In Praise of Everyday Motorcycle Adventure
We were talking about it the other day: why do we get so hung up on the big adventures and forget about the little ones? The big ones capture our imagination, but are often limited to just that – our imagination.
Very few of us got on a bike for the first time and headed off around the world. Most of us got on our bikes and simply began exploring. We took rides to new places and to do new things, to have new experiences. Motorcycle adventure per se probably wasn’t even on our minds at the time, but there we were, in the middle of it. We still are, every time we throw a leg over the seat, regardless of how far we are going or what our particular goal at the moment is. The most mundane trips can be, and are, everyday adventures.
Adventure is not defined by where we go or how we ride, it is defined by our state of mind – the willingness and desire to experience new things for ourselves. So let’s take a moment to celebrate the everyday adventures that we do take, every day, and challenge ourselves to share our everyday adventures with each other and with new riders. Let’s define everyday adventures as anything that gets us on the bike, but takes less than a long weekend to complete.
First time adventures
A first ride is just that – the first of many, many little adventures that you will take. It might take you out to dinner, to a destination, or even simply around the block. What makes it an adventure is that it is the first step in a hopefully long and rewarding relationship with motorcycling. The goal is not to make it to another continent (at least, for most of us), but to acclimate to the environment and push our limits. We need to feel like we can own this motorcycling thing. To do so, we have to ride.
My first ride was honestly a little ridiculous. I’d just gotten my license in Germany and a friend in LA invited me to ride with him. We did the Angeles Crest two-up on an old SV650. That was entirely nuts, looking back. It was the sport bike equivalent of racing a hare scramble the day after you learn clutch control. What was I thinking? Apparently only about riding a motorcycle! Back home in Germany, once I’d gotten my own bike, I took a less intense first ride (on that bike) and spent an afternoon exploring the local countryside. Then there was the first ride on gravel, the first ride on grass, and so many more.
There are many times when we can have the first ride adventure, and we should not forget to soak up and celebrate the experience. Every new bike, every new road, every new destination can be a first time adventure.
Going to work adventures
Commuting is an adventure in and of itself and probably deserves an entire website of its own. The challenges of commuting are myriad. You are pressed for time, you have to transport your work stuff, you have to participate in traffic, and everyone is just trying to do the same thing all around you, in addition to talking on their phones, eating breakfast, and shaving. Commuting is not for the faint of heart. Yet some of us do it, day in, day out. Some see it as a miserable chore, others enjoy it, because it has morphed into an everyday adventure and a simple excuse to ride the bike and challenge boundaries. It is certainly a peculiar thrill, and special kind of adventure that is challenging because of its limitations. Route planning takes on a completely new meaning, and by that, I mean there is only Waze. The sheer scope of potential road hazards can be overwhelming. What, you didn’t expect that couch to fall off that truck?
I admit that I commute largely for the thrill of defeating traffic. It’s an aggressive kind of adventure, completely different from the more relaxing and pleasant trips I take. I do it for the challenge, to force myself to ride with more awareness and better technique.
Running errands adventurously
The most mundane tasks (see commuting) can turn into serious adventures when a motorcycle is involved. Grocery shopping is probably the one task that involves the most adventure because we have to get our goods home. A case of soda that is too big for the pannier or a soggy bag of ice that will soak everything or a pack of delicate eggs can become concrete blocks of confusion when it comes time to load the bike. Just getting home with the food intact and safe is an accomplishment. A bag of charcoal or (eek!) a new TV may never happen. Suddenly, the porters riding scooters in Asia look like motorcycle gods on earth instead of comical extremes. And heaven forbid we decide to go clothes shopping. Then we have our gear to contend with!
Speaking of gear, parent-teacher conferences get really interesting when you show up wearing your leathers. Often, the adventure of daily errands is in the multiple times you have to explain to people that yes, you are riding a motorcycle, and no, it is not all that scary or dangerous if you gear up, practice, and ride with awareness. We take all of this in stride after some time on the bike, but we shouldn’t minimize the fact that we are challenging ourselves when we include our motorcycles in our daily lives like this.
The weekend away
We have to get out of the house eventually, and that means a quick weekend away. It might be a sweet bed and breakfast or a quiet tent in the woods, but it still involves packing. The first time will hopefully be less of the proverbial adventure with things going wrong and more of things going right. That does not mean there will be no packing implosions, rather that said implosions will be manageable. Traveling with a supportive partner can be a lifesaver here, but would also mean less boundary-pushing. So we head out and hope that we have packed enough without packing too much. More of these trips lead to more refinement (less stuff), until we have finally not packed nearly enough and a “real” adventure results. After all, the Germans do have it right when they say that there is no bad weather, only poor clothing choices. They forgot to include poor tent choices, poor sleeping bag choices, and poor hotel reservation choices.
My first overnight trip thankfully included a nice hotel, and I sent my bag ahead with my spouse, who was riding the train to our destination. Very fortuitous, because I had absolutely zero luggage for the CBR250R I was riding at the time. Oops. I’ve grown as an overnighter significantly since then, all the way to managing the insufficient-sleeping-bag trip. That was awful, but it was also an adventure.
The fancy dinner adventure
One of the most extreme of everyday adventures has to be the fancy dinner. You need to show up looking good, and you want to ride. The two are not mutually exclusive, and difficulty depends on how fancy ‘fancy’ is. A changing room helps, but so does a nice pair of black leather pants (Kevlar lined!). Your nice clothes are already on or folded neatly and ready to change into. The packing question here is more about how much hair effort will be required. Can you get away with a brush and an elastic, or do you need to bring a dryer, iron, and a full pannier of product? Only you know, and it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is can you fit it all on the bike somehow, and will you have room to stuff your gear on the bike or will you have to check it. Most restaurant chairs are plenty big enough to fit a helmet safely underneath, so there is no risk of leaving that with the coat check. Once you are safely at the dinner table, the remaining challenge is to get home safely.
I fully recommend the black leather pants thing. That and not caring too much about other peoples’ opinions of your hair!
Sharing the adventure
Everyday adventures are what makes the big adventures seem so possible. We know what is it like to overcome challenges, and once we have overcome our regular daily ones, the big ones seen like logical steps forward. We forget that while we may be ready, others aren’t yet. Let’s not forget to include the little adventures in the conversation, especially when we talk to people who don’t realize how much of an adventure life can actually be. Small steps can lead to an amazing variety of places, but you have to know to take those small steps in the first place. Sharing our small riding adventures helps make adventure riding more accessible to more people and shows off the joy that it brings us, no matter how far we expect to go on this trip.
Enjoyed this article? Follow Katherine’s adventure on her blog!