The Mechanical Steed

Bridles. Ropes. Whips. Stirrups. Reins. Saddles. Cinches and girths. Chain bits.

Nope. Not talking about sadomasochism. Not opposed to it. These terms, however, refer to horse riding.

Horses are majestic animals that have family bonds that rival those of their human riders. They are part of many cultures that date back thousands of years. English folklore, which imbues so much of fantasy today, often have calvaries that ride on these beasts of burden. The largest contiguous kingdom, the Mongol Empire, would never have been without the technological advantage the horse and archer provided. The Natives'—the first peoples of the Americas—history and mythology are ladened with the love for the wild horses.

It's difficult to find any culture where the horse isn't a part of it in some way. But in the modern day of automobiles, horses are not used for transportation and labor as much anymore. So it's no surprise that the rise of the motored bicycle since the late 1800's has continued today.

I'd just started riding. For most of my life, I'd been scared to even learn how because Death seemed to linger around that lifestyle. The fact that motorcyclists are 37 times more likely to die in an accident than motorists isn't the most comforting thought.

I mean, let's examine this form of transportation: Take a frame and put two wheels on it. Mount a motor that sits just below the gas tank where the gas is stored. That's gas. The explosive stuff. When you sit, you'll wrap your thighs around this tank of explosiveness, nudging your reproductive organs against it. Then your calves flank the high performance engine that gets as hot as the sun (not quite but you get the point), while your feet rest on foot pegs inches from the skin-removing pavement.

Your right hand operates the front brake. Your right foot operates the rear brake. They need to coordinate separately or together as needed.

Say what?

Here's the kicker. The faster you go, the easier to balance the bike, the less time you have to react to hazards on the road. So it's safe to go fast? Kinda. But it's harder to ride going slow. Pretty much.

And what about protection? What about it?

Sure. Automobiles, also known as cagers, have glass, steel and airbags to protect the driver. So we suggest when riding your two-wheeled vehicle of death to wear a plastic bucket called a helmet. Oh, make sure you wear a thick leather jacket and pants to protect you in the event you crash. Even when it's blistering hot? Yep.

Whachutalkingaboutwilllis?

And, excuse me, but where is the seat belt on this motorcycle? What do you mean I don't have one?

So what if I have a passenger? They'll sit where? On a smaller seat than mine? And then they hold onto me for dear life?

Alrighty! Where do I sign up?

At the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. Well, they have an MSF course that teaches the basics of operating a motorcycle. If you pass their riding test, then you can skip the skills test at the DMV. All that would be left is to take their written test.

I hadn't ridden a bicycle for decades. So I bought a road bike from Walmart, rode that for about four weeks to regain my balance, which was shaky at first. So by the time I took the MSF course, I could focus on learning how to ride a motorcycle, which they provided. The moment I felt the power between my legs, I was hooked. And then I got on the motorcycle. Joking. My assigned bike was a Honda Grom, which is a tiny motorbike. Still, riding it was intoxicating. When I arrived home, I started looking at used bikes for sale on Craigslist.

After I had finished the course, I bought a Kawasaki Ninja 300. The number represents the size of the engine in cubic centimeters. Actually, my bike has 296, but it's sexier to market something called a Ninja 300...Sparta! The Ninja 300 is considered a beginner bike, but it's more than enough for city riding. And it can handle the freeway with little issue. Except if I need to pass someone quickly, then I gotta down shift and wring the engine out.

None of this is really important because riding out in the open on any motorcycle, especially through the back roads is addicting.

Despite having to pay attention to things that can hit/kill you like deers and people driving while busy working their cell phones, and avoiding road hazards like pot holes, road kill, oil slicks, gravel, wet spots, leaves, the view from the saddle is unobstructed in a way you won't understand until experiencing it for yourself.

Much like riding a horse, there's a connection from the rider to the bike. A horsewoman uses her whole body to communicate with her steed. So too must the motorcycle rider.

Aside from the throttle and brakes, leaning becomes a necessity when carving turns and twisties. This is where the sensation of riding becomes euphoric, a oneness. You have to have skill to take on the curves at speed. Because any sudden motion the rider imparts to the bike—chopping the throttle, aggressive braking, jerking the handlebar—can often be followed by crashing. It's no surprise most single vehicle crashes happen taking on curves.

And I think this is where another level of connection from rider to bike stems from. The fate of the bike often spells the fate of the rider. If the motorcycle crashes, so too will the rider. The automobile, on the other hand, absorbs most of the impact, protecting the driver.

What's funny is that there are many YouTube videos that show a motorcyclist crashing his bike. He then scrambles to his feet and runs after it screaming, "Oh, baby! Baby, I'm sorry. So sorry!" He picks up the bike and examines the damage before checking to see if he's injured. Stupid.

I'd probably do the same thing.

I'm not surprised that I've fallen for riding. Ooh...wrong word choice.  It's still the honeymoon period, so we'll see. But I've always wanted to have my own horse. The expense of housing and feeding and taking care of them is hard on the wallet. So for now I'll gladly ride my mechanical steed.