One day shortly after I had gotten my license to ride on the street, I hopped on my brother’s Honda CB400F, rode to the end of the driveway and turned right. At the first intersection, I turned left. Then right, left, and so on. My only goal for the ride was to keep to that pattern and see where it led me. This was in the days well before cell phones and GPS, but I wasn’t too worried about getting lost. My hometown in the corner of southwestern Ontario, Canada, is pretty much surrounded by the Great Lakes; I wouldn’t get too far before hitting water, and then it would be a simple matter of following the coastline to somewhere familiar.
Sure enough, after a couple of hours I ended up at a tiny village on the lakeshore. A couple of my turns along the way had been dead-ends, and at one point I wound up circling the same roads in a subdivision, but for the most part I had stuck to my right/left/right pattern. I had no idea where I was, but — just as I figured — a short ride along the lake put me at a fairly major town with familiar road signs. By the time I figured out where I was and bolted home on a more direct route, I was late for dinner and I think my brother was pretty worried about his bike. There was nothing spectacular about the ride; the roads in the area are mostly straight and flat, I had kept a mellow pace, and didn’t encounter any excitement along the way. Still, even after many years of riding on great roads all around the world, it remains one of my most memorable rides.
I was always a bit adventurous in exploring new roads on a motorcycle. I am definitely not comparing myself to some of the real adventure riders that are more deserving of the moniker, but my curiosity always seems to get the better of me. When my commute was over the Hollywood Hills to our office on Wilshire Boulevard, I had probably a dozen regular routes to choose from and was constantly finding new ones. Even now when I’m out in the car, I can’t go by a strange road more than a few times before having to turn down it and see where it leads.
Even when riding overseas at a press intro, I often strayed from the scheduled route and went exploring on my own. When you’re that far from home, literally every intersection is a new road just begging to be ridden. Luckily, I have a fairly good sense of direction and could usually find my way home without too much trouble, if a bit later than planned. Over the years I have found some fantastic roads and great places that I otherwise would have never found, just by wandering off the beaten path and doing something different. And, to be honest, I have met some nice people when stopping to ask for help — my sense of direction is not that good.
My point in all this is that we, as sportbike riders, can easily lose track of why we ride. For some riders it becomes all about style and looking the part. For others, it’s the camaraderie of hanging out with fellow sportbikers. Maybe it’s about having the latest bike with all the right go-fast accessories, or working hard at riding techniques, or following the races — or even being a racer. There are so many distractions in our niche sport that it’s easy for the actual riding to become a small part of the total experience, and then it becomes more work than fun. The bike gets shuffled off to a corner of the garage and left to collect dust for months at a time, maybe even permanently.
I have seen this often, and it happened to me many times when I was racing seriously or when we were busy testing new bikes and seemingly doing nothing but riding. Usually, however, a ride with a different perspective would quickly break me out of that funk — an afternoon on the dirt bike, a morning breakfast ride or even just a detour on the way home from the office. Sometimes, all it takes to rekindle the enjoyment of riding is just that — hopping on your bike and going for a ride. No pressure to look good, to work on your riding skills or to impress your buddies; just you and your motorcycle. Begin your Sunday ride by simply going in the opposite direction than you usually go. Or turn down that road you’ve always gone past on your way to the office and never checked out. I’d say don’t forget to take a map or your GPS, but…where’s the fun in that?