Life on the Back of a Motorcycle

me and my man getting ready to cruise!

me and my man getting ready to cruise!

This past summer, my boyfriend bought a motorcycle. He found the beast online – a 1983 Honda Nighthawk – from a older fellow who looked like your typical greasy 80’s biker. He was a man of few words, with yellow-grey hair framing his wind-chapped face, a leather cap, and acid wash jeans that he probably bought at the same time as his bike.

At first, I was completely against the idea. I’d heard the horror stories of terrible accidents, and although I didn’t want to seem like a drag, I definitely voiced my concerns.

That was until I mustered up the courage to climb on the back and go for my first ride.

It was the most thrilling, bonding, and freeing experience I’d had in a long time. It was so different from riding in a car, but also nothing like riding a pedal bike. I was amazed at how this relatively tiny machine was carrying us like a lightning bolt across the city, onto the highway, and through vistas that I’d never experienced with such proximity and speed. It amazed me that I could reach out and touch the adjacent vehicles and scenery, or smell the hot dog stands that whizzed by. I felt somewhat like an invincible superhero once I strapped on my huge face helmet, pulled on my jeans in the 35 degree summer heat, and slipped on the heavy leather jacket that my boyfriend found for me (another lucky online bargain).

The first lesson in riding on the back of a motorcycle is to allow your weight to move with the bike when it corners, making your body one with the driver’s. This was challenging at first, as I’m used to riding a pedal bike in which the opposite is true. It’s all about relaxing and just allowing yourself to lean with the bike, letting the physics of the movement bring you back up. When we rode together, I had to put full trust in his abilities to control the little blue rocket on two wheels. So I clung on, squeezing my man’s hips with my legs and holding on tight to his leather-clad torso with my arms. I loved the feeling of the engine gently rumbling beneath us, lurching between gears, as I tried my best to breathe and let go as the bike tipped precariously side to side, letting the odd squeal of half-joy, half-fear escape from beneath my helmet. To say the least, having to release my inhibitions and be at one with my man was, well, sexy as hell.

The bike wasn’t without it’s problems, however. Sometimes the bike wouldn’t start and we’d have to push start it, which isn’t an easy task, especially while wearing full gear during the mid-day summer heat. And in order to keep the key in the ignition, it had to be secured with an elastic band. The slightest knock would unhinge it and the motor would shut off. So we would routinely steal the thick elastic bands from bunches of broccoli when we went to the grocery store – they seemed to work the best. And stealing elastics made me feel all the more like a badass biker chick.

Eventually the bike saw its last day. I was sad, and also frustrated, as I’d just started to get the hang of riding. I’m still amazed that something so small carried my boyfriend and I across the highway at such speeds and distances. There were only two tiny little pieces of rubber between us and the hot pavement screaming by. And I also realized that without a little bit of fear – the worry that the bike wouldn’t start, the dizzying effect of leaning into corners, or the concern that our broccoli elastic would fail and the key would come out of the ignition, riding on the back of a motorcycle wouldn’t be nearly as fun.

And I suppose that goes for life, too. We never know what’s around the next corner, but we have to relax and lean into it anyways. We have to trust what drives us, our passions, our love, our vision, and our dreams. And it wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have those little worries – “does he really love me? Am I on the right path? Will I have enough money? Do I have what it takes? Will I make it to the end of this journey in one piece?” Life is unknown. It’s a thrill, a wild and unpredictable ride. And when we remember how close death is at all times, suddenly life becomes so much more immediate, special, and exhilarating. A lot of the time, we can’t control where the road goes. All we can do is gear up, take a deep breath, turn on the ignition, hold on tight, and head out towards the mysterious horizon.