If you would like the keys to finding faith, empowerment and confidence in an ever changing and sometimes frightening world. Let me show mine. They hang from a BMW embossed leather tag and they are my prized possession. I would wear them like jewellery but why do that when you can use them to turn over a bike and kick off onto the highway instead.
Follow me for a couple of thousand words and I’ll tell you why 🙂
Don’t look where you don’t want to go.
The words flashed into my head as the bloated carcass of a large grey kangaroo appeared on the road. I glanced to the bitumen beside the large lump, the bike duly followed and seconds later I wizzed around the smelly lump. Don’t look where you don’t want to go. Such a simple rule of riding that I hardly thought of it much anymore but I knew what happened if I didn’t apply it. Any motor bike rider learns this rule very quickly.
In motorbike riding, the direction you move in, is all about where you look. This is actually true with any mode of travel including your own legs but for some reason we never consider it much until we go to sit on a motorbike where the results of focus can have such swift and sometimes disastrous consequences if you make a mistake. Believe me, where you look is exactly where you will go. If you see a pothole and think “God I don’t want to hit that” – and you keep looking at it – God can’t help you and you will hit it.
As I dodged the kangaroo yesterday, I grinned in my helmet thinking of how this rule had been reinforced to me not long after I started riding when, with legs stiff and backside very sore, I had arrived at a service station in Cunnamulla. Glad to have reached the town after a several hours riding, I was intent on fueling the bike and was therefore scanning the bowsers to see which one contained the unleaded fuel as I rode in. Forgetting the most important rule of riding – don’t look where you don’t want to go – I damn near ended up on top of the bowser and although I didn’t drop the bike or hit anything – it was close. And would have been embarrassing, if it wasn’t so funny, both to me and the goggle eyed bloke that was fueling his car on the other side.
It is a known phenomenon in riding and it is called focus lock. The risk of it occurring is compounded with long rides and a lack of awareness due to tiredness or distraction.
Awareness and staying in the moment is another important rule of thumb which is why it is such powerful meditation (and therefore highly addictive to me).
I simply can’t assume the position and Om my way into peace at home, my chatterbox mind won’t allow it. If you think I write long rambly posts – try living in my head 🙂
Out on the road though the wind noise and the requirement for a constant return to the present moment has me naturally deep in a meditative state. Bugger candle flames – true zen is accomplished by motorbike riders every time they go for a long ride. This is why something that looks uncomfortable and boring – is actually relaxing.
There are other reasons why motorbike riding is addictive. It allows me to conquer my old nemesis – fear.
When I first got my motorbike license and was beginning to take trips by myself, overcoming fear was a huge obstacle. Every time I would excitedly plan a journey, the inevitable spectre of death or injury would rise up and I would start thinking “what if?” I have a pretty good imagination so the “what if?” horror film could become quite luridly frightening if I allowed my thoughts to get out of hand. But I love riding and I love riding solo best so I had to find a way to get over these imaginary fears in order to go riding.
The only way to get over irrational fears is to walk through them and prove to yourself that they are in fact irrational and merely figments of your imagination. This seems easy enough in theory but as a mother and wife it is often difficult to do put into practice and it is why I believe so many women either don’t ever take up riding a motor bike – or if they do – give it up as they become mothers of young children.
Which is a pity. Riding a motorbike is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. Riding solo and being free to go wherever you want, ditching all responsibilities and cares for awhile and just sitting on a humming machine, the scents of a change in season wafting through your helmet, zooming along with just yourself for company is an amazing experience. If it sounds like the perfect antidote to time poor mothers that is because it is. Riding is also a great instruction manual into how to conquer irrational fears – something which has plagued just about every human being on the planet at one time or other in their lives.
I used to be a very anxious person. I’m not now. I have ridden bikes that felt out of my comfort zone on roads that certainly were and learnt to handle them. I have chosen to get on those same bikes (I have a couple 🙂 and take long trips along a highway with the company of truck drivers on Ice, random animals prone to suicide attacks on my person and God knows who behind the wheel of every car that drifts past as I take a drink of water and a rest. As you can see – most of that is in my head but it doesn’t make it any less scary. Having all that crap transformed into calm awareness, confidence and a friendly wave at drivers and animals alike is pretty cool stuff. Thanks BMW you have fixed a lifelong problem that could have otherwise plagued me for the rest of my life.
It is not just about solo riding though. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some great companions at times. I have had the opportunity to spend time with my older brothers on the road, keeping connections alive through a shared passion that I may not have been able to do without my motorbike. I’ve ridden with other women that enrich the experience with their own tales of overcoming hurdles to do so and I have ridden in a mixed group of genders a time or two that was just as much fun. Bikers are great people because they meet death every moment and choose to see it as life enhancing rather than life threatening so they are always nice to hang around with.
Plus it is the strangers you meet along the way. The characters that you bump into who – without a motorbike as the draw card and interest – would never have come up and just started yacking away to me and telling me their stories – some sad, some funny and some just plain bazaar 🙂
I have had a couple of misadventures and been temporarily stuck here and there. Every single time within seconds a stranger has turned up to lend me a hand. I know this – if you are brave and take the leap, the universe really will provide you with the wings you need – suddenly instead of plunging you will be soaring.
I haven’t always thought everything through – for obvious reasons – that wasn’t working! Sometimes you just have to go and trust that you’ll be fine. I think that this is the greatest lesson that motorbike riding has given me. It is this deep steady faith that I will be okay – that whatever comes – I will be okay and will have the strength to deal with it or that someone will come along at the right time to help me. This certainty is not just provided on the highway, it is provided to me in every moment of my life now. ‘
This sort of faith is invaluable, it is extraordinary! It is also so hard for me to imagine that I would have obtained it in any other way than by riding a motorbike.
Life is an amazing journey whichever vehicle you choose to navigate it in. Riding a motorbike however turns the rather pedestrian pursuit of one point to another into an adventure. It lifts the mundane into the realms of extraordinary. It isn’t for everyone but just from the conversations I have had with other ladies I know – a lot of women yearn for it, however due to all those risks and fears, they don’t do it. Plenty of blokes don’t either and it is shame.
If this post helps one woman or man take the risk and find themselves smiling in their helmet – happy and confident out on the road and in their everyday lives then it has been well worth the effort in writing it…at 2am in the morning ha!
*Please note – after all this positive encouragement I do know people have in fact died on the roads on motorbikes or been terribly injured. I also know people die in car crashes, plane crashes and sitting at their breakfast table eating their bacon and eggs. Life is random – I am not going to be responsible for your death on a motorbike anymore than I would be because after a lifetime of eating crap you have a heart attack and die.
I will however take full credit if – after reading this post – you pull up your big girl panties (or Y fronts) and go and get a motorbike licence and then find yourself in a couple of years time floating along some long highway somewhere and whispering”thanks Kate” with tears of gratitude flowing down your face because you feel blessed. I’ve done that but I was whispering it to myself and you should to – because I know – it’s tough, it’s scary and male or female – you did that all by yourself, kudos to you dear – just you XX0X