Sunday, January 22, 2012

Repetition and newness

Today I made a return to those epic rides of old. I set my face to the light and filled my nostrils with the odour of sun-bleached wheat. I roamed without reason on the black line, with no map and no expectations.

I began by passing through places I've seen so often, and yet never tire of. Have you ever noticed that repetition can be a form of utter boredom, or of connection and fulfillment.

I rode north out of Bendigo and then east. The cow which had escaped from its paddock waited by the roadside for my approach. As I emergency-braked I stared into its eyes and watched it decide whether to run out and kill me. But it didn't, and I found the local farmhouse where it belonged.

At Rushworth I stopped and window-shopped.

By now it was quite hot, so I was happy to find a lake and sit for a moment.

I made 500km today and it was a joy. At times I thought of Kierkegaard, of the experience of having rejected what he called "the ethical life" - the second of three levels of living - such that I seem to live the lowest and highest simultaneously: the "aesthetic stage" (a dissipated stage) and what he calls the "religious stage" but which I would call the stage of unconditional choosing of oneself and one's life (an existential stage). Motorcycling contains this paradox: the long dissipation of time, time which could be spent cultivating my talents, or time which could be spent not putting my body and faculties at risk of damage and loss due to an accident. And yet this way of living - a day spent in motion to no particular place - and a day that is so often a repetition despite the newness of each ride, is the practice of really living life as it is. It's a matter of choosing one's life, which promises both nothing beyond itself and no great rational purpose, a life whose meaning seems to reside simply in the existence of itself (and of others and the world, which have the same nothing-else-ness as one's own life). I pity those who pity me for lacking something absolute to assure me and give me guidance - what a distraction from the real thing! And in the same way it's wonderful to make 500km with no map on hand. These longer rides draw me because they invite a state of becoming lost in the motion - lost to concerns for distance and destination - and of savouring the present moment and choosing it. Then, at the end of each ride - like the end of life - I take these meaningless wonderful concatenations and construct a narrative out of them, and they become that meaning. And more.

As I made for home through dusk and then dark, this song sat on repeat in my mind.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Today I rode 400km to Jamieson and back via the newly sealed Eildon-Jamieson Road. To tell the truth it was wearisome on that tight road with its endless 180 degree corners and gravel-strewn tar, but this was balanced by the ever present sunlight and water, and their glittering meeting.

For a long stretch the water in the river below was only seen in glimpses at best, and often was only hinted at.

The notions of glimpses and hints are very important to my riding. I will say more about this soon, just as I have done in the past. I want to talk about the unconsciousness of place. It is and it is not the unconsciousness of a mind analogous to a human's: landscape, place, these do not have a mind or Mind (at least so I believe), but being in the places that I ride draws from the rider a sense of things "out there", enfolded in the mysteries of time and place, which is a synthesis of that rider's own imagination, knowledge and unconscious with the place itself and the poetic fact that a place's past is enfolded within it.

Yesterday I browsed at the latest offering from the wonderful International Journal of Motorcycle Studies, and I enjoyed this piece.

This song echoed in my head as I rode into the late day.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

SR500 Chopper

I just got back from a short ride on the SR500 to test out these bad boys:

I now have two bikes, the W650 and the SR500, and they're rather similar. Which inclines me to think I should do something different with the SR. There are several directions which attract me:

I don't like extravagant choppers, nor do I like that psychologically see-through bad boy image, but I really like the simple soft choppers of the 1960s and '70s, the light-weight skinny ones made from British bikes, which expressed the counter-cultural ethos of the times. Riding the SR today with those ape hangers was a lot of fun. The bike still handled surprisingly well - albeit with a slower and wider turning circle - and it was quite comfortable. Most of all it felt very groovy, which is the main thing.

A different direction I could take the SR is to go for flatter bars and a more racey style:

Or perhaps this simple, comfortable, dirt-capable cruiser:

I have been thinking, now that I have the W650, to sell the SR500 to buy an Indian Royal Enfield Bullet, or perhaps one of the humble British single 250 or 350s. This is a highly attractive move for me, as although I've had some great years on the SR I have always lusted after one of these other bikes as well. And so perhaps it's time to try out the next adventure. But then again, the SR is so reliable and cheap that it makes a wonderful back up bike. I am sure the alternatives would not be as easy to live with. This is why I am experimenting with alternative styles for the SR - if I settle on a style which I like enough that I am not tempted to sell the SR, that will be a good thing for my wallet and my sanity. I will take my time experimenting and deciding on this. Ultimately if the temptation to get one of those other bikes outweighs my love of the SR over the next 3-6 months, then I will make the move to something else.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Marysville with Jeff

A friend Jeff came riding with me today through Kinglake, Healesville and as far as Marysville. It was a beautiful day and the green fields between Narbethong, with sunshine glittering on their ponds and damns and translucent through their grasses, reminded me of that carefree joy that riding can give.

We rode for 230 kilometers. The pain in my shoulder had decreased to an ache this last week, but today it was nothing more than a tender and discomforting tightness (with the help of Panadeine). Which is good, because there are three weekend trips I want to take in the next month or two.

My camera went flat so I took a simple picture with my old phone, of my bike in Marysville alongside Jeff's mighty Honda CBF250.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


In motion on a Summer's day: this afternoon I weaved down single lane roads while grass glowed in the sunshine.

It was the first day of the new year. I sat for a time by a river which, like my ride, rolled slowly and lazily in the heat.

I sat in dry places also.

And in time the evening came to cool the road and frame boulders in shadow.

But I was thirsty for sunshine, and even the dying day was generous.

This song and others echoed in my mind as I gently banked my motorcycle, languorously, through empty corners where sunlight gave life to passing clouds of dust.