Monday, January 26, 2015

Perfect Pressure

Perfect, glorious bar pressure. Lean angle. Push with the legs. Squeeze the tank.

Riding a motorcycle is a dream come true. I'd wished for years to have a bike, always thinking it was out of reach. I put aside money for years, thinking 'One day. Someday..." And then, when checking out a used car dealership to replace my wrecked four wheel automobile, I stumbled upon a Harley Davidson dealership next door. 

Bikes made my heart melt, and these hogs were no different. I shuffled on over.
 The guys welcomed me, and told me to go ahead and sit on a few bikes. That made me nervous; what if I scratch it? What if I knock a bike over? I'm rather clumsy, and had never, ever, been on a MotorCycle before. So, I asked them a few questions about styles, weight, power, being blown about in the wind, etc, trying to get an idea of where I should start. 
They put me on a smaller Chopper, and started it up. It was awful. I hated nearly every bit of it. I liked the sound, but the way you kick your feet forward, sit up, the seat shape, the vibrations, all of it sucked. I sat on a couple of other bikes, and left feeling discouraged.
After that, I started thinking that I'd never get a bike. Every time I drove over a bump in the road, I'd think "Fuck! I couldn't have dealt with that if I was on a motorcycle." Or, so I thought. I was still saving up a percentage of my income towards a bike, but I figured I'd use it for power tools, or fixing my car, or an emergency down the road.

This went on for (thankfully only) five months, until I started working at Atomic Tattoo in Austin TX. One of the guys there, Olaf, had a big ol' Honda Blackbird sport bike. Olaf was always talking about upgrades he had just done, track days, group rides, wipe outs, Texas Sportbike Riders, etc, etc.

Eventually, the conversation shifted over to my interest in mechanics, and my (at the time, dead) interest in motorcycles. Still, every time I saw a bike, I got all wibbly kneed, so when Olaf offered to take me out on the Blackbird I couldn't say no.
He gave me a list of things that I needed to bring: a leather jacket, close toed boots that covered my ankles, sunglasses, and thick pants. He already had a helmet and gloves for me to borrow.

We set up a date, I drove to his house, and we got suited up. He went over how to mount the bike; I needed to wait for him to get on, get settled, then I'd step up onto the closest foot peg and swing my other leg over. He told me to be careful not to wiggle, stay loose and move with him instead. If he's leaning to the left for a left hand turn, I should gently look towards the turn and lean with him. Same for the right. Hold onto him, or the seat. Whichever is most comfortable.
And we were off! 

It felt like nothing! No fear, no bumps, no problem. I worried about sliding backwards. I worried about leaning wrong. But none of that happened. Every bit of The Ride was amazing.
We rode to Magnolia Cafe, talked about bikes, I asked endless questions while we ate, and when we finished up we took off again. On the highway, I assumed we were going rather slow, until I realized we were whizzing by car after car.
I loved it completely. Eventually, we rode together down Lime Creek Rd in West Austin TX, where I got to actually experience curves and speed. 

With me on the bike, we only went up to about 120mph on a straight. 
After that, I was hooked.
None of my prior worries, complaints, or concerns were actually applicable. I was addicted. I knew that I loved driving fast, but riding fast was even better. I dreamt about riding. I thought about it constantly. While we were on Lime Creek, I looked up, realized where I was and what was really going on, and I was thankful. It was what I'd always wanted.

Eventually, I got my own bike and started going on rides with Olaf, then small group rides with our close friends, then expanded out into the Texas Sportbike Riders group rides of 20+ people. My first ride was magic. Part one of the ride brought us out to Marble Falls, where most people headed out and just a handful of us stayed out. Before, I was landed in the back of the back, right in front of the sweep since I was the newest rider there. On the way back, I accidentally landed myself second to the front, with riders I didn't know. It was fantastic. I reveled in the joy of being in a pack of complete strangers on our individual pieces of Fine Machinery, zipping down country roads at quite illegal speeds. They knew what they were doing. I could push myself to mimic them; push myself just enough without it being too dangerous. I didn't have to worry about them slowing way down before a turn, nor did they wander through the lanes. It was just looking deep into the turn, focusing, pushing, leaning, opening the throttle. It was a dream come true. 

I couldn't help but relate the beautiful way bikes handle to riding a well trained horse. Persistent Pressure in the Proper Position is fundamental for both. When you come to a curve, you want your RPM to be a little higher than normal cruising, lots of throttle response, and the bike is gently guided by you. You can push the bike with your legs, inner knee goes out, outer knee pushes in, look, press, lean. Drive the inner-turn hip in, back, and down. It feels like asking a horse to collect, round it's back, arch it's neck, change it's gait, change leads, move through dressage moves, delicately come into a turn and extend out of it. It's true art. Perfection. I often told myself to "smile with all four cheeks" which is a reminder to relax and smile with both your face and your butt that my sister used to tell new horseback riders. Head up. Smile. Breath. Your horse feels your tension, and so does your bike.

My favorite curve we hit was a slight bank labeled 45mph, that we took going 100mph. I rode for about 5 hours that day, and didn't want to get off of my bike. Ever.

Usually when I ride, I focus on riding. I clear my mind. Occasionally, I pop out of that and realize how incredibly happy I am. How perfect this is. How good life is. 

For life, motorcycles, and twisted roads, I am thankful.

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