Why I ride a motorcycle? There are many reasons. Hair in the wind? Maybe, but I wear a helmet so that’s not it. Warm sun-rays on my skin? Maybe, but I wear protective gear so that’s not it either.

I’m an unlikely motorcyclist. I hate roller-coasters, extreme sports, am very safety conscious (borderline paranoid regarding some things) and I’m not what I’d consider a thrill seeker. Part of me, though, is an explorer – a wanderer (if not always of the body then of the mind) and it’s that part of me that riding satisfies. I’m not terribly spiritual, never really was; to my friends and family I’m mostly a grounded, some might even say straight-laced, no-nonsense individual but I do tend to think in large concepts and never more so than when I’m out on two wheels.

On a motorcycle I always seem to be moving toward something; some greater, larger, newer thing. A thing that I need to move towards more than I need to move away from something else. If you really think about it, the solution to most dilemmas is arrived at, not by thinking about them but by not thinking about them. I think sometimes the world, my world, the world close to me, can become too constricting and I need an escape, someplace to park my thoughts while the answers come find me. That thing, for me, is motorcycling. Riding expands me. It draws me in and simultaneously opens me to what is possible just beyond the ever elusive horizon. A possibility that offers a different, flavorful, raw and unadulterated sense of the world and a perspective available only from inside a motorcycle helmet.

When people discover that I have a bike, they often talk to me about the danger of riding, how they know someone who died in an accident because the driver “couldn’t see them,” that once they were driving and a bike “came out of nowhere.” I personally have never known a bike to come out of nowhere, but I have seen plenty of cars pull a Crazy Ivan and turn into a lane occupied by a biker or make an impromptu unsignalled left turn in front of an oncoming me.

I can’t make you see bikes. I can’t make you hang up your phone. And yes, I know, at one point you probably saw some kid in shorts and flip-flops riding his 600cc sport bike at 100mph down the freeway. He’s a squid, and he’ll either grow up or just take care of himself. Yes, I know, some bikes have very loud exhaust. Maybe it’s obnoxious. They say loud pipes save lives. I don’t know if that’s true, because there hasn’t been a serious comprehensive study of motorcycle safety since 1981. Some bikers do crazy things. Anti-social things. Unsanctioned things. I don’t represent him and he doesn’t represent me.

I am aware that motorcycles are dangerous; it is not a insight that has remained hidden from me until you shined the light of outsider wisdom on my foolhardy choices. If you’re really so all-fire concerned about my safety, don’t preach at me. Just do me this one favor: pay attention when you’re driving. Keep your fingers off your touch-screen, put down your phone, use your turn signals, take a refresher safe-driving course every few years and lay off the booze for a couple hours before you get on the road with me. You take care of your part and I’ll take care of mine.

In my opinion, danger shouldn’t stop anyone from doing something they enjoy, it should only stop them from doing it poorly and carelessly. There are ways I can minimize the risk – by riding defensively, wearing protective gear, riding sober, well rested and emotionally centered, knowing my own and machine’s capabilities – and I also know there are risks that are simply outside of my control.

But you know what? There are a lot of risks that are within my control.

We’ve become so pathologically risk-averse, so misguided by the promise of illusory safety, that for most people it is inconceivable to assume any additional risk no matter how much joy or benefit they might get back in return. You want to know what’s truly dangerous? Not taking any risks. Hanging out with like-minded middle-of-the-roaders. Absorbing the same brain-ossifying shit from media factories every day. Going overseas once or twice in your life, to somewhere safe like Canada or England. Thinking about starting your own business, but never do it. Sitting at a desk 40 hours a week for an average of 10 hours of productive work. Remaining polite in response to beliefs born out of stupidity and blatant ignorance; it is easier than educating people or telling them off. Putting helmets, flotation devices, and auto-deploy epi-pens and GPS trackers on your kids every time they leave the house. Passivity. Not paying attention to where your car, or your life, or your world is going.

Riding has its dangers, sure. But hang-gliding, man, that shit is crazy! I think, though, that the danger serves only to sharpen my focus and brings me closer to that fine edge that separates one world from the next. I’m in no way inferring that I enjoy danger, careless thrills or have a death wish. In fact, I’m saying the exact opposite. The fact that motorcycling is dangerous and that I have so many people in my life that I have no intention of losing frivolously makes it that much more life affirming. Riding forces me to think about my life, to protect it, reflect on it. To that end I practice, then practice some more, I wear safety gear, I read, I study and I learn as much as I can so that this thing that I love so much doesn’t one day cause me to lose the things that I hold even more dear.

Motorcycling – and I don’t just mean “riding a motorcycle” because anyone can do that, is like rock climbing, hang gliding, scuba-diving, base jumping, or any other so called “extreme” sport you can name. Motorcycling, done right, demands physical and mental acuity such that, paradoxically, my mind is free to wander.

I’m living happily rather than dying otherwise. Few get that. For me – one of the appeals of motorcycling is that it’s one of the few things with modern humans where Darwinism still applies. Fewer get that one. The one’s that do would probably be decent riders. It’s a hard concept to convey to people but part of me can become so focused that another part is free to daydream, philosophize and create simultaneously. Motorcycling, unlike anything else I’ve done, is an active meditation of sorts, a state of heightened physical and mental alertness that creates a calm that, for me, occurs in few other places in life.

I’ve ridden a lot of miles. On some rides I create, on some I forgive, on some remember, others forget. Always, though, I feel, and that’s really why I ride. Hell, isn’t it the only reason to do anything at all?