Wednesday, March 26, 2014

7 Life Lessons Learned from Motorcycles

There are many who deride bikes as snooty playthings. Admittedly, there are many who treat their bikes like snooty playthings. However, for every showoff with barf-inducing neon lights fixed underneath his bike, there are hundreds who know their bike inside out, who have learned to interpret every little bump and fizz the bike gives, who are so in tune with their bike that it starts to talk to them.

The Rambler falls very much among the second class. He enjoys every moment spent with his bike, be it in city traffic or on the open highway. He listens to every little noise his bike makes, for it tells him something about his bike that he didn't know before. He listens to what his bike speaks to him, and speak she does! She has taught him more about life than anything else, including education and his parents, ever could.

The life lessons that bike-riding folk like the Rambler have learned from bikes are equally applicable to bike-deriding folk as well. So what can a non-living living and pulsating thing that is made of plastic and metal and functions on tiny explosions, teach us?


An engine draws fuel from the bike's tank, and mixes it with air sucked in from its surroundings. On cold mornings, this mixture is not combustive enough to make an engine run properly. This calls for a choke, a valve which forces fuel from the bike's tank into the engine and keeps out the air. This allows the engine to get started and warmed up with minimal fuss. Soon enough, the engine gets warm enough to allow the intake of air, and thereafter, the air flow only works to maximize the engine's output.

The analogy to draw from the choke valve is that in every endeavor you make, you need to force everything you have into it, without relying on or waiting for outside help. Before your idea is strong enough to meet dissenters head on, external influence will do nothing but spoil your best-laid plans. Opinions uninvited, criticism unwarranted, obtrusion undeserved - this is what a nascent idea receives. Only once the idea has been refined and strengthened should you seek outside help. When your plan is strong enough and you are committed to it, opportunities start to fall your way, seemingly of their own accord. The idea becomes strong enough to convince dissenters to change their mind, and feeds off the support.


After a few months or a few thousand kilometers of relentless riding, undesirable deposits start to collect in an engine. Nuts and bolts start to come loose. Cables start to fray. The electronic components start to go wonky. The accumulated dirt and grime start to corrode the underlying paintwork. The lubricant starts to become stale and useless. This calls for a servicing, where the exterior is polished to a sparkling finish, the air filter is scrubbed clean, the engine is cleaned and refreshed, the cables and nuts and bolts are tightened, and the essential fluids are refilled.

Our unavoidably hectic lifestyle in these times of plenty forces us to pile on stress and frustration onto our mind and body. The inevitable result: frustration, sleeplessness, indigestion (urrgh, I know!), short temper, chronic weakness, lethargy, a weakened immune system, and a whole lot of other ailments.

Your mind and body deserve a refresher once in a while. The 'six-month vacation twice a year' jokes aside, there is no shame in demanding some 'me time', however cheesy that may sound. Instead of spending Sundays slumped on your sofa, head out into the ever-welcoming embrace of Mother Nature. Go on a hike, go camping, go to a beach, go on a wildlife trail. Let the greenery / the laughter around a bonfire / the lull of the waves / the tense silence of the jungle wash away the layers of grime you have been unwittingly accumulating. If that is too big a leap for you, just try to switch off that bloody phone of yours for a day. Disconnect from the rest of the world. Tick off some items off that movie wishlist of yours. If you don't have a movie wishlist, shame on you, make one!

Riding Gear

The point of wearing a full riding gear on 1000-mile road trips is not just acknowledging that you can make a mistake, but being ready for the idiocy and recklessness of others. You may think you are the most accomplished rider in the country, but even discounting the quite plausible possibility that you are entirely wrong about that, there is no way you can adjust to a drunk driver suddenly veering into your lane, leaving you with two equally grim choices.

In life, as on a bike, there is bravery and impulsiveness. And then there's stupidity. By all means, be impulsive and make your own way through life, but be prepared for cockups along the way. Always make provisions for possible adversities. However confident you may be in your capabilities, no one is perfect. Even if you are perfect, in which case I need to know your secret, you depend on others in myriad ways, and they may not always be up to scratch. It would be stupid to recommend pessimism, but a dose of realism would sit well with an optimistic mind.

Corners are Memorable

Ask any rider worth his salt about the best road he's ever driven on, and he'll regale (and sometimes bore) you with tales of the twisty bits on a mountain road. No rider, even if he's the most loyal Harley or Indian customer in the world, likes a road that goes straight for more than 10 km. Did I say 10? That is too much! Nobody remembers the straights; they are just not that memorable. Sure, it's nice for a while if there's greenery either side of you or if you are riding into the sunset, but after some time, you inevitably find yourself craving the smallest of kinks in the road.

Likewise, the boring, open stretches in life may be easy, but nobody lies on a deathbed wishing he had been more normal, more routine, more clockwork. It's always the more adventurous, riskier times in life that you remember. Sure, the linear trajectory of John Everyman's life is easy and safe, but a roller coaster is much more satisfying.

Focus On the Road

Music blasting in your ears, neck craned to hold a cell phone in place, alcohol surging around your system, drowsiness making it a struggle to open your eyes while blinking - these are some of the worst conditions to be in while riding a bike. These conditions mean that you can't concentrate on what lies ahead of you. The road is not a place to close or avert your eyes. Potholes, animals, and primarily other road users, are all notoriously unpredictable elements for a biker. A sleepy biker will almost always cause a horrible accident. A biker on the phone will not be able to react quickly to any potential danger. A drunk biker will always cause a horrible accident, period. You need to focus on just the road when you are on the bike, nothing else.

Despite the many disadvantages of multitasking, we live in a time where being able to do it is considered a badge of honor. Contrary to popular belief, multitasking doesn't help you accomplish many things at once, but rather leads you to messing up many things at once. While we may believe that our brain is capable of handling two tasks at once, what the brain actually does is constantly switch attention between the two, so quickly that our conscious self doesn't notice it. For the sake of your own brain, concentrate on what you are doing at the moment. That's what the brain was designed for, and that's what it does best.

Don't Overload Your Bike

A bike, however sturdy it may seem, is only designed to carry a certain amount of weight. While very rarely exceeding this limit for a short period won't hurt the bike, continual overloading causes numerous problems. The suspension sags, and can cause accidents. The power output suffers terribly even in the short term, since the same amount of power is now distributed over a larger load. The braking distance is significantly increased, due to the increased momentum. The rider's control over the bike is also severely affected, since even tiny deviations to either side are magnified several times over, again due to the increased momentum. The only way to increase the weight limit is to change or enhance the fundamental structure of the bike to strengthen it.

In life, it is important to recognize your limits. While self-confidence is a veritable boon, there is a thin line between confidence and vanity. Don't make promises you can't keep. You will be letting down not just yourself, but someone else who depends on you. Don't try to be someone you are not. If you aren't paid to do so, looking like Hollywood actors can be extremely difficult. Don't base a relationship on a lie. It will come out eventually, and it will cause much more devastation then.

Be comfortable in your own skin. You have unique strengths and weaknesses, just like every other human being in the world. If you really want to change yourself or exceed your limits in some way, bring about the change in a way that you can handle, and in a way that will stick. Fad diets, reluctance to break a dysfunctional relationship, or steroid supplements DON'T WORK. Make long-term, gradual changes that will become the norm, instead of going through a period of extreme conditions, only to slip back into the old, harmful routine afterwards.


The lubricants keep your motor running for longer, and lessen the abrasive damage. It improves your efficiency as well as your power output.

The life lesson here, incredibly, is exactly the same as above! 'nuff said!

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