If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Quote of the Week

Via Canajun, I found this quotation which I thought worth sharing, as it explains something that is hard to put into words. It's from Patrick Symmes' work Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Guevara Legend.
There are moments on a motorcycle when all the glory of motion is distilled into one purposeful package. Chasing curves over a swelling landscape, a motorcycle enters the pure expression of physics and is bound to the road in a way no car will ever know. The rider and machine are literally balanced on the infinitely thin line where centripetal force meets gravity. Despite this state of suspended disaster, the sensation of risk is largely a sensation; the motorcycle is in harmony with the road, and risk comes overwhelmingly from other drivers. Any moment of travel on a motorcycle is a light and essential moment, an agile rebuke to a life conducted in one place. The raw force of the engine is not hidden beneath a hood, but alternately purrs and growls a few inches from the knees, demanding the consciousness of power. Sealed behind glass, insulated by climate control systems and music, the driver of a car knows nothing about the directions of the wind, the lay of sunlight, the small changes in temperature between a peak and a valley, the textured noise of differing asphalts, or the sweet and sour aromas of manured fields or passing pine forests. Engaged in all the senses and elements, balanced in the present tense, a rider on two wheels can taste moments of oneness with the road.
I'm not a fan of Che Guevara, who had a very murky history and does not deserve the adulation given him by the ignorant and naive. And I haven't read the book, so I don't know what Symmes' take on his 'hero' is. But that passage says something that resonates with me.


  1. A beautiful quote. A friend, who has owned a series of sports cars often asks, when we are out in one with the roof down, whether this "is anything like riding a bike". I dont like to depress him too much so I leave it as "not quite".

    I like cars for their practicality but they are so "obvious", you know what a Focus or a Ferrari is like when you see them from a distance. Bikes have more mystery, it takes a long day in the saddle to really appreciate them.

    The above is probably a load of tosh, but blame the Laphroaig, I do!

    Ride Safe.

  2. I sometimes think that, if I ever had to give up bikes, I would have an open-top sports car. It's probably the nearest thing, but a pale imitation.

    Laphroaig is too peaty for me, but I can recommend Aberlour. :)

  3. A nice quote. Funnily enough, I was having a very similar conversation in the office only yesterday about why bikes and corners are such a sublime experience.

    It does, however, have a cautionary note - the discussion came about because of a little too much tasting oneness with the road. Tricky intermediate conditions on the tarmac, and as I got to the nearest roundabout to my house I noticed an ER-5 pilot picking himself up off the floor while a lot of cars drove round him, sometimes only by inches. He was only shaken up, fortunately, reckoned he was going a bit too fast. There was obviously a bit more to it than that, as he'd run straight ahead, head-on into the central kerb of the roundabout, whereupon all the ally spokes of his front wheel had shattered, leaving just a free-floating rim and tyre. I couldn't tell whether he'd bottled leaning into it at all or grabbed a big handful of brake and stood the bike up: could have been either, or both. Reckon he'd probably have made it if he'd had faith in the grip. It wasn't the time or place to discuss in detail, anyway, so we picked the bike up and lugged it to a nearby pavement (not at all easy without a front wheel) and propped it up as best we could (obviously, the stand doesn't work without both wheels, either). I gave him a lift home - he outweighed me by a lot and the VFR was a twitching monster in the damp with no weight on the front - and hoped he'd get the insurance/recovery/repair sorted quickly.

    It's been mild so far, very little sign of either autumn or winter, so it's later than usual for the roads to start getting treacherous. Easy to get lulled into a false sense of security. But it is time to be dusting off those winter disciplines, for anyone else still out there on two wheels - be careful and enjoy it for what it is: gravity meeting centripetal force with a lowered coefficient of friction...

  4. Endo, well done for your Good Samaritan act.

    It's strange round here. It's winter riding all right, with dark and wet and mist and slippery surfaces. But it isn't cold! I suppose I had better enjoy that while it lasts.


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