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Zen and the art of mutual transformation

Posted June 10th, 2016 at 09:22 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".


So I've been reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; and of course nobody is surprised.

I haven't finished it yet. But one of the themes seems to be that tending to something is an artistic, creative work. I think I understand what Harley guys mean now when they say "motorcycles are built, not bought".

Of course you buy the machine. But over time, if you do your own maintenance, it becomes a machine that you built. You choose what oil to put in, the tightness of the chain, the calibration of the brake and clutch levers. Do you keep the factory footpegs, kickstand, muffler, suspension, or swap them out for ones you think are better? Over time, the choices you make when tending to this bike will become manifest in how it responds when you ride, and how healthy and long its life is. You raise it as you would a child.

I've heard people say that two bikes of the same model, from the same year, owned by different people, can feel like completely different machines after a few years. You ride one that "should" be identical, and it's not at all. It has grown and changed.

Too, your motorcycle's condition is a reflection of your condition. If you have energy to maintain it and the care to want to look after it, it will run well. If you're not able to maintain it or you just don't want to, it will break down. There's no fault in not having energy, of course, but I think that's what people mean when they say that your bike is a barometer of your own soul, that it matches the person who rides it.

The thing with motorcycles is that the creation is a mutual act. You can build a car, but the car does very little building in return. A motorcycle marks you. Not just with memories and experiences, but with physical scars, with muscles in certain places and pains in others. It changes the way you react to speed, what you consider to be fast and slow, a strong scent and a weak one, a pleasant scent and a foul one. I have constant bruises on my shins from Hurricane's footpegs digging into them; though I'm now learning to combine clutch and brake and throttle so that she doesn't roll into me at stop lights, I still lean against the footpegs when I'm muscling her around, trying to get her parked. Even after this little time, I am different. I can't imagine what she'll have done to me a year from now.
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