I don’t think it’s FREEDOM…

By: chesshirecat

Mar 16 2009

Category: Uncategorized


Have you ever tried to describe what motorcycling means to you without using any of the tried and true descriptors? I have been. I’ve been thinking about it for several months now, perhaps even off and on for years, but as of late, it’s been on my mind a lot lately.

Over the years, I’ve seen these statements, “I ride because of the freedom motorcycling extends to me.” Or other kinds of really stupid statements. I don’t actually believe I’m any more free of anything while on my motorcycle, than I am while in a car. How can I feel that way? I’m confined to a conveyance that moves me along the ground, and it really don’t make a hoot of difference that I’m moving on an open aired two wheeled machine, or in an open topped convertible, I just don’t believe the feeling I’m thinking of is “FREEDOM”.

Fact is I often feel less free than while in a car. Here’s the reason why: riding a motorcycle has many inherent dangers. Because of these dangers, I’m constantly on alert. So where is my freedom in that? Is the freedom in the wind blowing through my hair? Actually, I can get that by riding in a convertible car. Put the top down, and enjoy the breeze, so exactly…what is the freedom…can YOU describe it? Why do you call this feeling we get while on a motorcycle FREEDOM? I don’t really get it. I don’t feel free, I feel attached, I feel responsible, and I feel alone yet connected to something powerful. That isn’t freedom…it’s something else, but I don’t know how to tell you what it is.

I no longer feel as if I’m an oddity among the throngs of commuters on the highway. How can I? There are thousands of female riders today and females are the largest growing group of new motorcycle owners. I’m glad for it, and sad at the same time, because now, motorcycles are everywhere, every size shape and example of two wheeled motorized propulsion is represented out here with a female rider. So no, I really don’t feel like an oddity any more.

So, just what is this feeling I get inside when I’m on my bike? How does it truly affect me? How can I say it relaxes me when in fact, it excites me? What is it about throwing my leg over the saddle, plopping my butt down on the weatherized seat, reaching down between my legs to insert the key…tell me this…how is it that simply thinking of these actions excites me? How is when I think of these rituals I go through to start my bike, that I am both excited and clamed? How can that happen?

I’ve heard people say we riders of motorcycles are adrenaline junkies. OK, maybe at first, as we accumulate the hundreds of hours on our bikes, but really tell me, how do you call someone like me who has been riding for many, many years…an adrenaline junkie? I don’t get that same thrilled feeling of fear any more. In fact, I’m filled with confidence in my abilities to avoid conflicts with other vehicles. Yes, of course, I understand there are unavoidable accidents that occur, but tell me the truth, haven’t you been just as hurt while in an accident in a car, as you have on your bike? I have…so, does this make me an adrenaline junkie? Am I a true “risk taker”? I think not. No more so than your average driver. I just take on a slightly different set of risks when I climb on my motorcycle.

So what is it about my motorcycle that provides the benefits I reap from riding? What is it that supplies that wonderful feeling of well being once I’m fully underway? Is it mental, is it physical…is it a mixture of both? I suspect it is a mixture…but which came first…the mental or the physical aspects that cause the sensation of pure unadulterated pleasure? It is pleasure you know. It’s almost as satisfying to me to ride a couple of hundred miles as it is to experience a very rollicking sensual sexual exploit with my partner. It takes longer to achieve that feeling of exhausted satisfaction while on the bike, but it lasts and stays with me longer as well. It’s hard to beat that.

So just exactly how do I explain to someone what’s going on when I ride? I don’t try anymore, because there aren’t any words that can fully express what goes on inside me when I’m riding. It’s something more than any of the expressions people try to use to describe the ride…it can’t be the same for everyone, because we all process experiences in a manner that is uniquely personal to individual.

So I don’t try to describe why I ride, how it makes me feel, or why…I just look at them, grin that stupid grin one wears after a great sex escapade, and feel fully relaxed and satisfied for a time…until the next time I throw my leg over the seat, reach between my legs to insert the key…and start my routine for riding the bike…as my excitement both builds and fades….all at the same time, how do I really describe a feeling…?????


15 comments on “I don’t think it’s FREEDOM…”

  1. I feel freedom applies, atleast when I am NOT stuck in traffic with cars(california it legal to split lane)

  2. You’re right, riding is too rich of an experience to describe succinctly. Each time I ride, I feel tested, every ride (even treading the trodden trail back and forth to work)is different. It definitely keeps you in the moment. I’ve never even come close to falling asleep riding my bike, I don’t think you can say that about driving a car. On a bike you experience nature so much more intensely. I’m lucky to pass the Eagle Marsh Wetlands project on my commute. I ride past herons a few feet from the edge of the road, hawks perched on signs and I’m smug about all the people flying past in their cages not even noticing what’s right there in front of them. My ride is; transportation, a test of skills and courage, entertainment, a connection with nature, part of my self image,… One of my co-workers was giving me hard time about how much money I spent on my bike. I explained how it was a package deal of transportation and vacation since I camp off the bike. When you look at it like that, it doesn’t even seem like the luxury that it is.

  3. I do agree with you on many points, however, for me I can truly describe the feeling I get at many times as free. When I’m riding for the sake of riding, and not for the sake of transportation, but strictly for pure pleasure, and easing the burdens of everyday life, I feel “Free” of the everyday stresses that drill at the back of my brain. Free to go where I want, and do as I please. Fee of having to go to any particular destination. Although many senses are heightened for safety sake, there is many a time when I’m just in the zone. Kind of zoned out in a sense. This is like a euphoric feeling that can be described as a drug like trance. Those stresses many times disappear when riding. I agree with many points, but don’t agree that I feel attached to the motorcycle like I feel like I’m sitting in my car. When on my bike, I feel one with it. I feel like in a sense flying. Just hovering sightly above the road. “FREE”. Just my opinion but “FREE”.And adrenaline rush…. Oh yeah, I still get that. When you crack that throttle, Feel the G forces, and know that if you don’t hang on tight, You are going to fly off the bike, and go faster than the limits of safety, and your little voice in your head tell you you should, there is a definite adrenaline rush. Oh Yeah it’s there.

  4. If you read Stephanie’s blog (Iowa Harley Girl), she just recently wrote a piece for Throttler magazine where she described the problem of trying to articulate how riding makes her feel to others. She described it as “trying to explain the color blue to a blind person.” I thought that said it all quite well. Trying to describe it to yourself, when you’ve ridden so long? Well, I guess that’s a whole different story.You don’t have to call it freedom. Interesting point you raised about the constant concentration and heightened awareness being a restriction. Sometimes, that stresses me out too, which is why I don’t enjoy riding very much in heavy traffic. None of us probably does.Maybe there is no name for it, and that’s fine by me because I don’t think it needs one. Who do we need to explain it to anyway? The non-riders don’t get it, no matter what we say. We all do get it – even if we can’t exactly nail down in a bunch of words as to what it is or why it drives us.I don’t know if I’d go so far as to equate it with sex. There’s no place I prefer to be on this earth than…er, well, you know. No need for details! I am a lot like Mr. M I guess; it feels like a drug to me. I just love riding the bike and enjoying all the cool experiences that go along with it. The scenery, the people I meet, etc.Lastly, please don’t feel less special because of the growing number of women riding motorcycles. You’re not just a woman on a motorcycle. You’re a lady biker in the true sense of the words. You’re not riding next to your RUB husband down to Hooter’s bike night and no place else all season. You’re OUT THERE riding for the sake of riding. Camping off your bike. You’re so passionate about it that when you’re not riding, you’re writing about riding. You are unique, special, and very cool.In your case, statistics need not apply.

  5. good write up…to me it can be one word fun…

  6. Great comments from all of you! As I said, each of us will take our experiences and file them under uniquely different feelings, categories and sensations! What’s number one to me, is of lesser importance or has no reflection at all in his/your life!I guess this is what makes what we love, (the motorcycle) such a mysterious stranger to those who haven’t taken the leap. As well as to those of us how have.Keep up the thoughtful posts…I enjoy hearing your thoughts…

  7. Fabulous blog… : )

  8. “In fact, I’m filled with confidence in my abilities to avoid conflicts with other vehicles.” I’m sure this is the key: biking is dangerous, bikes are inherently less stable than cars. So the ability to safely control a lot of bhp through a few square inches of contact patch is deeply satisfying. In fact, biking done well is the safest ‘most-dangerous-thing’ you can do….

  9. Great piece. Obviously something many of us think about.I think this freedom thing is really part of a Zen like experience. Heightened awareness and connectedness are words that come to mind. Generally, many of us don’t experience these heightened feelings of awareness or connection in our mundane day to day chores so, this separates riding from them. This heightened feeling of being separate of them , creates feelings of being free of them.On some rides everything comes together just right. The curve of the road, the view, the sun, the wind, and the bike just feels right. When all these feelings are really strong and I’m in that “Zone”, I call them “Golden Momments”.

  10. A thought provoking post, evidenced by the thoughtful comments.

  11. Very nice post. It has always been hard for me to explain how I feel when I ride or why I ride. However, for the most part it is about excitement of finding something new, like a back road that I have never been on, hole in the wall type restaurant serving local foods, or may be nice scenery for a pic or finding small towns off highways or meeting new people. I guess for me it is partly about exploration, partly about adventure and fun. I assume it is subjective to some extent.

  12. Balance is not an assumed risk.Balance has many definitions that all require equilibrium.The definition of balance is not a concept nor is balance a risk.Motorcyclists need to be afforded the right to live and the right to die.They wish freedom and fair usage of the highways and byways.They wish to travel unimpeded with freedom of movement.They wish to have insurance claims paid without lawsuit.They wish protection from the bully pulpit of government under the guise of democracy.The true issue of laws for and against motorcyclists is control of a perceived balance.Many motorcyclists ride to live out a fantasy double life. For them, they have purchased the costume and accoutrements of a rebel or a tough guy sanitized in their attempts at living life to the fullest. For others, riding is a freedom of transport through the elements. Some others enjoy the use of skill necessary for survival and the challenges that are constantly changing. Still others enjoy the conspicuity of being a risk taker.Taking risks and meeting the challenges are totally different than risky behavior.Anti motorcycle and, anti-motorcyclist positions range from practicality of modality, myriads of protectionism of motorcyclists from themselves, to those issues of the environment. It has become fair game to blame the ills of society upon motorcyclists and motorcycles or the lack of them.Viewpoints have stated that, “one major source of urban noise, that of motorcycles, is optional and totally unnecessary. In a seasonal climate, it is clear that motorcycles are not an integral part of our transportation system for they cannot be operated during our long winter. The owners of motorcycles have alternative means of transportation. The motorcycle is an optional vehicle for pleasure, not utility. It is a toy, albeit an expensive one.Furthering the anti motorcycle viewpoint, they go on to say, “As pleasure vehicles, motorcycles tend to operate in groups and to concentrate in particular and limited traffic patterns. And, as pleasure vehicles, they are often operated in a manner that brings juvenile emotional satisfaction to their owners but distress to those who live nearby. The effect of all these behaviors is to saturate certain roadways of our city with high and excessive levels of noise.”Many well-meaning citizens abhor the death of another for their own selfish gain. They attach their own fears of death to the feelings and wishes of another.Many Americans view the motorcyclist as “fair game”. They would prefer to not hear us, nor hear our pleas. They have also shown a preference for not seeing us. They have even recommended that we be put in harms way. “Some cities have adopted technical monitoring as a check on such behavior. Others have restricted access to those areas where the uncaring motorcyclists have destroyed the quality of life for local residents, in effect distributing the noise pollution throughout the city at large. Because of the difficulty and cost of monitoring motorcycle noise, I urge that we adopt a policy to limit the use of parkways by motorcyclists — as we have for trucks — and thereby distribute their noise over a larger area.”The minority of motorcyclists is easy to pick on. The protections afforded by leather and helmets do not help us against prejudicial laws currently in existence or the ones yet to be introduced.The protective gear additionally fails us within the court system.The protective gear allows all to profile our “type” and predict our behaviors.We as motorcyclists try to demand an equal access (balance) to all these things and we are stigmatized by our own public dress and behaviors.Motorcyclists are portrayed constantly as irresponsible risk takers because of balance.Motorcyclists constantly fight for balance in laws and in life.The assumed risk, of wanting balance in life, wastes life and money needlessly when we assume the position of victim.As motorcyclists, it is the razor’s edge that draws us. The feeling of perfectly managing all those influences that result in what can only be described as the closest feeling to flying that can be experienced upon solid ground. When you’re riding on the razor’s edge, it’s the joy of feeling (and being in control of) personal perfection that is so seductive.This joy of feeling has now drawn many of us into politics and legislation to defend our sense of control and balance in our personal and societal lives.An amalgam of people ride powered two and three wheeled vehicles. Many choose to be law abiding and others choose to be lawless in varying degrees.Unless we choose to balance ourselves and unify within a framework of some common ground, we will always be victims of choice rather than have freedom of choice.

  13. Wow, OK Mike that one came out of left field. But I’ll reply to it.I see your points regarding balance. One of the definitions of “balance” is: “The power or means to decide.” We as a minority are losing our power and our means to decide for ourselves what, where and how we will ride. These days, yes, there are towns and cities all over the country instating laws to keep us off their city streets. Instating muffler laws that do not co-exist with the current state law, the same can be said about communities who impose helmet laws on a biker, when the rest of the state has no such laws. One must look toward Myrtle Beach and the fight there to repeal or to define the actions placed by new law on the biker to understand where the winds of change are blowing.While I don’t blame a city or municipality for wanting to stop or get rid of what they determine to be a nuisance in their lives, doing it by instating laws that do not reflect the rest of the state’s laws appears to be a double standard. But the courts are deciding the other way. They are saying these communities have the right to protect us from ourselves. It always seems to come down to that doesn’t it? Protecting the people from themselves? When new laws are enacted, laws such as the Patriot Act, we are told (essentially) we are losing our rights in order to protect us from ourselves. We obviously don’t have the intellect to observe and stop our own government from fucking us out of our natural rights, so we deserve to lose these freedoms. Well, here we go again, the fight isn’t at the state levels yet, the laws to suppress us as bikers and riders are still at the local levels. It’s our own neighbors who are denying our rights to decide for ourselves what we ride, where we ride, how we ride, and how we will protect ourselves from ourselves. So it’s at the local and grass roots level we should start addressing our concerns. At the same time, the Motorcycle Rights groups should be gearing up for the national fight, because as I said, with the regional and later the state and federal courts deciding the community has the right to stop you from riding their streets….But Mike, at a gut level…the joys of riding isn’t part of the worry and the anxiety that you have tried to inject into this conversation. I applaud the effort to keep the fight in the fore front of the American Biker’s Conciseness, but don’t be too disappointed if what you’re saying falls on deaf ears…when you take them to forums such as this one. I would have much rather seen this on my diatribe on Myrtle Beach, where you could have set me on a straighter path regarding the loss of rights to bikers, over the actions of a community to ensure they didn’t have to put up with a half million bikers a couple times a year. As you know at the time I upheld their right as a community to do just that. Now I see that rather than just tell everyone to go home, and to refuse to sell street permits to vendors…and other types of actions that do not put a collar around the neck of a group of people…they have trampled on the state law…in order to protect me from myself…I’m just a little tired of that kind of protectionism.So, thank you Mike for taking the time to state your views regarding freedom, bikers, and the losses we all are suffering from. It’s a point of view all too often ignored because of it’s weightiness and it’s unpopular stance of actually DOING SOMETHING beside complaining. Education is paramount, after that, perhaps all is not lost.Chessie

  14. Wow! Some really great and interesting comments to go along with a great and interesting post!I have been guilty of using the “freedom” word when trying to describe riding to someone. I think what I mean by that, was mentioned here. When in a car, you have the ability to operate the vehicle while your mind wanders to other things. Work, bills, kids, ect… When on the bike, your concentration is focused on your operating the machine and your surroundings. I think the “freedom” comes in to play, when you realize your not thinking of anything else but riding that bike! Enjoying the elements and stimulation experienced by your senses. Free from other problems and stress.I know when I get on my bike, I can forget about all the crap that makes me ill. I feel myself relaxing and enjoying the moment. I feel “free”!Great post Chessie. You gave us much to ponder! 🙂

  15. The diatribe on Myrtle Beach will be for naught if no one files the brief on pre-emption. Quite simply, the city of Myrtle Beach does not have the Authority nor governance to enact the laws that over reach the powers and laws of the State of South Carolina. Myrtle Beach needed a pathway to express prejudice against Black Bike Week and more generally blacks. The opportunity seemingly presented itself for legal prejudice cloaked behind the protection of bullying an unprotected minority that would let them accomplish their goals.

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