“Riding motorbikes makes me happy.”
There, I said it, and before I finish this post, I’m sure I’ll say it again. I like motorbikes for a number of reasons, which I’ll expand on below, but the key for me is the oneness I feel between me and the machine. There is no mindlessness when riding, I am alert and focused, my inner child is activated, I enjoy the thrill, the vulnerability, and the wind blowing through my hair.
“I absolutely love them. Motorcycles to me, represent everything that’s exciting in the world. The feelings you get on a motorcycle are beyond anything else made by man. It’s what I imagine flying feels like. You’re free. And at the same time, all your senses are engaged. It’s like having sex with your clothes on, except it lasts longer – and that makes me happy.”
David Parsons, Lifelong Motorbike Rider
Mindfulness & Alertness
If you’ve read any of my previous posts – and you definitely should – you’ll know I’m interested in mindfulness. Well, on my motorbike I am very mindful; I am concentrating on the road ahead of me. That mindfulness is important; you need to be compulsive about focus and attention when you ride, in fact there is almost a zen-like quality to a motorcycling that just isn’t present with any other form of transportation. The benefit of this concentration is that it brings you into an intimacy with what you are doing, and in that intimacy, there is pleasure and learning.
What does that mindfulness or concentration do for you? Well, if you’ve had a hard day at the office there’s nothing like a ride home to break that spell and bring you home with a smile on your face. Just like watching a really good movie, a motorbike ride really punctuates the day – it’s a great way to disconnect from everything. I’m only thinking about the ride when I’m on my bike, that makes me happy and find it helps me leave my work problems where they belong – at the office.
Improves Mental Health
Have you ever seen a motorbike parked outside a psychiatrist’s clinic?
All that concentrating we just talked about, it helps stimulate a rider’s brain and definitely has positive effects on mental and health. A further benefit is that the sheer physicality of riding a motorbike – the balance, control and coordination – activates other parts of your brain and is understood to actually increase brain function and health.
A study on the positive mental effects of motorcycling demonstrated that motorbike riding increases attention via two mechanisms: strengthening focus and heightening the brain’s passive monitoring of changes in the sensory environment. The same study also describes that riding, but not driving, increases arousal of the sympathetic nervous system and produces the same type of excitatory signals produced by the sight or thought of an appealing sexual partner! (I’m not going to make any jokes about having a throbbing beast between your legs – or stretch that analogy any further).
Riding a motorbike is, in short, is a great form of mental exercise.
Physical Exercise Makes Me Happy
Studies on increases in heart rate and hormonal data support a comparison of motorcycling with light exercise; it certainly burns up more calories – you can count on burning 600 calories per hour compared to 200 to 300 while driving or at rest. As well as burning a few calories, what biking also does is improve your core strength, your neck strength, with a lot of that physical effort being expended while you are maneuvering at slow speeds.
Cruising, say around 80 km per hour (or 50 miles per hour for all our American friends) is relaxing, but the mental and physical effort increases as the speed goes up, not least because of the wind effect. If I’m riding fast into the wind my neck gets real good workout from the wind buffeting – and that’s even with a windshield. Whatever the weather, a couple of hours on my bike and I’m guaranteed to get a good night’s sleep.
The Thrill Makes Me Happy
All this talk so far has been about the mental and health benefits, but for many bikers, it’s the speed and the thrill that keeps them on their bikes. Motorbikes are legal drugs that can get your blood pumping with a simple flick of the wrist.
You may be used to driving your car at 80 to 100 km per hour, but the moment you’re on your bike doing your first 60 or more, you’ll know there’s a big difference. You can’t just sit there and passively turn the wheel; the whole experience is a lot more involving than that – mastering the subtleties of body positioning, counter-steering, braking points, throttle control, etc. make the whole experience incredibly rewarding.
Ultimately, the thrill depends on what you want, my own bike is a Honda Shadow 750 Aero; it’s a popular cruiser bike but not exactly designed for speed. For me, being out in nature with the wind brushing across my face, the sound of the motor and the vibration without the safety of a protective cocoon around makes me happy and is thrill enough.
Urban Riding in Seoul
At this point, I have to confess that the majority of miles I clock up are through the streets of downtown Seoul (South Korea), and not out in the open country. Sounds dull? Hardly a moment – Seoul is an urban biker’s paradise.
Seoul has wide roads, plenty of room for a bike to get through and although buses and taxis are predictably unpredictable, for the most part car drivers have a ‘live and let live’ mentality – unless of course, you are being downright aggressive, stupid or dangerous. Pedestrians are equally forgiving too; they usually won’t bat an eyelid even if you’re using the sidewalk as an occasional shortcut.
Another great thing about biking here in Seoul is that all the road traffic cameras are front-facing, meaning that – with only a license plate at the rear – you can ride with almost total impunity. Never getting a speeding ticket or a signal violation – well, that makes me happy too.
Cool Factor & Girl Bikers
Let’s be honest, bikes are super cool – and hot at the same time with an added mystique if you’re a girl biker. We’re a family of bikers now, there’s his and hers bikes at home, we take weekend trips together and drop my youngest daughter to school by motorbike everyday – she loves it too – a real girl biker in training.
Riding motorbikes makes me happy, Your Quest is to find out if riding them makes you happy too. Life is a Journey, enjoy the ride!
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For more on this subject you can purchase my book ‘This is Your Quest’ online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble. The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Nobles (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Or check out her Amazon Author Page here.