Monday, June 24, 2013

Zen and the art of mental motorcycle maintenance

For a bike enthusiast, there is no better feeling in the world than firing up your machine and hitting the open road.  A beautiful blue sky above you, a smooth road below with the odd twist and turn;  The sun beating down and that refreshing breeze on your face....I could go on, but many of you know the pleasure I am referring to.  It's what we look forward to all winter and live for in the summer.

For a bike enthusiast, there is probably no worse fate then losing touch with that elation, or feeling that you are.

  Until recently that is exactly what I thought was happening to me.  I would go out for a ride on Katie (my Triumph Scrambler,  The origins of that name to be revealed later) and things just didn't feel right.  

Four years into our relationship, I found this strange.  I have always looked after her and she in turn, has always looked after me.  We are a team, we have a partnership that I pray will remain unbroken until I lack the physical skills to ride her.   When I would take a turn, it felt unnatural.  I chalked that up to fresh Tourance tires that were of a higher quality than the Trailwings I had grown accustomed to.

 I kept finding it hard to get comfortable when I rode, I shifted around and couldn't settle.  Even after various adjustments things weren't working.  I figured this must be due to weight I gained in the cooler months waiting for spring.  Going down hills felt uncomfortable and I tensed up far too much.  Perhaps I was soft from not commuting 60km daily to work and back anymore.  Nothing was coming together and I was growing quietly despondent.  

What was the cause of all of this?

To answer, I need to give a little background.  2012 was a banner year for me, for all the wrong reasons.  It started in January, when I was let go from my new job.  This new job was a mistake to start with and a move I should have never made.  Having been in my previous position for 4 years and in another role 3 years prior to that, I was sheltered from the reality of the economic climate.  These days, it is foolish to leave a steady gig unless you have something truly amazing being offered to you.  

After this setback I searched for work and came close to getting a few decent positions with established firms, but no offers. I had always been successful in interviews previously and been able to inspire confidence in potential employers.

  It was a harsh wake up call that affected many areas of my life and my outlook.  A variety of other negative events followed suit, including the cancellation of my wedding and  having to cash in my savings.  To make matters worse, as bills added up I took a couple of low paying jobs just to get by.  There is nothing wrong with hard work and doing what's needed to support your family; That is unless your Motorcycle is severely damaged in the parking lot of said crappy job.

Just after Labour day, a truly dreadful woman decided to back into my parked bike and cause $3500.00 worth of damage.  My last vestige of enjoyment was gone indefinitely.  My heart sank when they drove Katie away to the dealership not knowing when I would see her again.  Summer became fall, which became winter.  With 2013 around the corner I was hoping for the tide to turn back in my favour.

   Thankfully some of the seeds I planted at the end of 2012 were beginning to bear fruit, albeit slowly.  
I was happier, as was the family but it wasn't quite where it needed to be.  While frustrated, I focused on the present and used what was at hand to make things work.  

 In the last few weeks the missing parts of the puzzle finally presented themselves and have now been pieced together.   I realized this when I was riding Katie around running errands.  It wasn't a glamorous route, quite the was a journey we had made together many times before.  As I rode down the hill, I felt myself smile, I felt relaxed again, everything was familiar and right.  The old team was back together again, stronger, wiser and more versatile than before. 

It had nothing to do with Katie, she was never the problem;  it was all me.  The whole time. 

There is nothing that is more an extension of oneself as a motorcycle.  When tense, the bike handles accordingly.  In a relaxed state, the bike breezes along carelessly also.  Every movement, thought, action, mood is reflected in the way one rides.  

After this realization of my own behavior, I found myself wondering how many riders have been hurt or worse because they were in the wrong mental state.  The most experienced rider in the world could have a bad day at the office or be suffering from depression.  One missed reaction, one poor judgement is all it takes to close the curtain for the last time.  There are times when a ride can be the most therapeutic thing in the world and make everything seem better.  As riders, we are vulnerable on the best of days in the best of conditions.  We have no control of the actions that others take, only our own.    

My philosophy is simple.  Healthy mind, healthy spirit, healthy body =  Healthy riding.  

From now on, I plan on thinking about this state of mind before I embark on a journey.  I will ask myself if it feels right and not be ashamed to take a pass if need be.  Riding should always be freeing, pleasurable and never, ever forced. 

 With that thought, I hope all of you have an  amazing summer filled with epic adventure and untold beauty.

Look out for one another and always be safe and well.
Next post:  Internet Myths debunked! 

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