There are sound, practical reasons for owning a motorcycle that transcend fantastic gas mileage and low buy-in cost. I speak of the therapeutic aspects of motorcycle ownership.
Knowing you have one; that it’s out in the garage ready to go whenever you are.
Just looking at it is therapeutic even if you can’t ride it today.
Because there is always tomorrow.
The “Dr.” is always in. No need to make an appointment. Whenever you feel the need, he is there, waiting and ready — maybe even in your TV room. So long as you remembered to keep the trickle charger hooked up and didn’t forget the fuel stabilizer in the tank. Roll it around the room once a week or so, to keep the tires from flat-spotting.
When you do get to ride, your worries recede . . . because they have to. A bike is not like a car — especially modern cars, which practically beg you to fall asleep at the wheel and then nag you for doing it.
On a bike, you’re presence — of mind and body — is required.
It is up to you to keep it upright. If you don’t, it won’t. There is no Lane Keep Assist or Automated Emergency Braking. The only assistant along for the ride is . . . you.
It is your job to keep track of what gear you’re in and to operate the clutch. To be smooth. If you forget to downshift when downshifting is called for, the engine will bog and you’ll feel stupid. If you forget to pull in the clutch as you roll to a stop, the engine will stall and you’ll look stupid.
Bikes are not for the stupid. Not for very long, at least.
Some bikes have kick starters. Few things in life are more satisfying than physically starting an engine by a well-choreographed forceful downstomp. Buttons are for people who’ve fallen and can’t get up.
Since you have no air bags and there are lots of gadget-addled people in cars not paying much attention to anything going on outside their cars, you grok the importance of paying attention to them.
Which keeps your attention lit on the scene at hand — and not what went down at work or what is waiting for you at home. Few things keep you in the moment like a bike does. It is a kind of time machine that makes time stand still. There is no past or future. Just right now.
For as long as the ride lasts.
It is a taste of the psychological ease our early ancestors must have enjoyed on those days when the sun was warm and their bellies full and everything seemed well.
There is a secondary therapeutic aspect: Wrenching.
Bikes, most of them, are still primarily mechanical things, tangible things. Not cell phones that roll. Their machinery is also largely accessible; you can lay your hands on just about anything. The engine—all of it—is literally right in front of you. Not buried under a plastic shroud. Not crammed up against a firewall. You can sit beside it, examine it from almost any angle.
It can actually be fun to change the oil, replace the spark plugs or do a brake job—which jobs generally don’t require jacking up anything and (usually) no special tools. The act is a kind of communion which creates an emotional bond between man and machine.
There is the immense satisfaction which comes from doing it yourself which satisfaction is denied to owners of cars whose complexity and impossibly inaccessible packaging and necessity for specialized tools and “diagnostic” equipment has made them forbidding, remote and as difficult to bond with as a wire-mesh wet nurse.
Even newer bikes with fuel injection are easy to deal with by dint of the fact that you can get to the injectors without disassembling a third of the engine. And the FI is still relatively simple throttle body or port injection, not direct injection as in almost all new cars.
Bikes are still what cars would have been had “the government” — busybodies and control freaks with badges and guns — stayed out of the car business. Of course, “the government” has decided to get into the bike business, too — and the new stuff is being encrusted with the bad stuff which has ruined cars as other than Transportation Modules.
But the good news is this creeping rot only began a few years ago — so you don’t have to go back 20-plus years to avoid it, as is the case with cars.
Go back to the early 2000s and before and you’ll be dealing with carburetors — and no electronic controls at all. Just a few electronic devices — such as the battery/generator and ignition system.
All of them under your control.
The bike is your co-conspirator, not your nanny. It has no event data recorder; no Intelligent Speed Limit Assist. It does not pester you with annoying buzzers for doing something a bureaucrat who imagines himself to be your parent or — worse — your owner — thinks you ought not to do. As all modern cars do.
It is as autonomous a vehicle as ever existed.
Get one — and ride it — while you still can.
Got a question about cars — or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!