Motorcycling can be dangerous, but a little risk is always fun, no?
As I write this column, I am sitting at a little resort in the mountain village of Sarangkot, 1,000 metres above the lakeside sprawl of Pokhara in Nepal. The monsoon clouds that have thudded into the Himalayas have obscured the magnificent mountain panorama that this vantage point normally affords but down below, twinkling lights switch on in the gloaming and blanket the valley halfway up the hill. Even up here one can hear the hum of human activity from below and from the spanking new highway, the sound of bellicose truck horns hang faintly in the air.
I have done four trips to Nepal already this year, some for family reasons and some to ride my motorcycle below the 8,000-metre-high peaks of Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Tukche and their ilk. It’s now time to unwind, savour the views in the company of family and friends, and spin some helmet stories.
Riding motorcycles is both a physical and mental activity that brings great joy and fulfillment quite unlike any other adventure activity that I have pursued. If you enjoy riding motorcycles like me, sudden, random thoughts that you might not walk away from your next motorcycle ride will definitely arise at some point. These thoughts might pop up while you’re preparing for a long ride, or when you might be nowhere near a motorcycle. We all know riding is dangerous. If you ride a motorcycle and you haven’t had anxious thoughts about riding, you’re lying — either to me or to yourself. Even if you push the risks out of your mind, the road has a way of snapping them back into focus. A dog runs out in front of you, or you narrowly avoid a pothole in a blind corner, that steep boulder-strewn downhill descent — that rush, the quick brush with your own mortality. It’s intoxicating, but it can also keep you up at night.
But hey, having these thoughts is completely natural. But if you ignore them, you’re missing an opportunity to prepare yourself for the risks that lie ahead. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather live a life rich in challenges and adventure than sit on the sidelines. What matters then, is not whether we have these negative thoughts — we’re going to have them, it’s instinct — but what we do with them.
The day before a ride, it’s easier to imagine the millions of ways things could go wrong. But when I’m on my bike, there’s only one scenario facing me at a time, and I always know where I stand. A little fear of something dangerous can be a good thing. You can turn it into a productive activity, and better prepare yourself for future rides. In the end, it’s all about what works for you. What do you need to do to make sure you ride safely?
My advice is this: listen to your instincts, but don’t let them rule you.