Sunday, August 31, 2014


On every bike there's a toolkit hidden somewhere inside.  Usually under the seat, but I guess some manufacturer found the way to put it in the wheel or in front of the steering column.  That toolkit is what you need to do pretty much any emergency surgery your mechanical friend might need to keep beating and breathing forward.

Not only is the intention pure, to get you though whatever life might throw your way, and it may very well have saved your ass more than once.  I remember what might be the stupidest malfunction possible.  I was riding and my bike would shut down.  And wake up again and continue it's merry way like nothing happened.  No time to psychanalyse, the cars behind might not want to be invited to the discussion.

So after a few hiccups and rider puzzlement, the disease start taking over and my friend and I end up so very close to the exact center of nowhere.   Pretty close to my parent's house, but not walking distance.  So I put my mechanical surgeon hat, get that toolkit out, and start assessing the damage.

The patient was a 1994 Magna.  Red.  My dream machine, made by Honda to last a few lifetimes and then some.  For a brief introduction, that machine was part of a generation to try to cross the gap between east and west.  Rising sun people wanting machines to turn every last drop of energy from the gas tank into sensations and efficiency.  Setting sun people wanting chromed-up machines to show, across time and space,  that they can create their own damn machine, bigger, louder, reflecting more light for every possible part of the chromed machine than an ordinary non-american thing can.

So in effort to cross the gap, Japanese artists decided to put their best power plants into machines that would be homages to their American counterparts.  For Honda, the company that imposed itself on me, that gave birth to the Magna.  Using the then race-winner VFR (that stands for V-Four Racer for the non-initiated into the mysteries of that manufacturer's linguistic refinement and elegance) and putting it into their best possible clone of their across the ocean competitors, the Shadow.

Don't ask what cast that shadow, the bike looks Harley Davidson-ish, the closer it can possibly be without having to explain the subtle differences in court.  Or after explaining them.

Oh, do you know that the Harley sound that gives those bikes their soul come from economic pressure to shortcut the engineering process and get the thing to production without being downsized?  The single crankshaft pin that help produces the sweet music that get so many people to plaster themselves and everything they touch with commercial logos allows for a much simpler engine, and quite a bit cheaper to make.  But like everything else in life, engineering has it's compromises too.  That single pin crankshaft doesn't do the rest of the engine justice, abusing the result of it's labor and converting it into sound instead of torque and acceleration and pleasure.  That's roughly 10-15% of the machine's labor that's converted into audio candy.  The kind that, when paired with the customary illegal straight pipes offered by he dealer himself, will produce that sweet sound that all your neighbors will thank you for.  And everybody in tunnels and underpass shall you decide to pay homage to that timeless scientific marvel of a machine.

To complete the introduction, the Magna's a fun bike.  A very fun one, that revs high and push asphalt back with a pretty decent hand when allowed the RPM to do so.  The machine's an overall average, OK machine with a very lovely center.

2. Get rid of the unnecessary crap and go light

So, back to the program; I have to stop slam dunk nowhere for a quick and dirty surgery.  Seat removed (that's pretty much the only thing you can undress from that kind of bike) and eyes all in, turns out one of the battery terminal is loose and sometimes loosing contact.  Easier to fix than screwing in a terminal.  Or just as easy, since that's the actual process to heal the patient.

Toolkit out, surgery done, toolkit back in, and off we go.  A bit deeper into beautiful nowhere before heading back towards civilization.  So I thank that toolkit for saving the day.

But not only is that deep down in the beast's stomach, but many people feel like getting ready for more of life's unsuspected surprises.  Rain gear? check.  WD-40 and shop towels? check.  Never know when that can be useful, or even necessary.  Maps too, maybe.  Spare clothes or the dry kind?  OK.  Stuff for surprise picnic and stuff in case you meet someone important and stuff in case of a zombie apocalypse.  Never too prepared right?  There's a good logic going for it.  But the other side of the coin, the maybe less observed one, is that all that stuff not only takes space, but more importantly adds weight to the equation.  The purest form being rider + bike = bliss.
The less pure form being rider + stuff in case + bike + tools and shit.  And maybe sometimes a bit more shit that's been useful that day when I was a kid.  And that other thing that will come in handy if I meet that 2nd grade teacher that shamed me to hell and back.  Or whatever I picked up along the way that could come in handy someday.

Now back to racing.  To go for that complete synergy of rider and ridden, or man and machine and pavement and curves and straights and adrenaline and guts and feelings.  That toolkit is heavy.  Not as in break your back lifting it heavy, as in not really noticeable but that 0.1 second might have been saved heavy.

And bikes were honed to street use.  They have some baggage that doesn't need to be kept.  Lights? we don't race at night, drop.  Horn?  WTF, just drop.  Handlebar gizmos for flasher and shit?  Drop.  License plate that allowed you to cross the streets but that isn't required anymore? Drop.  Drop drop drop.  Drop all that shit.  And then some.  Keep the aerodynamic stuff around the machine and drop everything else.  That's pretty much a requirement to win.  Not to race, I'm sure you can get on track with your horn and toolkit and nobody will bother you about it.  But maybe you could get out of that turn just a little bit faster, have just a bit more speed in the straight, get that little missing drop to pass that guy in front.  Or to avoid being passed and left behind.  Or to just squeeze one more drop of enjoyment from the whole thing.

Beside the racetrack, there's usually mechanics for hire.  And nurses for free.  And trailers filled with tools and parts and happy people who'll help you out of pretty much anything with a smile if they can be of assistance.  While exchanging tips or sharing experiences.

So all that baggage isn't any use anymore.  We sometimes overlook that fact and go on with extra weight all over.  And find the steering harder than we'd like, and braking more hairy that it has to be.

The solution's obvious here.  Drop everything.  All of that crap, every single bit of whatever you don't need.  You'll have to think about it, and look at the bike carefully from every possible angle.  And then you find crap and remove it.  And get that lighter, more responsive, more efficient and, more importantly, more fun bike.  That communicate it's relation to the ground in a clearer way.  That offers less resistance to changing direction, less inertial sluggishness to accelerating and braking.  A lean mean machine! Yay

Ok, time for the parallel.  As a kid I learned a bunch of stuff.  Many many rules.  More than that actually, a double-plus-big amount of then maybe useful crap.  But as grownups, all that stuff lost most of it's use, and we have other ways to deal with obstacles.  Other people to help us, when we reach out.  And new, yet unknown ways to pass obstacles.  But all the heavy burden doesn't just drop off when unneeded, saying "Let's part ways, that was fun, loved being with you, we had good and bad times, highs and lows, often relied on one another, and an overall synergistic relationship, but it's time to let go".  No, the stuff is there, period.  Usually forgotten, sometimes adding some friction to otherwise smooth situations, sometimes completely blowing in our face in an ununderstandable mess.  That's not a typo, it's a voluntary double negation new word.  Nicer than just derstandable, no?

So the best way to go is to take a minute to assess the situation.  To consider the usefulness of that baggage.  Let's face it, however loaded of emotional content it is, the vast majority of it isn't needed and will never be.  And is often more of less in the way.  To accelerate full speed ahead.  To smoothly take that curve.  How many time did you struggle with one of life's little situation because you had that reaction ready to fight it off?  Instead of just passing it and going on?

There's a guy on youtube I like listening to, who often says something along the lines of "At the end of the day, it's HE WHO HAD THE MOST FUN".  Damn right.  It's not he who resisted the most things, or he who accumulated the most stuff or got the most scars.  Trophies are nice, they very well may be worth going for, but only as long as it's fun.

When I was a kid I played chess.  I was good enough to win championships.  I thought a lot, and brain was tuned to the game all right.  Many things became second nature, playing  many moves without having to expend mental energy because I just knew.  Then I went to a chess club, and met serious players.  And I stopped playing right there.  I'd play for fun, not for wins and ratings and other people.   At least I've had some fun games since then, with not the intention of winning and proving my might, but for discussing strategies and pushing each other and sharing quality time.

So I think that the way to have the most fun is to drop that shit.  All of it.  It's never far anyway right?  The trailer's in the paddocks.   The neighbor have more tools than I can wish for.  The friends overflow with the resources I might need.  And when they need mine I'll gladly lend a hand and have fun in the process.

There may be a bunch of ways to go about that cleanup, that spring cleaning that brings life back inside by giving it space and grace.  There's friends and professional hired help that are pretty good at helping sort the obstacles out and empty the place of old junk.

I try my best to notice any automatic reaction.  It may have been the right one some time ago, but it can't possibly the very best reaction to that new situation.  Like figuring out what to say to someone beforehand.  How can that ever fit into a conversation without breaking it and discarding it's present-moment shine?  And if you could think of that clever punchline out of context beforehand, trust yourself that you'll come with good, more appropriate ones when the time comes.  And isn't it insanely sad to carefully plan future moments so we don't have to really live them when they come, just regurgitating that previously thought-out stuff impersonally instead?

Now let's reach a conclusion.  While we grow up accumulating all kind of super useful stuff, and learning reactions to some situations, that stuff and those reactions aren't appropriate now.  We can just be now and it'll be all right and much more fun.  And there's books and professionals that can help spot dead weight and help disarm those triggers and respectfully remove no longer necessary and disserving stuff.  And I think it's worth it and bring more pleasure to life than any vacation or jewelry or mansion or lifestyle can.  All of those things will be more fun after.  Much much more fun.

Thanks for reading.  I dare you to find something that gives you bad vibes and to get rid of it.  And to notice one of your automatic reaction that doesn't bring pleasure and to defuse it and acknowledge it's past service as you retire it.  And to leave the freed space open for more consciousness and joy.  Because I bet you that every single bit of baggage you'll drop will make you happier and will make your life simpler and more ecstatic.

Do it.  Or if you're reading because you're also growing and looking for the ray of light I'm trying to let shine through my mechanical and hooligan stories, keep the fun images in mind and use them to trigger spring cleaning consciousness whenever you can.

That was fun to write :)

Leave a comment now or come back if some idea resurfaced and helped you.  I'll appreciate reading you.


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