Every time you ride, you go through a ritual first. Even simple rides. Routine rides.
This ritual’s components are the same for most bikers, even if the sequence varies. A good biker takes the time to notice their motor, their gear, and their state of mind before revving up. It becomes automatic, but it still takes time. And I don’t think any of us mind the time it takes.
For those who really love it, the whole experience of riding is something to luxuriate in.
I’m one of those who really love it.
I ride to work every single day, unless the weather is downright dangerous. My ritual is the same every day. Protective gear first. Trousers: waterproof, windproof, thermal, with knee pads, and made of a material that will mitigate the heat and damage of the sliding across pavement (which would happen in an accident). Boots: just below the knee, metal or composite reinforced at the toes, heels, ankles, and shins. Jacket: padded elbows, shoulders, spine, and made of the same material as the trousers, but thicker. Gloves: knuckles reinforced with hard plastic, palms padded, two way fasteners to make sure they stay on.
I grab my helmet and walk out to my bike. Unlock it. Check the tire pressure. Walk around the bike and look for anything amiss. Turn it on, put it in neutral, thumb the ignition and start it up.
I’m not on it, just letting it warm up. I don’t put my nose to the exhaust but I am cognizant of what I’m smelling. Having gown up around bikes, the smell of metal and motors is one of my favorites and the nuances are not lost on me.
I hop on my bike and listen to how the motor sounds as I put my helmet on.
And as I snap my chin strap it hits me.
And this is always when it hits me.
I can feel the adrenaline flow. The thrill of the ride starts now.
I want to say it is my anticipation of dropping into first and taking off. But I think it is far more biological than that.
Motorcycle gear is TIGHT. It is designed to be intentionally restrictive. This is what ensures that it stays in place if you take a tumble. Your spine protector doesn’t do much good if it has twisted round to your side when you find yourself hurled or skidding.
By the time I have donned all my apparel and finally my helmet, I am under the weight of some considerable compression. Compression that could certainly affect my blood pressure. Which could, in turn, be triggering my sympathetic nervous system, the body system responsible for adrenaline and for the “fight or flight” response. The SNS helps regulate heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and pupil size. As such, compression garments have long been studied for their benefits in triggering the SNS for various uses, from reducing shock to speeding recovery after intense athletic training… There is even evidence indicating that certain styles of women’s girdles enhance health due to the compression activating the wearer’s sympathetic nervous system.
I don’t suppose I will ever definitively know whether this physical shift in me is just the adrenaline rush of an impending ride or actually the protective gear’s impact on my physiology, or the ratio of their combined effect. Other bikers and friends whose required sport gear is also compressing (like scuba wetsuits) report the same physical sensation when they suit up, but like me, they will never know if it is the thrill of the sport or the squeeze of the clothing.
A good biker monitors her state of mind, though. I know each time my helmet goes on, my adrenaline goes up. And once that happens, my ritual is complete.
Time to ride.