Life is not about what you have – it is about what you learn. So said someone wise even if motorcycling was probably not what he was talking about. I am aware that it would be sacrilegious to confine so sweepingly effective a logic just to one aspect of life, however important it is for us. The wisdom though is undeniably pertinent to riding. Any motorcyclist worth his passion knows that knowing how to ride well is way more important than just having an expensive piece of machinery between your legs. And yet we find such a large majority of bikers so keen on upgrading their machines far quicker than they think of upgrading their skills. True that we don’t really have a skill based licensing system (it is another matter that we hardly have a ‘system’ in place) that restricts low capability riders to low performance machines. It is also true that disposable incomes are high enough now for any reasonably established and successful person to go out and buy the kind of performance machinery that was just a dream a decade or so ago. Despite these two glaringly obvious reasons that point towards why machines are upgraded quicker than skills, there’s still something underlying which is not so obvious.
Motorcycling exists between the unashamed poser and the staunch ascetic. The poser is obsessed with mirrors, the glory must reflect him, the admiration must come not from a few but a crowd and thus his form of motorcycling is more static. And so obviously riding skills can be bypassed. The ascetic on the other hand is disdainful equally of crowds, comment and reaction. He is obsessed enough with the act and activity of motorcycling to be least inclined to pay attention to how others opine and so lives only in movement. He has no need to stop and stay and so learns to ride. We all have both within us. The question is in what proportion.
Returning to our earlier question, it is easy to see that this very proportion decides whether we upgrade our skills first or the machine. Let us not judge yet, in terms of absolutes even though at first look it is evident that the poser upgrades the machine first and so is more of a menace. It really is not so serious – as long as the poser sticks to posing. The trouble begins when he starts believing that an upgrade of the machine also leads to an automatic upgrade of skills. Just because the better machine allows him to accelerate faster and brake quicker than what better riders than him could do on lower performance machines than his. Trouble worsens when he forgets that it is entirely the contribution of the better machine that lets him do what he can now as a rider and also lets him get away with mistakes that could have cost him his life or limb on a lesser machine. That is when he becomes a menace.
The ascetic meanwhile is almost contemptuous of upgrades. As long as his bike serves his purpose, he is fine with it. Essentially, he despises an upgrade of machinery just for the sake of an upgrade. No harm done with that approach, except that his motorcycling stagnates due to this. His skills plateau out more because of the limited capability of the motorcycle he rides than his own lethargy at continued learning. Motorcycling is a lot like life – it evolves using posterity for a ladder. Stop the upward trend and the soul escapes leaving only a cadaver behind. And the dead can only be buried.
The poser wants to be only at the leading edge while the ascetic shuns change and thus growth. Our lives are a sum total of our experiences and so the to and fro exchange between our motorcycling life and the ‘other’ life has lots of cross-pollination. The poser thus neglects the content for that jazzy cover while the ascetic loads content into an unappealing unappetizing package. Neither do any good either for life or for motorcycling. And both eventually fall foul of it. The poser exhausted by that insatiable need to keep up and ahead. The ascetic with nowhere further to go.
Both, the unadulterated poser and the extreme ascetic kill motorcycling. But a whole lot of it can exist between being terminally aspirational or permanently aggrieved like these two. The crux, to both living life and riding bikes to fulfilment, lies in striking a balance between the two extremes. Not a conscious balance that comes from planning. But one that comes from the leading edge of your experience which guides you on whether to change levels or remain level. So go grab your helmet and gear, swing a leg over the saddle and get up close and personal with life in itself. Revel in the attention as you attend to riding. But do keep in mind that the river runs the deepest only in the middle.
This Hard Torque was also published in the Oct-Nov 2015 issue of the xBhp Magazine