I cannot see much, just the white and yellow lines of the freeway swaying here and there around the mountains. “Coyote,” by Joni Mitchell, is stuck in my head on repeat as I watch those lines, matching the lean of our bike to the rhythm of the road.
I ride 2UP (pronounced: two up), which means I ride on the back of a motorcycle. That’s why I can’t see. For the most part, all I see is the big white letters shouting DOT on the back of the boyfriend’s black helmet. I mean, I see them but I don’t really look. There are numbers there, as well, probably the modern number for the helmet or something, but even after 5,000 miles in the saddle I still could not tell you what those numbers say.
What has really happened is that I have shut off my central vision, I am blind looking forward and must rely on my peripheral vision and all my other senses to see me through our journey. I cannot visually see how the road moves ahead of me, I must feel for trigger movements from the human in front of me. A twitch of the left shoulder means the bike is about to lean that way and I can feel the steel horse dive forward and left as we move through the turn.
And we lean over and over. As the BF’s helmet leans out of my primary vision for the turn, I can finally see the white line. And then I know how far we will be leaning. But I can feel the bike continue to drop, my left hip stretching with the tilt of the bike as my body fights the gravitational forces.
The two wheels are our skis and I can feel them underneath us. I can feel the wheels spreading, just slightly, as we compress into the turn. It’s beautiful, this sinking feeling just like when you come in hard into a really good turn and you can feel your hip dropping into the turn just as your skis come flying around off the tails? Yeah, it’s like that moment. Over and over and over again.
Rolling the bike from the center block of the tread and onto the shoulder. It feels like if skis had rounded bases rather than flat ones. You can feel the width of the tread underneath as you roll over, the bike seemingly falling into that perfect sweet spot for the turn ahead. It feels natural, like your edges are locked into the snow and nothing is going to pull you out. The bike won’t let you fall. You won’t slide out … will you?
You never know. It’s a motorcycle.
Skiing and snowboarding are dangerous and there are inherent risks associated with these activities. But the feeling of locking into a turn, the wind blowing in your face as you sail down the open road. Pavement and Groomers feel the same. I mean, really the same. I trust the bike to do what it needs to do, just as I trust my skis. In fact, I trust the bike and the BF more than I trust myself.
Imagine a skier you admire steering your skis for you and your job is to stay calm, focused and … reach out with your feelings and feel the force flowing through you. Yeah, I said it. Have you ever had that feeling, while you’re listening to your surroundings with your whole body? Can you feel nature’s energy running through and almost taking over so your brain no longer has to do the work?
Well, I can do that on a bike because someone else is steering for me. That is why I ride 2UP. I can lose myself to the bike and let my senses and muscle memory take over. It’s not sleeping, just a complete redirection of the brain from regular thoughts like what has to be signed today and by whom. I need to imagine where the bike is going by using my other senses and then hope I anticipated correctly.
Somehow, it works. This flying down the road on something that is just a little bit bigger than a mountain bike, 120 in the front and 170 in the rear. And it all seems to work beautifully, so smooth it’s like magic. Something that, no matter how much I mountain bike, I can only grab that feeling for a couple of turns — that big berm section coming down the Sherburner or somewhere down by where the new 7 cuts across Caper. But on the motorcycle, especially in Vermont where we have no straight aways, you’re on edge the entire time. It’s beautiful. It sucks you in. What’s my favorite feeling in the world? The turn.
Merisa Sherman is a long-time Killington resident, local Realtor, bartender and KMS Coach. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.