This morning was not unlike most others. I rode to work via my usual route. The first half hour is the best part, because the roads are heavily wooded, hilly, and twisty. The second half hour isn’t too bad either, as it’s still wooded, but the closer I get to the city of Stamford, the more densely packed the traffic becomes. So I get my kicks out early.
I wasn’t far into one of my favorite roads when, suddenly, a chipmunk darted out, making a road cross attempt right in front of me. Well, this has happened enough times that, although it still gives my heart a little jump, I know that I have to focus my attention ahead instead of watching the little sucker to see if he makes it. I braced for a rear tire “thump” but none came, so I guess he made it. Almost immediately after I cleared that corner, a squirrel appeared. This dummy was just sitting in the middle of the road. So, I slowed down, and tooted the horn, and let him get off to the side before zooming past. The rest of my commute was spent dodging trucks backing out of driveways, joggers, dog-walkers, and the occasional oncoming cars coming around blind turns in my lane. This is my daily commute. And I love it.
I love the focus needed to ride safely and proficiently. I feel lucky to be able to hone in on my skills in ways that weekend warriors don’t. I always tell my wife, who constantly worries about my safety, that although I put many more miles on motorcycles than the average Joe, I am probably less likely to get into an accident, because besides wearing the best gear I can get, I am constantly practicing and developing my skills.
I’m always tempted to take my usual roads too fast, because I know them so well. I know where the slick spots are, where the cops sit, where and when the bus stops are, etc. This could be very dangerous, because there’s a temptation to take it for granted that these factors will always be the same. But the single, most important thing I’ve learned from riding to work on the same roads every day, is that things are never the same. Even the curvature of the road changes sometimes. So, I don’t get complacent, the way car drivers can get, as they follow traffic like sheep being herded. So instead of relying on the next corner being the same as it was yesterday, I focus on my skills: slow before the corner, smooth the bike’s suspension, make an efficient line through the turn, and roll on the throttle as I look to the next. I’m always ready to make an emergency maneuver, and sometimes it ruins my perfect line. But when I hit it just right, it feels so good.
Every ride is a new, exhilarating adventure. So just get out and ride.