Blog: Zen and the art of motorcycle momentum

Steve Rose
By Steve Rose

BikeSocial Publisher. Has been riding since before Frankie said ‘Relax’, owned more than 100 bikes and has written for, edited or published most of the UK’s best known bike magazines. Strangely attracted to riding high miles in all weathers, finds track days ‘confusing’ and describes the secret to better riding as ‘being invincible’. 


What do you see when you ride? It’s a weird question, but I was listening to our Front End Chatter podcast last night and one of the emails the chaps were answering was about riding too fast and too aggressively. It’s a comment that’s been made about my riding in traffic – from both colleagues and instructors. And it still surprises me because I never feel aggressive or anything other than completely calm and at ease on a bike. It’s one of only two things I do in life where I don’t feel clumsy and half-arsed.

In my world riding through traffic is like seamlessly gliding through silent chaos. My objective is to get where I’m going quickly and safely, without causing anyone else around me to either slow down or move to let me through. I don’t even like it when a car pulls over to make more room (although I am very appreciative that they’ve seen me and are being polite) because I’ve already got the next move covered and the distraction breaks my concentration.

From 50 yards back it looks aggressive, I get that and I once had the chance to watch a playback, filmed by a copper of my filtering on the M25. It looked pushy, but it didn’t feel that way from where I was sat and each move, no matter how random it looked, was considered, and safe. Honestly.

I couldn’t ride angry. When it happens, momentarily I get so distracted, so focused on what just happened, that I lose the rhythm instantly; lose the ability to do that complex three-dimensional trigonometry of time and space that puts me in a gap that doesn’t even exist yet.

Riding bikes is the thing that stops me being angry. Riding bikes makes me feel more alive than ever and at the same time, absolutely closer to death too. That’s an admission not all of us make. For me it matters because that’s where the line gets drawn. That split-second decision about whether to go or stay, to add a few extra mph to what is already a high-velocity overtake. If that sounds as dumb as it might do I apologise. This isn’t bravado or middle-aged macho nonsense, it’s simply an acknowledgement that exposing yourself to a swarm of heavy tin boxes doing 60mph, wearing little more than a cordura cardigan and lightweight plastic hat is something that requires independent thought and a willingness to make your own rules occasionally.

When I ride I see shapes, speed, angles, space and opportunities. Plus, the occasional Chaffinch. Do you see the same?


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