Motorcycle Meditation

Have you ever noticed what a wonderful time of day the early morning is?  For the teenagers that haven’t seen this for a while, this is the time of day when the birds start singing, the light is wonderfully sharp, and the day feels so full of promise. 

Early morning car shadow

Early morning shadow of my car.

I tend to be an early riser these days, often being dressed and out of the door around 6am, and I find this time of the morning almost magical.  Early morning sounds are crisp and clear without the background noises of cars, lawnmowers and the general hustle and bustle of life, and it seems the earlier I rise the better this gets. 

On those rare occasions when I leave the house around 5am, there are so few people about that when I do see someone else, I feel as though I should smile or wave to them – almost as if we are in some sort of secret club. I wonder if I am the only one that feels that way?  Maybe I should try a wave one day and see if anyone waves back… 

Early morning is also when I am at my most creative.  I don’t know if it is because my subconscious has been busy working things out while I slept, or just that my brain works better before the clamor of children drives everything else from my mind, but I often find myself in the shower with fresh ideas and solutions to problems spontaneously popping into my head.  This is usually followed by me cursing and wondering, once again, why I have still not put one of those waterproof SCUBA writing boards in the shower.  I then have to keep repeating these ideas over and over until I can get to a pen and paper, which can have J peering out from under the cozy warmth of the sheets wondering why her crazy husband is tiptoeing around the bedroom muttering to himself again. 


Once ready to leave, I peek into each of the children’s bedrooms on my way downstairs.  G always looks so peaceful and relaxed; D can be identified as a knot of bedclothes with a tuft of blonde hair sticking out of the top; and S has the ability to distribute bedclothes to just about every corner of the room except the bed. Fortunately this allows me the indulgence of tucking her in and giving her a kiss before heading out. 

There is something irresistable about sleeping children.  My Father used to say “When they’re sleeping you feel like you could eat them, and when they wake up you wish you had.”  Clearly a man of unusual insight… 

If the reason for my pre-dawn stirring is because I am heading out for a motorcycle ride, then the day is definitely off to a good start.  Early morning motorcycle rides always remind me of when I used to race motorcycle Enduro in the U.K.,  as that required being on site, set up and ready to race by 7:30am.  I wasn’t much of a racer and used to rank myself by counting how many places away from last I finished, but it was still great fun.  The only thing missing from early rides today is the intoxicating smell of 2-stroke oil mixed with high-octane fuel. Mmmm… 

I recently took my two youngest, G (10) and S (7), for their first ever rides and they clearly loved it, despite some early nerves.  It was a

S ready to ride

 wonderful way to share one of my passions with them and get some one-on-one time, having them hold on tight and completely trusting me to keep them safe.  Initially G was too nervous to try it, but after S’s ride she would not stop talking about how much fun it was and eventually wore him down.  But, once underway, G did not want to stop even after 3 trips around “the circuit” and a couple of quick blasts on the highway. 

Similar to how dogs want to stick their heads out of the car window, children always use their arms as wings and delight in tilting their hands and feeling the wind move their arms up and down.  I have had several kids on the back over the years and they all do this, and I wonder if the air conditioning in modern cars is robbing our kids of this simple joy. 

While I am very happy that the kids enjoyed the rides, I am also aware that their experience of riding is very different from my own.  When I ride I change mode and hyper-focus on the task at hand.  I don’t listen to music, and I rarely pay much attention to the scenery, except to keep an eye out for deer and other mobile targets.  Instead I seek out the twistiest roads I can find and focus on threading the motorcycle down them as quickly as I can (ahem…obviously staying under the speed limit…officer.)  To do this properly requires intense concentration, and I certainly don’t alway get it exactly right, but the act of striving for perfection seems to reduce the mundane noise of life to a mere whisper. 

That's my kinda road...

I know when I am in the zone because everything becomes effortless, the bike seems to change direction as if by telepathy and…I sing.  Yup – it could be show tunes, classical, rock – I never know what is going to come out until it happens, but happen it does.  This can sometimes be a shock, since singing into a full face motorcycle helmet is surprisingly loud when you are not expecting it.  When I get into this zone, my mind goes into a similar mode as that of the early morning shower and the idea flow starts up again.  Now why this only seems to occur when I have no ability to write things down I’m not quite sure, but  by the time I get home, I have new ideas, feel totally relaxed and, for some reason, feel very close to my family…very theraputic indeed. 

I have read that meditation is not, as many believe, a relaxed state of mind but is instead a state of intense concentration and studies of highly trained Tibetan monks show very high brain activity when they are meditating.  I believe the idea behind this is that by focussing your mind so intently, you can clear it of other cares, and riding provides me with the same benefits.  This is great news since I really don’t want to shave my head, and those orange robes just wouldn’t suit my pasty-white, Northern European complexion. 

I’m sure that other people get similar result from concentrating during their favorite pastimes such as golf, classic car restoration, sky diving, writing, shooting or even playing Sudoku.  All of these activities require us to take ourselves out of the day-to-day and demand 100% of our attention. 

In a world jammed with electronic intrusions and the need to continually multi-task, I believe that these moments of single-mindedness are needed to keep ourselves sane. I know that it works for me and I will continue to fit in as many early morning rides as I can.  And if you are out and about at 5am and see a guy riding a large yellow motorcycle, singing Bohemian Rhapsody and waving to you – feel free to wave back, because you just became an honorary member of The Early Club! 

Too long?  Too short? More pictures?
I’m new to blogging so comments and feedback are much appreciated.



Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Children, Life - or something like it

6 responses to “Motorcycle Meditation

  1. John

    As you know I am not a motorcycle person, but that said the morning is the best. I like to work out or ride a bike(without an engine) , th early morning and the backyard late at night…the best

  2. Richard

    Yes! Although I’m not an early person, I enjoy communing more than commuting. One of the many benefits of biking in the countryside is the variety of scents.

    Sleep updates my world model and exposes new patterns and exceptions. Dreams are valuable, for exploring ideas and gaining fresh awareness.

    Focussing on one thing brings facts and possibilities into short term memory (RAM) so tweaking any of the components illustrates the wider effect – brilliant for poetry, programming, diplomacy, any aspect of life, even working out motivations for events in the past. Dedicated groups can focus too, at least until egos get in the way.

    I don’t sing (much) but sneezing inside a crash helmet is definitely not recommended!

  3. PC

    I tend to go the otherway. I do not hyperfocus, as I’m never riding on the edge (or in most cases over the speed limit), I try and relax and clear my head of all thought. Ridng at that point becomes more mechanical. The eyes identify and the body reacts like a muscle memory without the need for a concious thought.

    If I do start thinkng of something, I let my mind pick a thought and roll with it. I acheive a state that is closer to a lucid dream than a Zone. I can control the direction of the thoughts and if need be snap straight up to full conciousness to hand out a one finger salute to the lane drifter or the car that may turn left into my path.

    • I should point out that when I am riding on the street I never ride on the edge – there are just too many unknowns out there. Instead my focus is on the techniques that allow for faster travel – e.g. selecting the correct line for each corner, looking ahead to the vanishing point to see if the next corner is tightening up or opening out, and scanning the road surface for changes.

      Riding at the limit should be saved for the track.

  4. Matt C

    Another wonderfully poetic post. I to also enjoy a morning ride on the cycle but my stead has only my legs and lungs for moving me forward. All the same rush of excitement when I crest and hill and start my descent down the other side without another soul on the road with me.

  5. JH2

    I’ll wave back!
    Ah, bicycling used to make me feel that way. [sigh]

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