Growing up means moving on.
motorcycles are mostly a man thing. Obviously I’m not referring to the tangerine or mauve step- through wannabes now scooting around so
many urban streets. Those are mostly about transportation no matter who’s driving them.
I’m talking about real motorcycles – machines that go
fast and far, make a man feel he belongs, and tell everyone
he’s king of the road.
When I was 19, motorcycles gave me an image I desired. Driving a motorcycle proclaimed to the world that
I was independent and mobile. It said I wasn’t afraid of
risk, that I rejoiced in the satisfying sensations of speed
and embraced the thrill of living life in the open. Straddling
a motorcycle gave me a surge of power.
Oh yes. It was a man thing.
I loved the freedom of being able to hit the road on a
whim, jump on the kick-starter and feel the rumble responding beneath me. I loved to simply cruise, to ride gently
along a twisting road, and then snap the throttle and leap
forward with a rocket burst to blast past a dawdling car.
I won dozens of races against drivers who never even
knew they were in a contest.
In those days I loved to capture admiring glances, to feel
the eyes of bystanders and drivers turn to the man on
the motorcycle. I always imagined they envied me. Who
wouldn’t? What could possibly be better than cruising in
the breeze with open road ahead, plenty of power on tap
and a trail of worries left far behind?
One Friday afternoon after work I was really feeling my
oats when I spotted a fine-looking woman in a convertible
a short distance ahead. I skillfully timed my approach to
glide alongside as we slowed to a stop at a traffic light. With
a light blip on the throttle, I cast a macho eye her way as
I shifted my weight and lifted my left leg to reach for the
road. She was gorgeous.
Alas, the cuff of my jean caught on the foot peg and
my boot never got to the ground. Instead, the motorcycle
and I both toppled to the pavement with all the elegance
of a dizzy drunk.
Mortified as I was, my body leaped immediately into
action. I jerked the bike upright and was back in the saddle
in three heartbeats, eyes straight ahead and face burning
red. As soon as the light turned green I accelerated off the
line like a drag racer, and never looked back. The lady in
the convertible haunts me still.
These days I ride motorcycles differently. My pace is more
sedate and my purposes tend to be more practical. I’ve
even managed to shed many of the adolescent impulses
that made motorcycles so dangerous in youthful hands.
My competitive juices are more restrained, the seduction
of speed largely satiated, my urge to show off tempered by
the hard knocks I’ve suffered in the process of discovering
I like to think I’ve matured, if only because the sight
of men in their 40s and 50s still behaving as if they’re in
their early 20s is tremendously off-putting. Sadly, a lot of
men do seem to be stuck in some “adultolescent” stage
where they’re constantly expending their energies to win
unimportant contests, wasting time and money on expensive toys, adopting unbecoming airs and oozing attitudes
better suited to petulant children.
In other words, they don’t grow up. Sad, for it robs the
world of the settled male qualities that bring stability and
contentment to families and communities.
Yet some things never change. Motorcycles remain appealing and the open road has not lost its alluring call. The
wind in my face still slices away the furrow of my worries
and clears the clutter of cobwebs from my mind.
Image also continues to matter. Motorcycles still speak
to a spirit of independence. They provide a mechanical
illustration of a man exercising control in a risky environment, of finding his joy in the thick of the traffic on the
roadways of life.
They make the rider visible and vulnerable so that trust
attaches as to a weathered sea captain and self-confidence
sticks to him like a label.
These are manly virtues.
Blessed is the man who demonstrates vitality and vigour
without feeling the need to be antagonistic and aggressive.
Blessed is he who feels no compulsion to be arrogant or
sensational, but can relax in the contentment of his established relationships. Blessed is he who rides for clarity in
the moment and the ongoing satisfaction of the journey. FT
DOuG KOOP is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer and
spiritual care provider. He’s posted more words and pictures,