Archives for category: moto

I woke up yesterday morning to the news of a deadly rockfall on El Cap during the height of Yosemite’s climbing season, right as I’m planning my own outdoor trips for the fall. Someone had commented to the tune of “The idea that I could do everything right and still die doing it is terrifying.”

But that’s what life is about, isn’t it? There are no guarantees. If being in biology research has taught me anything, it’s this as a fact of life. Some people with amazing genes will smoke like chimneys and live well into their 90s and some people with an unlucky mix of genes will live the most non-smokingest, healthiest-eatingest lives and develop lung cancer in their 30s. Say it with me: There are no guarantees.

According to a park geologist, 15 people have died in rock falls in Yosemite in the past 150 years. These numbers cover the entirety of the park, not only climbers, so considering the amount of foot traffic in Yosemite (millions annually), I consider this an acceptable risk.

According to motorcycling statistics, riders are at a much higher fatality risk per mile travelled compared to drivers, but there are several definitive things we can do to significantly mitigate that risk. I’ve taken the precautions that I can and for now, I also consider this an acceptable risk.

At the end of the day, we choose for ourselves what is acceptable and what is not. Living freely is about recognizing and accepting both the risks and the rewards. My practice enables me to find where these two are in balance without excessive hand-wringing so that from that point, I can commit to my decisions. The more I practice, the more intuitive this becomes, and I know for a fact that this skill has saved my ass at least a couple of times. As long as I’ve done my best to clean my side of the street, address how much failure I’m willing to live (or die) with, the rest has always taken care of itself.

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There I was, sitting in my car in my garage, held hostage by the third dead car battery in a year, getting scolded by the local AAA-contracted towing people (just a rueful shake of the head, honestly): “Cars are designed to be driven, miss.”

Yes, yes, my reliable little hatchback might need to be driven regularly, but my motorcycle is meant to be ridden as often as possible. If you knew how much more fun it is to sweep around an on-ramp on two wheels, if you knew the thrill of being on two wheels that you can feel in your guts, you wouldn’t blame me for naming my car “Pickles” and neglecting her for weeks at a time. Pickles is designed to haul a week’s worth of groceries and 50lbs bags of dog food and 70lbs of dog, to patiently wait for those all-too-rare too-icky-to-ride days.

Because I just want to ride my motorsickle.

(I’ll try to be better.)

m: I don’t want to climb today because I’m achy and sore from riding for four hours yesterday.
[Two hours later, meeting her for lunch]
N: You’re on your bike?? I thought you were sore!
m: Well… It’s still worth it.

I woke up this morning feeling like I was coming out of rigor mortis, especially in my hips, but when I had to choose between the car and the bike… There was no contest. Even when I’m following the law to a t, nothing compares to the freedom of being on the bike. I twist the throttle, grin in my helmet, pat my girl on the tank, and it’s like yesterday never happened.

I just can’t help it. I can’t break this habit yet.

I’m so fucking pissed off at myself, so I’m leaving this note here because sometimes, “all’s well that ends well” isn’t enough and because I’m still processing what happened. Today, I almost wrecked on my bike (and it would’ve been a bad wreck) because I wasn’t paying enough attention and I was on auto-pilot and I made a stupid assumption that I shouldn’t have. I avoided a bad collision by about two inches by the grace of timing and my immediate responsiveness, but the whole thing was entirely preventable and nobody’s fault except my own.

This is un-fucking-acceptable.

I can deal with other people being sloppy on the road; yeah, it sucks that some people are too self-absorbed to care about whether other people live or die, but I know it’s not personal. The only thing I can control out there is what I do, so I’m never allowed to lazy or complacent, not with the kind of devastating consequences being careless can lead to on a motorcycle. My approach to riding is “ride today so that I can ride tomorrow,” but apparently, I forgot that shit today.

Goddamnit, I’m so angry and so sorry all at once. I need to go practice.

I don’t want my partner to share everything that I do. Even the hobbies I do share, I still need time to work on alone. Things like bouldering or learning to play the uke or guitar — I need to be alone to figure out my body positioning without getting shitty beta [and let’s face it, I stand well below average at 5’1″, so most of the beta out there is shitty (to me)] and to swear at my hand as it still refuses to make a barre chord. (Look, I know I’ve only been playing for three weeks, but conscious incompetence is painful and it feels endless.) There are things that can only be done with persistence and nobody needs to watch me bang my head on the wall as I work through the minutiae.

But riding (dirt, in particular)… Riding is like sport-climbing to me. It’s something I want (and perhaps, need) to do with someone. I want someone there to laugh at me when I get thrown off my bike and to ask if I’m okay before helping me pick Herbie up. I want someone to share in the fixing of flats, to share in the well-earned view at the top. I want someone to have my back out there and I want that someone to give me snuggles after I’ve unintentionally done leg day because I’ll be dropping Big Herbie a lot and this Herbs is kick-start only. (Godspeed, legs.)

It’s no big deal in the grand scheme of things — it’s a blessing enough to have a partner who wholly trusts my capability and decision to ride at all — but damn, sometimes, I really miss having a partner who rides.

I bought the OGIO All Elements backpack in May 2016. It’s a simple bag — a waterproof and spacious single compartment with a laptop sheath and a few zippered pockets — and it works great. Until it doesn’t.

In November, the waterproof seal started coming undone, so I had them send me a new bag under the one-year warranty. The customer service was speedy and I had my new bag the next day. Then, in April, the seal on the new bag started coming undone, so I got on the phone again. Even though I love the All Elements bag for its roll-top (=expandable capacity for lots of groceries), I was pretty fed up with needing a new bag every six months. I used it as a commuter bag, so it was carrying my lunch and maybe a binder and an extra pair of yoga pants five days a week with an occasional grocery-store trip. Yes, I used it frequently, but not enough to warrant external damage from the inside.

I asked if they would be willing to send a different bag since the seal was clearly not a one-time issue. They are and they approved a different bag even though it’s at a higher price point. Stay tuned for my adventures with the Mach5!

Summary: It’s great bag until it’s not. Order at your own risk. On the bright side, to make up for a crappily-constructed bag, they have amazing customer service.

Edit 5/16: The Mach5 is too big for me. It’s probably too big for anyone under 5’5″-ish or has a short torso. OGIO continues to have the best customer service, so I wouldn’t hesitate to buy from them again should the right item appear. The perfect backpack hunt continues!

Motorcycling is like any other thing that is perceived to be cool: There are times when it is desperately uncool.

I wear gear year round because I’m terrified of road rash, so there’s a lot of sweating happening under the cool leather facade once the summer temperatures kick in. My gear is a size too big and quite functional (read: padded) so I waddle a bit in my full suit. Trust me when I say that these are not the skin-tight sexy pants you see on models — I am not going to turn anyone on bending over in these leather pants and bulky motorcycle boots. 

Today, a guy stopped me in the parking lot and asked for a hand in push-starting his bike. As a helper, that means sprinting while literally pushing the guy’s bike from behind, trying to get him up to speed, 10-15mph, so that he can kick it into first gear. We got it after the third attempt (turns out, not only is his starter on the fritz, so is his battery), but after three awkward 50 meter dashes in my gear over my normal clothes, my sweat glands were fully engaged and I could feel it: crotch sweat.

Alas, crotch sweat is a part of motorcycling life, as is freezing your ass off some days and having an aching back and neck after a long freeway ride. It’s one of the minor annoyances that weeds out the casual riders because ugh, motorcycling is such a hassle. It’s what makes that breeze on your face feel borderline euphoric once you get up to speed because it’s your quiet little secret: There was crotch sweat, and it is worth this.