6 things I learned on my motorcycle journey
“In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
~ Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
My name is Isaac Childs and I’m the founder and CEO of Rustico. I’ve always had a passion for riding motorcycles and it’s one of my new favorite ways to travel.
I believe there are few moments in life that have the ability to impact our perspectives and influence the way we live. These moments have the rare ability to allow us to connect more deeply with who we are and to each other. I had one of these moments during my 2000 mile motorcycle ride across the American West.
1. Commitment and intention make a world of difference
You have to be committed and intentional when you are riding a motorcycle. You can’t be timid, shy, scared, lazy or absent. Even when you’re completely aware of your surroundings, your control of the bike has to be deliberate, purposeful and meaningful. If you let your mind drift for too long, it can bring you dangerously close to not reacting to another vehicle in time or to tipping over when making a tight U-turn.
2. Plan ahead
You must know your route, the starts and the stops, the turns, the bathroom breaks and the destination. Remember those isolated gas stations in the middle of nowhere you pass on the road when travelling in the comfort of your car and think to yourself, “who and why would anyone put a gas station there?” When riding a bike, those randomly placed gas stations and other watering holes start to make sense. As a rider, you plan for those pit stops before you get on the bike. It’s easy driving a car when you plug in the GPS and forget about the route completely. On a bike, even pulling into a parking lot requires some thought and strategy at times. If you don’t watch where you park, it can be difficult to get it in the right direction when you want to start again.
3. Pit stops are good for you
You should take more breaks. Something about riding with focus takes its toll on you, no matter how strong you are. Taking the time to make stops along the way is vital and refreshing. It’s not about getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. While getting to the destination is the goal, all the little moments in between make the journey that much more captivating.
4. Pack purposefully
The items you choose to carry with you on a motorcycle have more meaning and value. Since you are dealing with limited space, what you pack and how much it weighs must be carefully thought-out down to each piece of equipment and article of clothing. I realized early on that some things I thought had value really didn’t (like my extra pair of sneakers). Along the route, I did buy a small stuffed animal for my daughter, but the decision-making process to get it was a bit more intensive than it normally would have been. On a bike you are forced to consider if adding it to the already limited and stuffed saddle bags are worth it. Three months later, I still single out that stuffed animal on my daughter’s bed.
5. Invest in the right tools
The gear and the equipment you have does matter. How it’s positioned and situated on your bike matters as well. The first few days of the journey we all kept rearranging, tightening and adjusting our gear for a flawless ride. Just enough back support, not so high on top that the bugs splatter your gear and nothing flapping or hanging too far to one side (flapping is the worst). If you’ve ever tried sitting for eight hours while something keeps snapping and hitting up against your ear, it gets annoying really fast! Bar none, the most important pieces of equipment I purchased were chaps and a leather jacket. That extra layer of protection was a game changer in my comfort and confidence when getting on the bike. Every morning putting on my armor to ride seemed to awaken an inner sense of confidence and protection. When I was in my gear, I felt like I could ride forever no matter the circumstances.
6. Embrace the journey
The biggest thing I learned on my ride is that the journey makes a trip more electrifying than the destination. Though the destination was vital, picking the route, mapping it out and finding waypoints and pit stops opened my eyes to the smallest details and towns I normally would have bypassed had I been inside a vehicle. When riding a bike, you discover the turns, the curves, the rolling hills, the tall mountain passes and it is incredible. Even those long straight roads in isolation were a chance to discover a little more about myself. Being connected to the elements and my surroundings helped open my eyes to the endless rolling wheat fields in stark contrast to the big blue sky. As the trip passed by, the experience of journeying to a destination became much more valuable, real and tangible. It became exciting and refreshing. It’s the journey that gave the destination its meaning.
The 2000 mile motorcycle ride to Glacier National Park and back was an amazing experience and I’m already planning next year’s destination.I’m not sure exactly where that will be, but I’m already anticipating the epic journey that awaits me.
Click here to see the journal I took with me to document this trip.
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