when i decided to start riding a motorcycle in my forties, i was lucky to converse regularly with a veteran rider and do-it-yourself virtuoso. here was a man who could build a bike from scratch, restore classics, and keep his range rover running by himself. while i didn't even know how to brew my own cuppa joe ☕️ (tho he soon taught me how). what struck me the most was the care with which he used tools and machines; automobile engine or coffee grinder.
shiny new toy ✨
i'm always itching to get the latest and greatest phone, tablet, and laptop every year soon as it launches. i'm obsessed with updating the software to bleeding edge developer versions. for no reason than to be able to flaunt that status of living on the edge. no surprise i switched from my first bike to the second in less than a year and if not for a dear friend from the BOTS community, i'd be on my third right now.
i don't curb my enthusiasm for new toys but i have instead understood it better and channeled that obsession skilling up. every time i feel the itch to get new toys; either motorcycle or related gear, i ask myself if there's anything i can do to improve my ability to ride better right now. as amusing as it sounds, there almost always is some aspect of skill i've know but not fully imbibed.
so i use that itch, that urge, that craving to fuel my journey of self improvement as a rider first before exploring new ride options. within the local motorcycling community this gets less attention for two main reasons.
skills are more unseen than seen
if you can pop a wheelie at will, come to a halt with a stoppie or power slide out of corners, everyone around is in awe! but these abilities are limited to a few who chase mastery over them. however to be a good rider with better than average riding chops you don't need any of these.
these are more relevant tho less obvious and unlikely to be noticed by the average rider. to be skilled off-road and ready for adventure requires a little more than just basic motorcycle riding skills:
- balance and body position: off-road riding often involves challenging terrain and obstacles. so you gotta be able to play with balance and know how to position your body properly on the motorcycle in order to navigate through uneven surfaces with control.
- throttle and clutch control: off-road riding demands precise control of the throttle and clutch. learn to modulate power delivery, smoothly engage and disengage the clutch to hold traction and manage your bike's response to varying terrain conditions.
- braking technique: effective braking is essential for off-road riding, especially when encountering sudden obstacles or descending steep slopes. mastering front and rear brake control, along with proper weight distribution, will enable you to slow down or stop the bike confidently and maintain stability.
- terrain reading and line selection: a skilled rider can quickly assess the terrain ahead and choose the best line to navigate through it. understanding how different surfaces and obstacles affect your bike's performance requires experience which will also help you anticipate challenges to make informed decisions on the go.
- controlled sliding: ngl power sliding is cool but there's more to it than just spitting dirt for your insta fans. sometimes you need to slide the bike intentionally or risk losing control in slippery conditions. techniques like power slides and drifts can help you navigate corners by initiating controlled slides while maintaining your momentum.
- trailside repairs and basic mechanical knowledge: when riding in remote areas, it's crucial to have basic mechanical know-how like changing a tire, fixing a chain, or troubleshooting common issues so you can get back on the road asap. if you don't have the skills, ensure someone in your riding group does.
- navigation and map reading: adventure riding takes you off the beaten path. having good navigation skills and being able to read maps or use gps devices will help you plan routes, find your way, and explore new areas confidently. even if you stay on known routes, sometimes you may be called upon to rescue others.
remember, practice and experience are vital to improving these skills. gradually push your limits and consider taking training courses specific to off-road riding, terrain navigation, and survival skills to enhance your abilities and confidence on the trails. not only will you improve your own game but also become an asset for others playing alongside.
worship your toys
it's not all about the rider is it? without your motorcycle your adventure can come to a grinding halt. we already noted how important basic mechanical repair knowledge is useful trail side but there's more. regular maintenance to ensure the need for such acute mechanical emergencies is minimal. this is as much a mindset as it is a skillset.
once a year everyone in India is privy to Ayudh puja where all tools, weapons, vehicles, implements, digital devices, factory machinery, etc are worshipped and gratitude expressed for their benefit in our modern tool dependent lives. i never cared for this event and was always callous about anything i used, whether pencil, paintbrush, computer, bicycle, phone, etc.
seems strange in hindsight because i've always been an artist when it comes to using implements to create something with grace and finesse. maybe i cared more for the process and result of the art but was careless about the tools of the craft. i lacked the discipline to respect the craft as much as i revered the art. it appears i'm the same even now; i ride a lot and i ride pretty well (always improving) but i don't care about my motorcycle.
the motorcycle community was an eye-opener in this sense. everyone i met was in awe of their machines. even if they didn't have the ability to maintain or repair their own vehicles, they took great care to wash & clean it regularly. i still don't care to maintain the aesthetic appearance of my ride which is probably another reason why i love to ride off-road - a dirty bike is a badge to be flaunted. 😁
remember it's not the toy that makes your game. good riders with old motorcycles can demonstrate greater skill than mediocre riders with top of the line machines. so play passionately with your toys but learn to take care of 'em if you wanna play the long game. and if you really really want it, go out and get yourself that shiny new ride! just remember doing justice to your toys means more than just maintaining 'em well, it's about playing to your max potential.
this is my journey with motorcycles and mud, wanna ride with me?