A James May inspired religious road-riding practice
I’m at the point now where I’m really comfortable on the bike, and the immediate consciousnesses of practical riding have faded into the background – I've stopped counting up through the gears!
My feet are going where they need to without me placing them specifically. I can crawl in traffic without the ever-present fear of looking a total plum should I wobble and, heaven forbid, fall, like Bambi taking his first steps. Don’t get me wrong, I still fear dropping the bike, I just think about it less. As these practical thoughts drift away, so my mind has become freer to think of other things, and one of those things it keeps wandering back to is how to get out of sync with the world. Slowly, the goal of motorcycle riding for me is to become unsynced with everything else: society, traffic, cars, accepted thought and ideas. Generally, to unsync with everyone else’s speed of life. The place I’m physically and mentally happiest on my bike is when I discover that a piece of road has opened up just to me – like my own private strip of asphalt. Ahead far enough from the cars behind to not be bothered by them, behind far enough from the cars ahead that I can ride at my own pace, not dictated to by the whims of traffic. And I don’t nail those sections to catch whatever’s in front, I like to maintain the gap for as long as possible. To find these transient Freedom Passages I now look for every opportunity to unsync my pace/timing/traffic light position, and anything else that will enable me not to be where everyone else is. I remember James May once wrote about how he’d set his alarm at an unnatural minute configuration, so he’d leave his house for work when normal people didn’t – say at 8:12 rather than the more prevalent 8/8:15/8:30 segments. His theory being that you’d find pockets of free-running in the commuter misery. My mind has tended to drift on this idea a lot since he wrote it (years ago), and now it’s becoming a founding principle that I’m developing into a multi-layered lifestyle for bike riding – a karmic approach to Zen bike life. A James May-inspired religious road riding practice – imagine that! The easiest example to help explain what the hell I’m on about is this: if you cut through a queue of cars waiting at traffic lights, you then wait in front of them. Now car drivers, they’re sitting there momentarily annoyed that you’ve blocked their hard-earned place at the head of the queue. But you, hearty bike warrior, you’re not even thinking about those cars, because you’re on a bike and in a minute you’ll be gone. Even if I’m following off the back of a car queue, and the lights change ahead of me, I’d rather hang back to let the lights catch me than try to rush through them. And that’s because that minute or two of stationary waiting is about to yield its delights just for me, the reward of an Unsycned Freedom Passage. Y’see, as soon as the red light drops to amber, I’m away off the front. Away from the grumpy car drivers, away from the dictated pace and misery of the tin boxes, away to my own little bit of space and time. In a car this is a rarity so hard to obtain that as a driver you can’t afford to even let yourself think about it too much because it’ll crush your soul, but on a bike, just learning how to play the Unsync game is reward enough to make you pull a helmet smile – let alone the payoff of finding different sections of private road multiple times throughout every journey. If car drivers knew that’s what you were up to, they’d lose their minds even more for those few seconds until you’re gone and they’re back to fretting over the Audi that’s just cut them up, or the Corsa that’s tailgating them. For this freedom alone it’s worth the price of motorcycle admission. (Footnote: Having come up with this pseudo-religious bike practice I’m aware and intrigued to see what sort of mumbo jumbo I’ll invent after two years… this sort of thing is to be expected however, when all of a sudden you’re gifted so much mental freedom!)