpose and fear is personal business, and usually some internal negotiation is required. If asked, I’m happy to consult as an objective voice of experience, but the agreement, the choice—in either direction—must come from within.
Keep in mind that risk tolerance—the balance of purpose and fear—can be fluid and fluctuate with time. Life circumstances and physical abilities can change, and it may be important to revisit those internal negotiations occasionally.
If purpose ultimately exceeds fear—and you’ve decided to ride!—you can begin to manage fear through a deeper understanding of risk and risk moderation on the road, and make your riding dreams a reality!
Pre-order The Craft and Art of Motorcycling now!
Illustrations by Benedicte Waryn