Here’s something you likely noticed about me: I’m always up for a new adventure. There are some thrills, though, that I have purposefully avoided in my life, and riding a motorcycle has always been one of them.
In fact, up until last week, I’d never been on a real motorcycle before. I grew up in a family biased against motorbikes — my grandfather witnessed a horrific accident in which a motorcycle rider was killed, perhaps even decapitated if my memory of the story is correct, and his fear of bikes was passed on to my father and to me.
My brother Sean, on the other hand, happened to marry into a family of people who have their M-class licenses and love motorcycles. When he mentioned a year or so back that he had his own bike, I admit I was surprised, and worried. Bikes to me are dangerous and reckless machines, even in the hands of reasonably responsible people.
But I was also just the tiniest bit intrigued. I’ve long admired their fluid lines and shiny chrome bits, and admit to being curious in a very hesitant sort of way. Which is how this ended up happening when we visited my brother’s family last week:
Yeah baby, that’s me on a motorcycle, entrusting my life to the same kid I spent most of my childhood looking for new and unique ways to make miserable. Right about the time this was taken, I was thinking I should have been a whole lot nicer to my brother when we were kids!
He took me for the most amazing, exhilarating ride through the concession roads and secondary highways near his home in Georgetown, and I was astonished at how much I enjoyed it. Um, once I started breathing and stopped clenching my jaws and butt cheeks in terror, that is.
So now that I’ve logged a good 20 minutes of saddle time and am a professional motorcycle passenger, here’s five things I learned about motorcycles:
1. It doesn’t take long for you to get used to the alarming way the ground rushes up at you when you bank to make a turn, but the first few times you turn a corner you’re sure you’re road rash.
2. To truly enjoy the experience, you must first stop envisioning the potential 24 point newspaper headlines describing the horrific crash and grieving family you left behind.
3. You don’t have to hold on tightly enough to leave finger prints. Through two layers of leather. (Sorry, Sean, hope the bruises heal soon!)
4. Riding in the snow is obviously out, and riding in the rain is only for the truly dedicated. Riding in long pants, an armoured jacket and 3/4 length leather gloves is also no treat when the humidity nears 40 degrees.
5. Oh my sweet lord, it’s a LOT of fun. I liked it waaaaaay too much. As soon as I unclenched my sphincter, anyway. Once I relaxed and started enjoying the ride, I could immediately imagine a perfect afternoon spent on the bike with a camera stowed safely inside my jacket, doing carefree loops around the Niagara escarpment and stopping here and there to take pictures as the spirit and the prevailing wind inspired me.
Aside from the amazing feeling of connection with the environment that I felt on the bike, like we were a part of the landscape instead of merely passing through it, what amazed me was the instant admission into the club of cool as soon as I donned the motorcycle jacket and helmet. I couldn’t believe how many people raised a hand in casual salute as we drove past, including one elderly gentleman standing beside his car who waved at us with happy enthusiasm as if we were Peter and Jane Fonda.
(Less cool was standing in a parking lot with two bike dudes looking on in amusement as my brother untethered my helmet for me just seconds before I hyperventilated. Apparently I need to practice my cool just a wee bit more.)
And the quote I used in the title of this post? Totally appropriate and totally true. I hadn’t wanted to go any faster than 50 or 60 kms an hour, but when I looked over Sean’s shoulder one giddy moment and saw the speedometer creep over 100 km/h on those back country roads, I felt a crazy kind of blissful freedom I never would have expected. I still don’t think I’d ever want to actually drive one. Too heavy, too complicated, too much risk. But to ride along as a contented passenger behind someone as capable and trustworthy as my brother? In a New York minute.
I don’t know what’s more astonishing, that I’ve come to love riding a motorcycle or that I’ve come to appreciate my brother as capable and trustworthy. Who would have guessed it?
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