Of all the things we can do during our time here on Earth, the worst thing you can do is try too hard to be safe. It’s only when we accept some risk and strive for the sane (or fun) management thereof, many of us would maintain, that you become fully alive. Motorcycling is an excellent way to shred delusions of immortality, its reward being the most fun you can have without an enamored Scarlett Johansson and a hot tub.
However, one down side to motorcycling is that there are significant periods of time where we can’t engage in this holy madness. Work, which provides the vital source of monetary fuel for our two-wheeled love affair, simultaneously encumbers a significant amount of saddle time. The weather can also interfere, though here in the Pacific Northwest we are blessed with a climate where you can at least get out for a spin around town almost all year round.
What gets us through those dark days when our mounts stand idle? Motorcycle writers do, by helping us remember dreams that we’ve already lived and plan for our dreams of the future. The best writers can even make us feel like we do while riding, articulating the wordless howls of joy that sound deafeningly in our helmets when a ride is JUST right. That’s why those of us who love books as well as motorcycles are constantly on the prowl for the next Peter Egan, Austin Vince or Ted Simon. Recently, I was fortunate enough to discover the writing of Jack Lewis and these words are meant to get you as excited about finding more of his work as I am.
I’ve probably read a number of articles by Jack in Motorcyclist magazine, since returning to riding. I first realized his talent while browsing bookshelves. I then discovered, to my consternation, that he is also a member of a local motorcycling email list, where a mad job market has consigned me to being a lurker for several years. Later, I found one of his books, “Coming and Going on Bikes” in eBook form and purchased it for my Nook reader. I’m here to recommend that you purchase this astoundingly inexpensive eBook and enjoy it as soon as possible because it is really a very enjoyable reading experience.
In the first section, “Riding Home : Coming Back to the World”, Jack writes about his return from Operation Iraqi Freedom III and his travels aboard a classic BMW motorcycle as he takes the long way home. When he buries the SKS bullet that could have killed him in the deep waters of a reservoir, you’ll want to cheer, as you will again when he reaches his home. And it will make you long for the day when our other brave men and women find their way home.
“What kills Us : Calling in the nine-Line” speaks to motorcyclists who are combat veterans and who are, disturbingly, dying in motorcycle accidents at rates approaching 50% over civilian riders. As Jack illustrates, motorcycles are like weapons in that learning to use them WELL will provide years of riding enjoyment. This is much more appealing than the image of these fine riders dying through lack of the skills that motorcycle riding demands. Seriously people, we want you to come home safe so that we can spend years attending rallies with you!
“Stalin's Revenge” presents interesting information about the BMW-derived Russian-made Ural motorcycle with a sidecar. “Hacked on” follows, with a description of a sidecar class that makes the idea of trying three wheels on a lark sound like a real blast.
“The Bike That Changed My Life” looks at a bike that provided the author important learning opportunities, a Yamaha dual-sport (a versatile type of motorcycle that’s very popular these days). “Stoned to the Bone” follows, with an account of a publicity test ride the author made of the F800GS, one of BMW’s most popular models in recent years and one that I contemplate possibly bringing home in a couple years (unless an analogous Triumph model gets to me first).
Finally, “Dancing with the Devil” looks at the act of motorcycling as a way of choosing real living over the nearly obsessive quest for sanity that seems to obsess our culture. Motorcyclists know that the avocation they love may someday result in serious injury or death, accept and strive to manage this risk at a level that makes sense to them, accepting the moments of pure joy and adventure and judging that enjoyment as better than a life where fear sets the boundaries of our lives instead of us. It is a thoughtful look at what makes motorcyclists tick.
Now please go and buy this book immediately. I think you'll really enjoy it!