Midwest Motorcyclist Blog
20 years and 241 issues ago, we launched Michigan Motorcyclist® / Midwest Motorcyclist™ with great enthusiasm and boundless energy. In the time since, we reviewed many motorcycles, reported on a wide variety of events from mild to wild and bawdy (all fun!), shared interviews with the famous and not so famous, and described many rides in the Midwest, across the country, and around the world. The magazine attracted a variety of talented writers and photographers from across the country; some are pros but most are people with full-time careers and families who took the time and invested the effort to report on their riding adventures for us. The last 20 years have been incredible but it’s time to do something else. The July issue was our last print issue. Thank you for sharing this awesome adventure with us. Your support enabled us to keep publishing these many years. We hope we brought you news and information that was useful to your enjoyment of riding. Looking forward to seeing you on the road or at an event in the future. Cheers!
PS – you can access past issues on the Archive page of our website. We will continue the website as a blog with an event schedule and other stories. Stop by for a visit whenever you’re surfing.
We've all heard it and some of us have probably said it. "I ride a motorcycle because of the freedom it provides." Despite having heard that statement (or something similar) for years, late last year that use of the word "freedom" in the context of motorcycle riding began to bug me. What do motorcyclists mean when they say something like this? The use of the word "freedom" to describe riding a motorcycle isn't exactly correct. I checked online for explanations of this connection between motorcycling and freedom. Several writers (links below) have tried to explain but none adequately explain why motorcyclists equate riding with freedom.
I began thinking about this question because, if someone were to ask me what I enjoy most about riding (no one has), "freedom" wouldn't be mentioned. It wouldn't be in the top 10, 25, 50 or 100. I'm all for freedom but it's not something I get from a motorcycle. I'm already free; riding a motorcycle doesn't change that.
Riding a motorcycle is, for me, a form of active meditation. It's not that I'm clearing my mind and focusing on my breath or some sound in an attempt to clear out all of the mental noise. Instead, riding is about focusing my attention on a series of actions and reactions. Roll on the throttle, pull in the clutch lever, up shift, brake, down shift, countersteer and roll on the throttle again. Like every other rider, I go through this same process thousands of times on each ride. For me, the challenge is to be smoother, more in synch with the operation of the motorcycle. Everyone can accelerate, clutch, shift and brake but I want to reach that state of riding nirvana where the entire operation is smooth and seamless. My throttle, clutch and transmission operation are in synch at all times so there's no bogging or lurching. Braking is smooth and controlled with no tire sliding. My speed and lean angle through the curves allows me to stay in my lane on my line through the apex before giving it gas and accelerating out. As meditation is called "practice," so is the way that I ride. Not only do my riding skills improve but also all of the issues of life - work, spouse, kids, car repairs, finances, politics, etc. - are out of mind when I am in the saddle. It's a refreshing break from life but riding doesn't make me feel any freer.
I think that what many motorcyclists mean when they say "freedom" in the context of riding a motorcycle is actually "escape." Escape from the challenges of life helps those riders to feel more free if only for a little while. That's not why I ride but if, when asked why they ride, motorcyclists would simply say "to escape," I would better understand what they mean. It seems more accurate than saying he or she is freer when riding a motorcycle.
To some, the difference might only be semantic. "Freedom" is used a lot these days, especially by those who feel under represented in, or perhaps over regulated by, the government. It's an important word with historic significance for Americans. Perhaps we should reserve "freedom" for something bigger, more momentous than riding a motorcycle.
Plans are ramping up for 2014 motorcycle events. Shortly after the new year, volunteers will begin reaching out to various motorcycle businesses in search of product donations for door prizes. These are the items that make attending any particular event more attractive to would-be attendees. Many businesses are willing to donate something - gift certificates, hats, gloves, t-shirts, cleaning supplies, etc. - to help the event succeed. It's one way motorcycle businesses give back to the people and organizations that support their companies.
Unfortunately, as the number of organizations seeking and obtaining donations grows, the less value comes back to the business owner. I have these conversations with motorcycle business owners a couple times a year. One such conversation occurred in a customer's store a couple weeks ago. The bottom line: motorcycle organizations / clubs and the enthusiasts who attend their events are not patronizing the businesses supporting their events. The businesses give. Most don't receive any but minor recognition at the event when prizes are given away. Neither the club members or the event attendees return to the donor business to show appreciation for the donations by buying something - anything - from that business.
I wonder how long these small businesses can continue to support events with free product when, aside from goodwill, they don't benefit from increased sales as a result of their generosity.
Almost daily, people talk and post on Facebook about buying locally. Yet, many continue to buy from big box stores or shop online. It's time for the people who organize and attend motorcycle events to support the businesses who are supporting those events and good times. Buy from the sponsors. Don't just talk about your support for their businesses. Demonstrate your support by buying from them.
Business is tough, sometimes brutal, for small business owners. If we don't support the businesses who are supporting our events, they will go the way of so many motorcycle-related businesses since 2007. If you don't care about the survival of local motorcycle shops or door prizes for your events, continue to buy online from vendors in the other parts of the country or the world. If you do care, spend some money at your local shop - today. Talk is cheap. Spend your money at the local motorcycle shop. If you don't, good luck getting support and door prizes for your event from large national or international companies.