Gusto October 2015

Better Living Through Motorcycles

Photo by Shan Moore

The physical and mental benefits of riding a motorcycle off road are greater than any other activity on the planet.

While driving home from the motocross track the other afternoon, I swung into a suburban shopping center to splash some gas into my truck’s tank. As I began fueling up, a mildly pricey sports car screeched to a stop on the other side of the pump, and out jumped your archetypical fortysomething corporate worker bee: pressed Dockers, thinning but perfectly combed hair, and a plain blue button-up dress shirt that was failing to conceal a physique gone soft through years of inactivity. I watched in detached amusement as Mr. Corporate fumbled with the gas pump while simultaneously attempting to answer an email on his smartphone. He must have felt me looking him because the man glanced up and our eyes met for one brief, uncomfortable second. But that single moment was all it took to reveal an interesting fact that was so strongly felt it didn’t need to be verbally confirmed: This guy used to ride dirt bikes.

Crushed. That is the best word I can think of to describe the look in his eyes. I could feel the stress radiating off of him even before he noticed I was there, but I didn’t pick up on the raw despair until I was looking directly at it—or, more accurately, until he was looking at the dirty bike in the back of my truck with the anxious longing of a man who desperately needs to throw his mobile phone off of a bridge and disappear into the woods for a month or two. Not a word was exchanged between us, but as Mr. Corporate checked out the various mods on my bike with the experienced eyes of a former enthusiast, I got the sense that this guy had since given up on anything but the pursuit of a higher salary, and I pulled away from the gas station feeling an immense sense of compassion blended with a few potent drops of pity.

Life in general can be extremely demanding, and as someone who works in what can occasionally be an incredibly corporate environment, I absolutely understand that sacrifice and prioritization are necessary characteristics of a functional adult. I have a huge amount of respect for the man who sells his bike for a couple of years so that he can make ends meet and provide for his family. There are definitely more important things out there than motorcycles, but there are also some very compelling reasons to stay connected to the sport. I would argue that the physical and mental benefits of riding a motorcycle off road are greater than any other activity on the planet. Even if your work or personal life has kept you off the bike for a while, you can still receive huge doses of enjoyment, stimulation, and motivation from reading magazines or attending races as a spectator. Heck, I’m even supportive of riders who sell their dirt bikes and end up getting into mountain bike riding, or trail running, or target shooting. These are all worthwhile activities that will provide similar benefits to riding motorcycles. The thing that should be avoided, and what I believe I was picking up on from Mr. Corporate at the gas pump, is taking everything that you are passionate about and giving up on it entirely—and, by extension, yourself.

Like a grown-up Peter Pan, the longer you go without riding, the less vividly you’ll remember everything you love about it. Do what you need to do—either as a provider for your family or as a professional—but also do everything in your power to make a special place in your life for the things that make you the happiest. I don’t have a solution as to how to make life less demanding, but I do know that the more you ride your motorcycle, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with it all.