Tag Archives: Recreation

The Psychology of Motorcycling, or; Risk and Reward

“There is a common
misunderstanding among the
human beings who have ever been
born on earth that the best way to
live is to try to avoid pain and just
try to get comfortable.  A
much more interesting, kind and
joyful approach to life is to begin to
develop our curiosity, not caring
whether the object of our curiosity
is bitter or sweet. To lead to a life
that goes beyond pettiness and
prejudice and always wanting to
make sure that everything turns out
on our own terms, to lead a more
passionate, full, and delightful life
than that, we must realize that we
can endure a lot of pain and
pleasure for the sake of finding out
who we are and what this world is,
how we tick and how our world
ticks, how the whole thing just is.
If we are committed to comfort at
any cost, as soon as we come up
against the least edge of pain, we’re
going to run; we’ll never know
what’s beyond that particular
barrier or wall or fearful thing.”

~Pema Chödrön~

Pema’s words stayed with me today. I’ve been thinking on the emotions that run deep in the motorcycling world. Why we enjoy the increased vulnerability and it’s physical hardships and odd constraints of using a bike for routine events; take commuting for example. I rode from south west London to north west London and back, every working day for 18 months.  The route involved crossing the Thames, negotiating between arterial motorways and A roads hunting the urban short cuts and rat runs. The planning of each day’s route was a strategic business; what the traffic was doing, where were the roadworks, what was likely to happen. Then on the road it was an intense experience. There’s basically two ways to ride in London: 1. Pretend you’re a car. Stay in lane, be predictable, don’t deviate. Filter at junctions and traffic lights at slow speed and under control. 2. Ride like a courier. Make progress at every opportunity, make the opportunity when it doesn’t exist, get ahead (and clear) of cars and buses as quickly as possible.  Stay ahead of the law and watch out for the ubiquitous cameras. Ride feral essentially. I, ahem, did a bit of both.  I learned a lot about the craft of urban motorcycling and importantly I learned a lot about the peace of mind that comes from regular bike riding. Every evening I was more relaxed and able to make sense of the daily grind in a more holistic way. To be fair I was also pretty tired and now definitely look my age!

Flash back to your motorcycling experiences, the times when it got tough; maybe caught in the rain, or a freezing ride to get somewhere at night, perhaps lost in an unfamiliar place. You know the time… My point is that we gain lots from those experiences as well as the easy ones. Those are the ones you tell your mates about or lodge on that familiar ‘shelf’ of motorcycling memories that define you and your interest in riding.

Photo (and sentiment) copied from a fellow blogger at http://groundupcaferacer.wordpress.com/page/2/
Photo (and sentiment) copied from a fellow blogger at http://groundupcaferacer.wordpress.com/page/2/

So I’m exploring the concept that motorcycling offers a twenty first century short cut into the human psyche, a two wheeled screwdriver across the battery terminals of life; enhancing a base drive to explore your own limits. The challenges are real, the risk is always very high (even if the probability of an ‘off’ is low, the impact of coming off is always massive) but crucially, the rewards are equally high. You know a little more about what you’re capable of when it gets tough and that makes you a fully paid up member of the human club.  Nice one.

[This is one of what is turning into a series of posts on ‘The Psychology of Motorcycling’.]

Man and Machine; who are we becoming?

There are very few of us who think of motorcycling as a means of transport alone.

untitledAt it’s basest form the motorcycle gets us from A to B, fairly efficiently and reliably. However, for the greater majority of the bike riding community it becomes a sport, a release, a means to pass the time and indeed, comment, or an escape from the routine.

Yesterday’s post on here was about types of bikers in broad groupings. This morning my thoughts strayed to how people see and relate to themselves and each other – in a motorcycling context and as individuals.

I reckoned that very few people can actually say they ride as a means to an end. Very many are influenced to some degree by the trends and cults that bikes inspire.

But why do bikes in particular create these scenes in the human brain? Again, I think it comes back to the needs of the individual; to have a sense of self and identity. Biking rewards our dopamine sensors with pure synaptic transmissions; the inputs come thick and fast; speed, danger, wind, exposure, knowledge and skill, muscular motor balance and luck. Being on two wheels is so vastly different from four wheels that riding actually stimulates a broader number of brain areas. Not sure about this? Read about Japanese scientist Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, author of “Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain?” looking at the relationship between motorcycle riding and the human mind.

BrainKawashima’s experiments involved regular riders (average age 45) and  former riders who once rode regularly but had not taken a ride for at least 10 years. Kawashima asked participants to ride on courses in different conditions while he recorded their brain activities. He found the current riders and former riders used their brains in different ways, and the current riders had a higher level of concentration because specific segments of their brains (the right hemisphere of the prefrontal lobe) was activated. He also tested how making a habit of riding  affects the brain. The test subjects had not ridden for 10 years or more. Over the course of a couple of months, those riders used a motorcycle for their daily commute and in other everyday situations.

The result? The use of motorcycles in everyday life improved cognitive faculties, particularly those that relate to memory and spatial reasoning capacity. An added benefit, according to the study? Participants said their stress levels had been reduced and their mental state changed for the better. This is also written up in an article on the BIC forum here.

1921_man_machineEssentially ‘scientists believe that the extra concentration needed to successfully operate a motorcycle can contribute to higher general levels of brain function, and it’s that increase in activity that’s surely a contributing factor to the appeal of the motorcycles as transportation. It’s the way a ride on a bike turns the simplest journey into a challenge to the senses that sets the motorcyclist apart from the everyday commuter. While the typical car-owning motorist is just transporting him or her self from point A to point B, the motorcyclist is actually transported into an entirely different state of consciousness .’

Riding a motorcycle is all about discovering a state of mind where the journey actually is the destination. I get this; in fact I like this!



The USA’s 10 best motorcycle roads – Road trips – Lonely Planet

imageA great road is a great road, but if you’re riding a motorcycle, you’re looking for something special: twisties, vistas, turnouts, that perfect stretch of smooth tarmac, and biker-friendly stops that make getting there most of the fun. Here are 10 of the best roads across America for an unforgettable motorcycle journey:

via The USA’s 10 best motorcycle roads – Road trips – Lonely Planet.


BMW Releases F800GS Adventure

Following the widespread success of the boxer-engined GS Adventure models, BMW Motorrad has decided to continue the “Adventure” range into its mid-sized enduro, the F800GS. Priced competitively in the marketplace and below the full-sized R1200GS, the F800GS has proven itself popular in a variety of adventure motorcycling circles around the world. The F800GS Adventure is equipped with the same liquid-cooled, 85hp parallel twin engine as the standard F800GS, but features an larger fuel tank with an additional 8 liters of capacity.

The additional fuel brings the total capacity of the F800GS Adventure to 24 liters, and extends the range of the bike by roughly 120km or 75 miles. To compensate for the extra weight of a larger fuel tank, BMW has also reinforced the rear subframe to ensure there are no fatigue issues over time.

via BMW Releases F800GS Adventure.