Episode 44: The Art of Slow Motorcycling - As in Life

Episode 44:  The Art of Slow Motorcycling - As in Life

Today’s episode is dedicated to my daughter, Steph, who learned the art of going slow while serving in the United States Peace Corps, on the Island Nation of Vanuatu, way down in the South Pacific.  

As the very first Peace Corps volunteer to ever serve at this small village in Vanuatu, serving as a teacher, she believed in her heart that she could make a positive difference for both the children and their families.  She did.  She also showed her mom and me that it’s when you slow down, that’s when you can see and hear what’s been in front of you all along.  Beautiful things that you can’t see if you’re too busy with life, moving too fast.

Thank you for that lesson, Steph. We love you very much.  

As for motorcycling, we’ve just got to slow down sometimes, now more than ever.  No, I’m not warning against riding fast, I’m referring to the speeds that our brains and emotions are built for.  With 24*7 news cycle, constant social media updates, work stress.  Josh.  Now we’ve got Artificial Intelligence creating more and more content out there to absorb, like Youtube videos that are clearly not narrated by humans, and much of the content is either inaccurate or at best misleading I think.  We can’t keep going at that pace and keep our sanity anyway.  

Fast all the time is not good for us.  I firmly believe that.  We’re not made for that.  So when we’re on our bikes, just pick a place sometimes and stop.  Turn off the bike.  Be quiet.  Look around.  That’s hard, but I’m convinced that it’s worth it.  Let’s talk about it.  Thank you for joining me today!

As you know, anybody can ride fast.  Beginners can ride fast.  Not recommended, but they can do it.  Just a twist of the throttle and hang on.  That’s easy.  Those of us who are experienced riders know very well that riding slow is hard.  And I don’t mean slow as in 20 miles per hour.  No, I’m talking about below walking speed, like less than 1 mile per hour without putting your feet on the ground.  

We don’t practice that enough because we ride slow so seldom.  But if you check out any motorcycling school, most will cover the art of riding slow.  Yeah, it is an art. That’s where you prove that you can be in total control.  Its everything right, not only balance but clutch, brake and throttle control.  That’s when you’re really balancing.  Ever watch a police motorcade or watch them in a parade?  That’s professional motorcycling.  Slow.  In total control. No fast movements.

I don’t get the attraction of watching burn outs, seems like a huge waste of expensive tires to me, but I do like to watch slow riding contests.  I saw a video on Youtube of a slow riding contest recently.  They have those at Sturgis and other rallies.  Fun to watch. 

There are usually two techniques you see at slow riding contests.  One technique where the rider is thrashing around.  Kicking out their legs and jerking the handlebars from side to side trying to stay balanced.  The other one, the more effective one and usually wins, where the rider appears to hardly move at all to stay balanced.  Just the smallest of almost imperceptible shifts in weight, keeping that 700 pound motorcycle creeping along at less than 1 mile per hour, or even coming to a complete stop for a second or two, all without putting a foot on the ground.

I mentioned in the previous episode how on my recent 300 mile ride the other day, wandering around the northwest, I stopped at an Abbey and talked with a nun and two priests.  Those folks know the art of slowing down.  

Pardon me while I shift to golf for a minute.  Yeah I’ve had a lot of coffee.  Ha ha.  I’m not a great golfer by any means but I’m not that bad.  My goal is to look good and be able to find the ball that I just hit.  Ha ha.  Yeah, a low bar to aspire to.  If I do anything right in golf, I’ve learned over the years to slow down and even play with a relatively loose grip on the club.  That works for me.  Not to try and powder the ball like the professionals can do.  I can’t do that with any control at all.

Trying to smash the ball down the fairway for most of us amateurs almost always turns into a hook or a slice.  For those who don’t play golf, that means you strike the ball wrong making it spin and move in a direction, left of right, that you didn’t want to go.  No, it’s the cool, calm, relaxed, smooth swing that sends the ball the farthest and the straightest, at least for most of us amateurs.  You’re not effective through strength and power alone.  Hyperventilating gets you nowhere in golf.  It’s all about calm.  

It’s all about smooth.  Most importantly for me, it’s also that calmness that helps me to cope when I realize that, yes, once again, you’ve hit the ball into the lake.  Ha ha.

I read this quote lately.  Seems to fit here:  “Slow down and enjoy life. It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” 

So maybe in motorcycling, it’s the same idea.  Yeah, it’s thrilling to go fast.  I get it.  I like it too sometimes.  But I’d argue that once you discover the joy of slowing down and stopping to look around sometimes, you’ll do that more often.  

On that long ride I described in the last episode that I did last weekend, I didn’t mention it, but I stopped out in the middle of nowhere about mid way on the ride.  I was on a very small road about 30 miles west of Wheatland, Wyoming.  Nothing out there but slow twisting roads, mild hills, small canyons and wide open vistas.  Not much.  Maybe a farm here and there.  I saw someone on a tractor.  At a turn out on that road, I stopped, got off the bike.  Took off my helmet.  Did nothing, but look and listen.  Stopping to experience nothing…. And everything.  I love that!  

Look up for yourself all of the details about ways for riding really slow on a motorcycle without putting a foot down.  One tip that you’ll like see is, keep your head and your eyes up and in the direction you want to go.  Hum, sounds like there are some parallels with life their too.  

So whenever you can, let your motorcycle take you to a quiet empty place.  Maybe stop all by yourself just to look around.  To hear the wind. To watch a bird soar or a deer graze.  Eyes up with your head, your mind and your heart, virtually pointed in the direction that you’d like to be taken to.  And if you’re lucky, you may just find that Peace of Mind that everyone keeps looking for.

Thank you for listening to this first episode of 2024.  I wish you peace.  I wish you love.

Image provided by Robin Cox from Pixabay