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The still small voice

Posted June 7th, 2016 at 09:06 PM by lizardywizard

Since this site doesn't let you post blog entries for 30 days after joining, I've got a bunch backed up. So for "today", in this, read "several weeks ago".

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A lot of people have this image of motorcycling that involves screaming down the highway with “Born To Be Wild” playing as loudly as possible in the background. I did as well, actually.

You can play music from a motorcycle, if you want to. You can get a speaker system installed (though a huge hog-style system would look a bit funny on a sleek Ninja), or you can get Bluetooth-compatible helmets. Or you can go the budget route, like I did, and stick in earbuds.

I’ve seen people do this, though it works a lot better with a barely-covers-anything pot helmet, which I refuse to wear. In a full-face, it’s a struggle to keep them in while you pull it on over your head; a well fitting helmet is tight. (For this same reason, I’m probably going to end up letting my stretched ears close. You can’t wear plugs in a helmet, and I’m wearing one so much of the time. Honestly, though I like the look of metal plugs, I’m a bit relieved - they’re hell to keep clean.)

I quickly learnt that it was also, in general, an inferior riding experience. You have this idea, probably from driving, that blasting adrenaline-rush music while riding will make the ride better, but unlike in a car, it actually cuts you off from a lot of the experience.

So much of the ride, I’ve realised, is listening to Hurricane. Her engine sounds tell me what she’s doing, what she needs from me input-wise. Have you ever tried to play a video game with the sound off, and struggled because you’re not getting feedback from the sound effects? Even if you’re technically receiving all the information you need visually (and haptically, in this case), you feel disconnected. That’s how it felt. There was this wall of sound between me and her, like trying to talk to your date in a crowded bar where you can barely hear yourselves think, only she can’t raise her voice.

Hurricane’s surprisingly quiet: at above 45mph or so, the wind and road noise mostly drowns out her engine. With music, I couldn’t hear her at low speeds, which is when you need the feedback most. The ride at 45, 55, probably 65 though we haven’t been there yet (most we’ve gone to is 60, and I try to keep her below that if possible because of engine break-in) is mostly the same. It’s the slow parts, the starts and stops and gear changes and corners, where I need to hear her voice, because that’s where anything can go wrong and often does. That’s where I stall her, miss second gear and find neutral instead (gears on a Ninja go 1-N-2-3-4-5-6; I presume 1st is on bottom because you often need to stomp down to it quickly at a stop, but if you fudge the transition from 1st to 2nd while accelerating and hit neutral she gives an annoyed “vrrRRRR!”, like I trod on her tail).

So in conclusion, I’ll be listening to my ride songs at home now, and singing them in my head when I’m out there with her. Nothing went wrong, but I prefer the raw sound of her voice, anyway.
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