How to ride a motorcycle with no hands

Today's UPI column

So There I was...

… Going about 85 on two wheels. I was a bit supra-legal, but it was on an empty, straight, flat piece of road on a clear, dry day in the middle of a county that has a population of about one person for every ten square miles – speed appropriate for the conditions.

My bike was big and new and it was not using half of the RPM’s it had available. My back was not used to the forward lean of the sportbike seating configuration, so I would occasionally take one hand off the controls and twist my arm behind me to stretch out the kinks.

Taking your left hand off the controls of the bike has no effect. That hand is holding the clutch, and unless you are in the process of shifting, you can let go. The right hand is on the throttle, so unless your bike is equipped with some sort of cruise control, when you let go with the right hand, you start to slow down. But for the length of a stretch that is fine. Your right foot has a brake and your left foot has the gearshift. Control is diversified – often a good idea.

It was during a round of this back stretching, including twisting in the seat and shifting my weight all around that I came to realize a thing about my bike. It is incredibly stable. It just hums along, rock solid, until you give it a clear and undeniable instruction.

That is when the idea occurred to me. What happens if you take both hands off the bike at the same time? In grade school I used to ride my Schwinn ‘no hands’ all the time. Would it be the same?

Impulse control has never been my deepest suit.

I covered both handles and then just loosened my grip incrementally until my hands were hovering but not touching the handlebars – no change except for the slow deceleration – nothing, nada. I have it more gas and then let go again, this time putting my hands in my lap – like a train on rails. Gas again, and release, and then I pushed a bit with one knee and then the other. I could steer a bit this way, but mostly it just tore on like a bullet. Until I let the deceleration progress too far – instability started to creep back in at about 60. I gave it all four appendages again, exhilarated and thoughtful.

Stability increases with speed. This is true for motorcycles. You are much more likely to drop your bike rolling it around a parking lot than you are at Highway speeds. This is simple physics. It is called inertia. On a bike, go fast and inertia is your friend, go slow and inertia will gladly scratch up your paint. Of course, going too fast, inertia can cause personal aviation, especially if for any reason you forsake traction.

I am grateful for my riding experiences. I never fail to find spiritual application from the mindfulness that a bike requires of you. I have decided that I believe in the principle of Spiritual Inertia.

I have written about the need to sometimes slow down, way down, emotionally and spiritually in Retreat. You have to fight the inertia of busyness to do it. But you reap rewards from it.

Yet, sometimes, positive inertia can also be your friend.

When I am feeling emotionally and spiritually unstable, if rest doesn’t fix it, then I probably need to give the engine some gas and get moving. Fight the inertia that would keep me stuck. I need to do the things in front of me; invest, engage, proceed. Sometimes I just need to trust the forward motion of my life to carry me across the occasional pothole to better road on the other side.

Probably might as well hang on, though.

One of the greatest truths I have come across so far was in the curriculum of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

You will go where you are looking.

I've tried it out. They are right.
I learned that truth the hard way as told in the story of the Spiritual Discipline of Failure
Peggy, you're crazy! In a wonderful way.
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