Copyright is held by the author. This story was first published in The Rural Route.
MY HUSBAND is already in the garage moving the bikes out for us. This is generally the routine. Not because I can’t move my bike for myself, but because I take that much longer to prepare for the ride.
First I have to tug on my boots. Then I have to work my way into my leather chaps. Bending over to zip them up I think about how I have improved my timing. At the beginning of the season, I was swearing and frustrated because I couldn’t find the zippers and now I can have them done up in less than two minutes.
But my prep doesn’t stop there. I have hair to deal with. I usually choose to tie my ponytail with a leather cover. It will be a long day and I hate knotted hair. Once my hair is tied up, there is the delicate placement of the doo-rag, a piece of cloth that will protect my hair from the helmet, but more importantly, I will look totally badass.
I now have to don my jacket and I am leather from head to toe. My helmet is on, the skull image poking through, and my goggles are on. Transformation is complete and my alter-ego is ready to ride.
“Where do you want to go?” I ask my husband.
“I don’t know yet,” he answers. It is always the same question, and usually the same answer. While destination is fun it is the journey that pumps our adrenalin.
“Are you ready?” he asks.
“Yes,” I respond. We rev our engines, turn left out of the driveway and head out.
We are on the road now and all of my limbs are in use — clutching, shifting, braking, and signalling. I won’t talk to my husband again until we reach a stop sign, a red light, or a pit stop. I am riding with him, alone on my bike. Zen.
The Zen of the ride can’t be put into words, but I will try. Once on the road, you are transported into a state of hyperawareness as all of the elements bombard your senses. Immersed in the sights, sounds, smells, and safety, thinking about anything else is nearly impossible. Sometimes it is difficult to remember all of the details of the ride once you finish because there were so many to process.
In the springtime, the sun is warmer but there is a chill in the air, leftover dirt from the winter, areas of frost, and gravel in the intersections that you must watch for when you turn a corner as all of these can make you skid. I can smell the flowers blooming in gardens, the leaves growing on trees and the manure on fields. Animals scurry across your path looking for mates, dogs bark as you ride by, and caged drivers are not used to you being in their line of vision yet. I am relearning to ride after months of bike storage.
In the summer, the air is hotter, the leather gets warm, and my glasses will fog up when I stop the bike. When I lean into a curve I can feel the tires hugging the pavement and when we ride into a valley the air will suddenly be cool and refreshing. There are cars behind me, cars at the intersection and cars changing lanes. There are hawks overhead, children playing on sidewalks, rivers and lakes, bicycles on the road, a bug smacking against my knee, and I can smell rain.
In the autumn, the air is cooler as we move towards winter. I am cautious of leaves because they are like ice when you put your foot on them. There are moments, when there are no vehicles ahead of me and no vehicles behind me, and I can revel in the colours of the trees, the long shadows on the pavement, the wind pushing me sideways, the smell of harvested hay and the sight of bleached white corn stocks against a blue sky. I am so in tune with my bike it’s as though we are one. Just in time to store it once again.
I rarely tell friends or family that I am riding because it creates too much anxiety for them. The last thing I need before I go out on the road is to hear a breakdown of how many motorcycle accidents there have been or how many people have died on the roads. They don’t seem to get the fact that, as motorcycle riders, we understand the inherent risks and we ride regardless. Safety is always the critical factor and we have all known someone who was injured, and yet we continue. They cringe when they think of me on the highway clocking 120 KPH, and yet my chance of self-inflicted injury is greater when I put my foot down at a red light, or I am moving slowly in traffic, trying to balance 700 pounds of machinery. But I won’t tell them that. They worry enough already.
I was licensed in my late 40s, and for all the strange looks I have received from my friends, my kids, and most of all from my mother, I now belong to a diverse group of people, worldwide, of various bikes and sizes, who understand why I love riding so much. Only they understand why I glance out the window on a sunny day when I hear a bike go by and feel the tug of envy. Only they understand why I will contact my friend on a weekday afternoon and say “want to go for a ride?” Only they understand the feeling I get when I wake up and, for no particular reason, I will ride for hours to a small town I have never heard of, just to see the countryside, smell the air, and take on a curve in the road. Only they understand why I push myself to ride longer and faster so that I can ride further!! Only they understand, and so we wave as we pass each other on the road as a non-verbal acknowledgement of our choice in lifestyle.
We arrive at a Tim Horton’s to break, have a warm drink and rest. I am standing in line for a coffee when a small child walks near me. Too near I gather. His mother is apprehensive and takes him by the hand, smiles at me in all my leather glory, and gives me a wide berth as though I am someone to fear. Doesn’t she realize that I am a mother too? That I am just a regular gal who likes to ride? That I have orthotics in my boots?
But I say nothing. She thinks that I am a tough biker mama, and in this moment, I am okay with that.
Like the story? Help pay the writer by clicking on the button below and donating. Funds raised this week (minus PayPal’s cut and a small admin fee) will be given to this week’s contributors. Thank-you. Suggested donation: $5.