Corners are all serious. It is here that we concentrate heavily, that we challenge ourselves and each other, that we expand our skills through the management of risk. A careful use of attention in these circumstances reveals a world of road seldom noticed by the the regular four wheeled motorist. Small swaths of sand. Small potholes. Changes in the texture and composition of the asphalt- all of these things are endlessly scrutinized by the rider. They affect our decisions about where to start the turn, what path through the turn we will take, how quickly we will complete it. The scope of this calculative review is matched only by its brevity, for one cannot complete a turn looking downward. One must look where one needs to go. WIth the corner style complete, we transition to cruising. And cruising is Cruising. The mind wanders. One is immersed in the scenery. Don’t be confused, the way is clear, as the song goes. This is how we ride the long straight stretches of road. We prefer chillful openness to a drag strippy madness. Most of the time, anyway.
On the stretch, I looked down to the tachometer. For some reason, I didn’t immediately see the dial. Instead, I was presented with an image. Six white letters. “ahamaY.” It took me a second to realize that it was the reflection of my chest. I was looking into a mirror. What a strange gestalt, I thought. Behind the glass is the rpm status. But for a moment, I denied myself its truth. Then we passed a woman who was pulling a little girl in a radio flyer on the side of the road. They both looked at me. Then I felt it. I was reminded.
Once me and the moto homies were talking about the visors through which we peer from our helmets. I’m a better rider when I wear the dark visor, I said. Not just because the necessity of the dark visor means that visibility is high. Because my face is obscured, replaced by a mirror, essentially. It is existentially masochistic. The revelation of the face is prevented. From the third, people only see the rider as object on bike. They can draw no conclusions about race or political leanings. There can be no first impression. That which is faceless is a thing. And that thing is precisely what I want to be. So I become the object, with its calculations, its purpose. I deny my own freedom to be otherwise. But the Green Ninja responded to my style, like, yo, we are better because the dark visor precludes the judgments of others. It gives us the opportunity to better express our freedom. It is like being alone in a dark corridor. When can look through whichever keyhole we wish. This absence of existential restriction leaves us free to put all being points into the task at hand; so, really, we escape the masochist tendency to be what the other demands that we be.
As the next turn approached, I wondered whether me and my homie really disagreed. Then I let the clutch in, downshifted two gears, and let it out. The tension between the engine and the back tire made me wonder what it would be like to have a slipper clutch. Up ahead, the Red Ducati leaned over and began to disappeared around the corner. Long and thick dreads danced from beneath his helmet, like snakes who could not decide whether they loved or hated. I followed, with a mind to wheelie out of the corner. Couldn’t quite hack it though. Couldn't bring myself to apply that much gas. Though the front end did dance a bit.
Back in chill mode, we passed other bikes on the road. Cats without helmets, whose passengers had no helmets. Do they think that little of their companions? Or that highly of their skills? I wondered what they thought of the leather that covered me from head to toe as I passed them. Maybe I look like a squid to them. At a stop light, I read a sticker on the helmet of some other rider: “This bike eats Hondas and shits Yamahas.” It’s just that kind of divisive arrogance that makes the motorcycle lobby in this state so ineffective, I thought. Maybe if we were more concerned about helping each other out instead of asserting some stupid ideals of brand or type superiority we wouldn’t have to worry about the anti-biker bill that became law last week. Besides, his bike is slow and stupid looking.
The ride ended and I rolled up to the crib. I was a mess. A dirty helmet made dirtier by sweat and two hours of heat caused my face to break out. I was sore all over and my back hurt in all the usual places. My leathers were splattered with all manner of dead bug. I smelled like gasoline. As I looked at the bike, I had the feeling that I had arrived from a long and adventurous journey, like I had been somewhere for a long time and was just rolling up to sight that soothes sore retinas. I’ve never understood why that is. But the feeling is kind of nice.