Rituals of the Ride

My best rides are framed by the rituals I have adopted.

When we jump in our cars or trucks to drive somewhere, unless it is for some great road trip, we are not thinking about the ride – just about our destination.

For riders, the destination is almost irrelevant. It is all about the ride.

A Buddhist, preparing to meditate, lights some incense, puts on special meditation clothes and sits in a sacred place. These actions assist in achieving a mental state: calm, aware, fully present.

A rider, preparing to ride, dons leathers, helmet, gloves, then inspects the bike and sits in his sacred space. Riding is a meditation better appreciated when calm, aware and fully present.

It’s that moment after you settle into the saddle and just before you shift into drive that completes the preparation.

An individual ritual that signals the beginning of a ride can be as simple as putting on a favourite leather vest or jacket. All of a sudden you know what’s coming.

The bit that tells my mind and body it’s time for a ride is when I put on my leather chaps and my boots. The chaps I bought at Linda’s Custom Leathers, in Delta B.C. They are personal and unique, special for me.

The boots are my hiking boots. I wear them for other things, but when I’m putting them on under my chaps, it’s different.

I’ve tried black welders’ boots and high dirt-bike riding boots, even cowboy boots, but I always go back to my hiking boots; they give me the freedom to walk as well as ride, an experience not pleasant in most riding boots.

As soon as I sit down, chaps on and start tying my boots, the ritual has begun.

The girl at the boot store where I bought them taught me a special way to lace them and when I rode my Shadow to Ontario, a few years ago, my brother shared how to tie a double bow that won’t come undone but leaves no annoying knot.

It seems silly, but I think of both of them and how good it feels to be on a long ride at that moment, every time.

In the middle of a long day I have another ritual, the stop for green tea and won ton soup. It doesn’t matter where you go, there will be a Chinese restaurant.

The practice started on the long ride home across the northern states from Michigan. I find that on long rides like that one you get wrapped up in the scenery and the wind and the smells.

Stopping only for gas uncovers a mild hunger, but a massive thirst. Tea and soup are the perfect solution – so they have become my habit.

A ritual is something that is repeated so often it becomes automatic, second nature. Relying on ritual in riding leaves more of your attention available to the ride itself. Staying in the moment is crucial for keeping safe, but it also allows you to fully experience every moment of landscape you pass through.

On a ride, every moment is important because a ride is a terrible thing to waste.

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