Early childhood notwithstanding, the majority of euphoria experienced in my life has arrived courtesy motorcycles. When you’re a kid the days are usually filled with nothing but happiness—unmitigated joy found in almost every activity. However, as we age, there is a dulling of the senses and those simple daily joys seem to ebb, reduced to just periodic flirtations. For me, when these flirtations do come, they often come while riding, as a sensation of elation bolstered by absolute lucidity. I refer to these all too infrequent brushes with clarity as crystalline moments.
The Oxford Dictionary defines “crystalline” as very clear and “moment” as a very brief period of time. It’s hard to fully articulate the sensation but these crystalline moments are a coalescing of elements and emotions that manifest as a very brief euphoria. It’s a sense of well-being that arrives, and then evaporates so quickly, all I can do is try to savor it as a private, fleeting instant of happiness.
My most profound crystalline moment came about while traipsing through Spain as part of an Edelweiss Motorcycle Tour in 2006. My lady and I were aboard a BMW 1200 GS, happily weaving together the endless, sweeping turns of pristine pavement that snakes over the Pyrenees Mountains. We’d spent the previous two weeks on a sustained adrenaline rush skirting the border between Spain and France; Barcelona to Bilbao and back again. Fourteen days of phenomenal riding, great food, fun people, and stunning scenery.
It was the last day of the tour and as we descended into Barcelona on the winding two-lane mountain road I was suddenly overcome by a feeling of absolute contentment. I thought to myself, how could this moment be any better? I was on the perfect bike, I was with the woman I wanted to be with, and we were in a beautiful part of the world. I felt this couldn’t get any better even if I were the richest man on Earth. A million dollars couldn’t have made that moment any more perfect. Aside from the emotional security that might come from having that kind of money in the bank, it couldn’t physically buy anything better than what I was experiencing at that instant. I was happy.
In this age of excess, where we are constantly confronted with vulgar displays of avarice—surrounded by an increasing obsession with money that has redefined the pursuit of happiness—this revelation, this fleeting moment of absolute contentment was like finding religion. Granted, I was very fortunate to find myself in Spain, to be in that circumstance, but the point of the story is that I found pure happiness and a sense of contentment—however fleeting—and in no small way a motorcycle was responsible for it.
Another crystalline moment (which also happened on a motorcycle in Spain) took place in 2008 at the press launch for the HP2 Sport. Journalists were invited to the very exclusive Ascari Race Resort outside of Ronda to experience BMW’s new sportbike on Ascari’s undulating 3.3-mile, 26-corner circuit that weaves through an oak tree-laden landscape.
To begin with the Ascari track is absolutely fantastic. The fact that it is in the south of Spain simply adds an exotic element. Although I certainly didn’t set any lap records and was passed by several test riders and a few fellow journalists, that day unfolded for me with a kind of sublime magic. I didn’t put a wheel wrong in any of the sessions and rode with a confidence that had me hitting all my brake markers and turn-in points with uncanny accuracy. The entire day flowed as one seamless, sustained adrenaline rush.
Track days represent one of the purest forms of total concentrative commitment one can have aboard a motorcycle. With the concerns of cars, errant animals, loose gravel and radar guns completely absent, a rider can focus every ounce of thought on one goal; perfect execution of a lap. Due to the speeds involved, the conscious and subconscious are completely focused on the immediate; rolling off the throttle, going to the brakes, leaning in, hitting the apex, touching down a knee, getting back into the throttle. These sustained sessions of total concentration have the ability to wash all worries, all unnecessary concerns in life from one’s head and allow for total immersion in the moment.
In the second session after lunch I reached a kind of track-day Nirvana. I found myself circulating the course at a decent speed, with the lines unfolding before me without having to think. I was suspended in an ethereal zone of second-nature actions where the world around me appeared to slow down, with me moving through it not at speed and danger, but with a superlative calm.
I was stringing laps together in an asphalt ballet of syncopated movement; throttle, clutch, body shift, brake, lean angle. Mid-session I found myself overcome with a feeling of complete joy, a euphoric crystalline moment. Suddenly the Boxer twin wasn’t a screaming mass of vibration just off the rev-limiter, but musical accompaniment to the dance. The slower riders encountered on track weren’t interferences or obstacles, but merely easily dispatched apostrophes punctuating the silk thread poetry of my lines.
This time I embraced the crystalline moment knowing its ephemeral nature would rob me of its bliss as quickly as it had arrived. Surprisingly, the euphoria lingered for several laps. I was suspended between a mix of high speed-induced adrenaline and absolutely fearless joy. The HP2 Sport and I were joined in a shared purpose of highly contrasting energy. The BMW; a brilliant mechanical serenade of moving parts. Me; flesh and blood, with an elevated heart rate, operating with equally exacting precision.
The photos taken of me that day in Spain reflect the calm and confidence I was riding with and are my all-time favorite shots of me riding. My form was spot-on, from body positioning to eye line, to relaxed grip on the bars.
Although the euphoric sensation I was experiencing was most assuredly attributable to the wonderful reward of adrenaline—the high attained at speed—there was, along with it, an overwhelming sensation of contentment, of well-being. During that brief period on the Ascari circuit I forgot about everything else in the world. And when the day was over the various concerns I was navigating in life seemed to pale, becoming simply challenges to be overcome, problems to be solved.
In this modern era of increasing technocracy, our minds are being bombarded with torrents of incoming information thanks to constant connectivity in the form of computers, cell phones, and waves of text-messages clouding our perceptions and cluttering our thoughts. Scientists and researchers are discovering that people are becoming increasingly disjointed and unfocused, incapable of concentrating on one thing, thus suffering the consequences of doing a multitude of tasks in half measures.
A motorcycle is the perfect tool to combat this sorry scenario, providing escape from the chaos of the banal and insignificant and remind one’s self of the clarity that is achievable in life. A track day is a profound arena to extract this potential for clarity and euphoria, where your entire conscious and subconscious mind is occupied with one concern; to tie the corners and straights together in immaculate circulation of the track. If you’re fortunate you’ll be rewarded with a feeling—however fleeting—of absolute contentment in the form of a crystalline moment.