Thursday, July 19, 2012

§ 1. Introductions.

A lot of people wonder what the big deal is with bikes. They are too dangerous, some say. Or you can’t go places when it is raining. Or they are too loud

Still others set out to explain to people what bikes are all about, maybe even try to convince people that it would be cool to own a bike. Melissa Holbrook-Peterson directed an entire memoir at the phenomenon of the motorcycle, searching for a formulation that a non-rider can understand.

This is something that no one should do. 

There is indeed something awesome about riding a bike. But it cannot be named. It is not "feeling the wind in your face" or "freedom" or anything of that sort. Those are the nonsense ramblings of people who cannot express themselves. Which is true for all of us. As a rider, you are condemned to silence. You know only what you feel, and what you feel is a high immediacy, ungoverned by sensible justifications and universal appeals. 

On occasion, I will hear from a stranger that, well, he would get a bike, but his girlfriend won’t let him. I do my best to withhold that look that emasculates those for whom masculinity is important. But I do say to him that perhaps he should try getting both a bike and a new girlfriend. Because this would be the option for anyone who was serious and not engaging in the fantasy of small talk.

You want to set out to be a rider. That is cool. Welcome. Just know that you are not really doing something reasonable. This is not about good gas mileage or the convenience of parking. Those are the myths that we lay on the people who don’t really understand. Riding is deeper than that. 

Or much more shallow, as the case may be. On a motorcycle you can find a sage, a searcher or an idiot. Often you will not find a rider at all, but some kind of pretender working out his or her life process atop a machine to which they will never truly connect. This world is diverse and soon enough it will be your world.

Over the next few months, I will distill my perspective on motorcycles into a series of advice columns to you, the new rider. These reflections will be terribly biased, occasionally technical and mostly philosophical. 

I will speak from the vantage of the sport bike, the only type of bike I have ever owned, or ridden really. Other types of bikes may see themselves represented, since there is a fantastic commonality among any who are on two wheels. But for the reader who suspects that the secrets of life are revealed on corner exit, the coming paragraphs may be especially helpful. Or ridiculous. 

I haven’t ridden for that long in the grand scheme of things. Not even a decade yet. I know guys that have been on motorcycles since I was a baby. 

But I want to ride forever; that is, I want to ride my whole life without having to leave the bike for reasons that I myself don't will. Like an accident. Or a wack girlfriend. I want you to ride forever too, if you so choose it. And that is the baseline from which everything to follow will be based. Stay tuned. 

Discursive Shifts

Recently, the Green Ninja and I have been talking about recording our moto reflections into something structured and useful to people other than ourselves. For my part, I think I will start a series on the blog here aimed at being a kind introduction to riding.

The idea, I think, is not to simply talk about riding technique, but to deal with the strange totality of motorcycling, like dealing with the social world of riders and how to put your bike in the back of a truck. I am thinking of calling the series "How to Ride Forever" or "Throttlebody and Mind", after a tumblr I run of the same name.

Anyway, these upcoming posts are going to be a bit wonky, since they will be all about finding the voice needed to communicate these ideas at a hopefully more popular scale. But they will be enlightening for new riders. I hope.

Keep a look out. And if you know anybody who rides bikes, or would like to ride bikes, send them a link to the blog.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012


You will always hear me echo the Dane in saying that purity of the heart is to will one thing.

It is an appropriate retort every now and then, to others. But I don’t know that my life reveals my commitment to this idea. We are talking about religiousness, after all. 

Still, the latest ride in the rain has revealed something for the riders and equally foolish philosophers who are willing to set out in a storm just to see what they can learn.

As a rider I am dedicated to the improvement of my skill. For me, this means that I have to ride, to get my hours in, be on the road where things are learned. But it also means that I must think riding. I have to find the ideas that merge with my practice so that I can discern what lesson the road is trying to teach me in the first place. I am always in search of an ordering principle, an anchor around which my thoughts can weave. It is not about keeping things simple. It is about being centered in space so that one can preserve the awful complexity of life and traffic patterns. 

Many miles from home, I pulled in to a station to get gas. The card wouldn’t go through at the pump, so I went inside. By the time I got to the door, the skies delivered their promise. A sheet of rain came down so hard that I got wet yards clear of the edge of the huge awning. Cars in the street immediately put on blinkers and began driving at the snail pace that Floridians know well. 

I thought of Nietzsche. Then I asked the man behind the register for a plastic bag. I wrapped it around my phone and set out into the deluge. 

Rain drops can be cold, yo. It is hard to relax the body as the rider should. I was splashed up to my chest when I would pass a car, or get passed by a truck. I tucked and rode out as best I could. On even moderate curves I could feel the rear slide, connect, slide, connect. In the kind of rain I was in, it did not take much to encounter limits. 

Nor did it take much to encounter accidents. The highway was backed up miles out from any exit. Now we sittin in a drop top, soaking wet, in a silk suit trying not to sweat. I got back to the crib and fell asleep wondering how many days of steady rainfall would put rust on a brand new chain. 

Two days worth is the answer to that, if you are wondering.

When the sun finally emerged, I hit the streets on a regular cruise. Except I was hitting the known roads a bit harder than usual. The roundabouts were a bit shorter. My rear tire showed more signs of work. 

The difference, of course, was the rain. My concentration out in the storm was consciously directed at not getting hit by cars and such. But on deeper levels I was reaching out to feel the road, to apprehend my connection to it. What I gained from riding in the rain was immediately reflected on dry streets. All clear thinkers must work to make ambient or hidden processes explicit. 

Here lies the principle that perhaps should be put above all others for the rider on the path to skill. There is nothing more important that the connection of your tires to the road. I have heard more empirically oriented people give better senses, but we will be forgiven if we resort to the sign: Traction.

You set up suspension so that the tires can have optimum contact with the road. You are loose on the bars around turns so that you do not disrupt the connection of the tires to the road, or tell the bike to go a direction you would not really like to go. You improve your brakes so that you can better take advantage of the tire’s connection to the road. You might get stickier tires for the same reason. 

Implicit in the lives of most riders is the quest for Feel. For really good riders this quest is fully explicit. The better notion I have of the connection between tire and road, the harder I can push. If the connection is really on, I won’t even feel like I am going that fast. 

I think that good riders become great riders when they learn to develop feel. I suppose that some of us are gifted and blessed with this magical sense. I was not. To this day, I am not sure where the limit of my grip is on a dry road. I have never accelerated so hard out of corner that my back tire breaks lose. I have never pushed the front so hard that it slides on me. I live, like most riders, in that zone of comfort and ignorance. Out at the edges there is danger, but there is also true speed.

So I have been experimenting. I will ride in the rain, sure. But I will also cruise around sandy patches. I will also accelerate as hard as I can out of a turn, hoping for a moment that will give me knowledge but not freedom. 

Because it is not just about the connection. It is also about how one interprets lightness. 

Anyway. It is raining outside.

You should ride. 

Monday, July 16, 2012


William R. Jones died on July 14, 2012.

He will be remembered for his uncompromising dedication to critical thought and the liberation of his people.

His life is a reminder to all of us that no fucks should be given in the pursuit of world-changing ideas.

I don't want Dr. Jones to rest in peace.

I want his ghost to taunt anti-gay clergy and religious people who memorialize their hatred of difference and call it good Christian Values. I want people to rediscover his work and curse his name because it has shown them that their belief in the almighty is untenable and hurtful to others and themselves. I want all the black mega preachers to realize that the only thing appropriate to do in light of the passing of Dr. Jones is to STFU and disband their congregations.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Life Fragment

The Pharmacon Atlas leans into soft asphalt in front of my new crib. If I looked outside my window, I could see its blue luster in a neighbor's porch light. The sun doesn't set in that window, but I still wish the curtain was more opaque.

If I were not exhausted with many statuses to rock on the morrow, I would ride. Instead, I sit slumped on the futon nursing the last bottle of ginger beer. My gear is not yet dry from the last storm I was caught in. It wasn't fully dry from the storm before that. The rains of the gulf have come; if I held off because of dark clouds, the engine would never turn, the rubber would not wear and this is a life no rider should live. 

Across the world, my child plays with nuns. I remember her sitting next to me, drawing on the tablet, speaking her innocent exposition of the world. Without her, there is nothing special about a day. 

On the way home, I saw a few bright stars on the horizon. Didn't recognize the constellation.  So many styles are unrecognizable in the darkness before dawn. I only hope that I am in dreamless sleep before the sun comes. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Verse Fragments.

I know what's on your mind
we can dowhatever that is
she tell me that it's mine
I said fine
shit, I was taught to live and let live
go 'head and live it up baby
giddiup baby
It's your world, ain't trying to interrupt
maybe we moving too fast
but fuck it, let's crash
one day we gonna have to leave our love
in the past
but for now it feel lovely
it feel great
I slide in ...

--Lil Wayne, "Marvin's Room Remix"

Let us make man in our image
spit it
I'm Huey P. and Louis V.
at the Eulogy throwing molotovs for Emmit.

--Nas, "Queens Get the Money"

No I can't bring another beach to the sand
And know I am well aware
that you can bring a man to his knees
And get what you need
without saying please
Can you bring a man to his feet
when defeat is on repeat
And they gon' put this man's Grammys on the street?
Why so quiet?

--Andre 3000, from Lloyd's "Dedication to My Ex"

Carolina Blue Cakes
pedal to the metal
feeling like a puppet
and the devil is Gepetto.

--J.Cole, "Back to the Topic"

This is the sound of what you don't know
killing you
This is the sound of what you don't believe
still true.

--El-P, "Tasmanian Pain Coaster"

I hope your bullet holes become mouths
that say my name.

--Lupe Fiasco, "Let me Put You on Game"

I rock brass knuckles over my kid gloves.

--Dessa of Doomtree, "Kid Gloves"

If it brings me to my knees, it's a bad religion.

--Frank Ocean, "Bad Religion."