I’ve been quietly putting miles on my sportbike since I bought it last year. Last week I rode to work on the first nice Spring day and took a long lunch so I could ride through the backroads of Montgomery County, MD. The ride started pretty normal, patiently waiting behind slow cars and breathing in spring air combined with car exhaust. I usually take it easy but after about 15 miles my bike was begging me to go faster on the twisties. So I did.
There is a 6 mile long road here called Riffle Ford Road. It’s a great motorcycle road, with clean pavement, wide, visible lanes, and a combination of tight and sweeper curves. I made my northward pass on it like I usually do but decided to try coming back on it after cutting my ride short. It was the first time I went the other direction on this road, and it didn’t cross my mind that turns which are increasing radius in one direction are decreasing radius in the other.
The speed limit is 40 mph and I was pulling a little over 60 mph, pleased that there are no cars in front to slow me down. It’s a buzz-kill when you’re amped, ready to go, but stuck behind a mom driving an SUV with a Disney movie playing in the back for the kids.
Up ahead I see a nice right curve and prepare to lean. I get to it and as I’m halfway through the turn, leaning, I realize that the curve is going to get a lot tighter. I focus on the two minivans right in front of me going in the opposite direction, and also the guardrail behind them. I panic. I’m already pushing it with my speed and braking is not an option when your bike is leaned in a turn; your bike simple stands up and you miss the turn, smashing into whatever is on the other side.
Re-enactment with actual rider, bike, and turn.
As I target fixate on the minivan, I thought that it would be very hard for me to survive if I missed this turn. Then the training kicked in. I turned me head all the way to the right and leaned my bike farther than I ever have to make the turn. I complete the turn and straighten the bike up, letting out a huge exhale that fogged up my visor. My legs started trembling and I could start feeling my heart beat. But I also felt a rush – a high – that I haven’t felt in a long time.
When I was younger I didn’t quite get why guys rode motorcycles. It’s impractical to ride daily and increases your chance of an early death. But all that is forgotten when you’re on the bike going at high speed with the wind trying to knock you down. You feel alive. Whenever someone tells me they are going to buy a 600cc super-sport as a first bike and take it easy, I just laugh. It’s impossible to take it easy. After a couple thousand miles it’s made me wonder a little… why do you only feel alive when you’re doing something that puts you closer to death.