This is a short story about doing something that you have always wanted to, but have been afraid to. Something I did not so long ago, and in doing so overcoming a deeply rooted fear that had been with me since childhood. A choice that has since enriched my life greatly and taught me some important lessons, including perhaps the most important one - to follow your own line through life’s twists and turns.
To start this story in the right place you need to know that I was named after my mother’s uncle. I never knew him as he died in a motorcycle accident before I was born. I grew up with the knowledge that motorbike riding can be extremely dangerous, even deadly. Nonetheless I was always drawn to motorbikes, making friends with kids who rode trail bikes, even sneaking a broken down bike into the cellar of the house I grew up in, intending to fix it and ride it. My mom found out though and I had to return it, promising that I wouldn't ride a motorbike.
So I didn’t. Until recently.
A few years ago at the age of 45 I decided that I needed to ride. I felt that my judgment was sufficiently matured and life was too short to live with this self-limiting fear. With the generous support of my wife I undertook numerous lessons, bought quality safety gear, researched safe riding techniques and eventually got my license.
I now ride at least once a week, often with a small group of friends down in the rural parts of the Mornington Peninsula where I live. Riding along the curving roads past wineries and spectacular coastal views is a real joy that is difficult to describe. Sometimes I lead the group, sometimes I’m at the back. It was there, at the back of the pack that I learned a very important lesson - to follow my own line.
If you haven’t ridden a motorcycle before its helpful to understand that you need to look ahead of you along the road, and then pick the right line through the curves at the right speed. If you don't do this ahead of time you can easily come in too fast and over shoot, putting yourself in the path of oncoming traffic or even off the side of the road and into a tree at high speed.
Choosing the right line maximizes your enjoyment and your safety. I discovered last weekend though that when you are riding with others it can be difficult to choose the right line – for yourself
Early in the morning I found myself at the back of the pack riding up a steep and twisty mountain road. A road that snakes up the side of the mountain with many tight bends and hairpin corners that is a joy to ride when you are tuned into it just right.
Instead of riding smoothly and safely though I felt clumsy and not quite in control. I kept looking ahead, not at the road but at the riders in front of me. My eye was being drawn to where they were on the road and the line they were taking rather than my own. This meant that I wasn't 100% focused on my speed, position on the road, or my desired line, and as any experienced rider will tell you, not paying 100% attention is a recipe for disaster.
Fortunately I noticed that my riding was suffering and I was entering and exiting corners and curves poorly, feeling clumsy and slightly out of control.
Rather than continuing to ride dangerously, about halfway up the mountain I pulled off to the side of the road and asked myself what was going on.
Thinking back on the first half of the ride I realized I was paying more attention to my riding buddies and what they were doing than what I was doing. That I was following their line, not mine.
With that thought clearly in mind, I started my bike up again and headed up the hill, choosing my line consciously and deliberately. I can tell you that I enjoyed that second half of the ride up the mountain far more. I rode better, took corners smoothly, and definitely rode more safely. I got to the top, pulled up in front if the mountain top café where I was meeting my mates and breathed deeply.
At that moment I understood that motorbike riding had delivered another important life lesson to me - to follow my own line through the twists and turns of life.
Too many times we are distracted by what others have or what they are doing, sometimes leaving us feeling disoriented and not clear about where we are. This can lead to envy or even anxiety that we are not where we should be. It’s important to realize that even though we may journey through life with others, it’s our own path that we need to envision and follow.
Don't focus on where others are or what they have. You are exactly where you need to be. Your path, your line is unique and is yours alone. Look ahead, but be in the moment. Do so, and you will find the ride exhilarating and smooth.
Although it is nice to have a few good café lattes with friends along the way!