Motorcycling as Therapy
By Des Molloy – recent graduate of the Happyzine Positive Writing Course
“Thank God they haven’t found a cure for motorcycling!” This is a refrain that I have oft repeated. Non-motorcyclists just think you are being a bit melodramatic and giving a bit of hype to your passion. Not so … motorcycling is one of the most wonderful medicines for the soul ever discovered.
Recently I found a new hero, yet another to hold up as an inspiration. One single emotive photo has inspired me. I know nothing about the man … I don’t need to. 81 year old John Wilkinson is captured riding his 1914 AJS around the McNamara Park racetrack at Mount Gambier in Australia. He is slightly hunched, eyes looking well ahead as he peels into a bend. I sense the emotions, as anyone who has punted a motorbike around a racetrack, would. I know the bike won’t be very fast, but that doesn’t matter. I feel the excitement, the intensity, I sense the competency and skill and I love the style and sheer panache of the moment.
I love also the imagined brotherhood behind the image. I know the wonderful feelings he will be experiencing. He is no longer a decrepit senior citizen in his final twilight years, a figure to be helped through the days. No, he is riding an old race bike around a racetrack … his heart will be pounding and his spirits soaring, the crowds cheering. He’ll be able to hear the unsilenced roar the single cylinder engine will be throwing out behind him, the bike will be shuddering and twitching, he’ll be euphoric. In twenty years time, I want to be that man, shooing the caregivers away, dropping the clutch and smoking off.
Motorcycling is a tactile, almost sensual experience that is both active and passive. Your input and skill immeasurably contributes to the enjoyment. You participate in so many small ways. You put the bike exactly where you want it in a corner by a series of tiny manoeuvres of your body. The moving of a buttock, a knee put out, a dropped shoulder, a weight transfer from one foot peg to another, a twitch of the throttle hand, all affect where and how the bike tracks. It is your individual skill that does it. You counter-steer by pushing your right bar away to turn right quickly. The bike starts to fall to the right and without realizing it, you catch it with a reactive adjustment, and together you glide and swish around bends. It is like ballet with a machine. With competence gained, it is uplifting.
It is an extension of your body, not a vehicle to be guided by remote controls of steering through a transfer box of worm gear and racks, pinions and the like. You think through bends, and the motorcycle listens to those thoughts and movements reactively. The passive component of motorcycling is the environment you ride through.
You are in it, for better or for worse, be it wet, cold, miserable, hot, smelly or windy. There is an immediate consciousness that you are in contact with. You are not viewing through a TV-like window. This is part of what makes the whole experience uplifting and sometimes joyous. Every ride is an adventure to be savoured, leaving behind the constraints of the repetitiousness of our everyday life. Some people think that adventures are only done by adventurers, which is so sad and inaccurate. Adventurers tend to be elite athletes who drag husky dogs across frozen wastelands (snacking on them when hungry) or row tiny boats across large, open oceans. But reflect … life is an adventure.
Watch children as they discover in life, they rush to the next stage, corner, hill, whatever, with excitement and eagerness … because they have never been there. They run ahead because they want to find out what is around that next corner.
Sadly we seem to lose that eagerness and thrill as we mature into the plateau that is so often our ‘grown-up’ state … and then it is time to ease up, and prepare for our own demise and transfer to the next world. After 45 years of riding these wondrous machines across more than 50
countries, I still thrill to the anticipation of a ride. Theresa Wallach (In 1934 the first person to ride across the Sahara Desert) says it beautifully. “When I first saw a motorcycle, I got a message from it. It was a feeling – the kind of thing that makes a person burst into tears hearing a piece of music or standing awestruck in front of a fine work of art. Motorcycling is a tool with which you can accomplish something meaningful in your life. It is an art.”
Des Molloy, a lifetime motorcyclist and author of the well reviewed travel adventure The Last Hurrah was once described as a peregrinator. He prefers dreamer and schemer … or perhaps most accurately, muse. His dream job would be a position as an evangelist bringing two-wheeled enlightenment into non-motorcyclists lives.