Nirvana – And Kilesas – On A Motorcycle

So, Saturday morning, TG gave me a hall pass from chores and work, and I decided to go out for as much of a motorcycle ride as my sore wrist would stand…

In Los Angeles, we’re blessed with two close-in chunks of motorcycle nirvana; the Santa Monica Mountains (also known as the ‘Malibu Alps’) and the San Gabriel Mountains. Each of them offers a serious chunk of two-wheeled nirvana (a Nirvana not without kilesas, as we’ll point out later).

I rolled my Hypermotard out of the garage, did a quick preflight (tires, brakes, chain, oil), suited up (Sidi Canyon boots, Aerostich Roadcrafter suit, Shoei RF1000 helmet, Alpinestars 365 gloves), and headed out.

By 7am, I was at the Chevron at Sunset Blvd and PCH, meeting up with a friend. Here’s where we went…

View Larger Map

I haven’t been out sportriding in some time; but after about half an hour I suddenly ‘clicked’ and spent the rest of the morning in and out of a real state of flow.
On the last leg for me – heading down Latigo Canyon from Kanan Dume to PCH – I really hit flow. My awareness was about ten feet out in front of the motorcycle, and I genuinely couldn’t tell if I was riding fast or slow. I was lost in the rhythm of ‘move my head and shoulder into the corner’, ‘settle’, ‘roll off throttle’, ‘steer’, ‘add throttle’, ‘back to center’, and repeat…there were some moments on downhill turns where it felt like skiing, extending my body outward over the downhill corner and then letting the motorcycle catch up and then suddenly sweep me sideways into the corner and across the hill…it was magical.

And even though it didn’t feel like I was going fast, I know I was…but still it was easy and I never felt like I had to rush; the road was packed with bicycles, and I would come around a corner onto two pedaling along, and effortlessly adjust my line to pass them with a wide berth. Except for the bicycles descending…committed in a tuck, chin on their bars headed downhill at 40 mph.

I’d always fall in behind them and wait for a place where I could accelerate past without disturbing them…they’d earned the descent, and I didn’t want to ruin it for them.

I was done and off the mountain by 11; my friend kept riding. I always get out of the Santa Monicas by 11, because that’s when they craziness starts.

I quit in large part because of the kilesas – Wikipedia includes this definition, which is perfect:

In early Buddhist texts the kilesas generally referred to mental states which temporarily cloud the mind and manifest in unskillful actions.

On summer weekends, my playground is full of people in that condition; full of people like me – riding motorcycles for pleasure through the scenery and challenging roads (check out this map of Latigo Canyon). I like to believe I’m different – responsible, considerate (I never roost through stretches of street where there are driveways; I always upshift and quiet the bike as I pass joggers or people walking bikes; I always try and maintain the awareness that this is both my playground and a neighborhood where people live).

Fifteen or twenty years ago, when I started doing this, there were few enough riders in the mountains that you kind of remembered most of the folks you’d seen or ridden with – by bike, by attire, by riding style.

Today…not so much.

Last weekend, we had three major accidents (one a fatality) – all three bikes had paper (dealer) plates.

The weekend before, we had a crash and fire:

The mountains around LA are full of unskilled riders without the judgment to ride within their skill levels, riding motorcycles that they have barely ridden – motorcycles which are capable of going 170mph off the showroom floor.

Businesses have even grown up to serve these folks – photographers who spend the weekend in corners and take pictures of the riders…


Are they an attractive nuisance?

I don’t know…but something has to change.

We can wait for a minivan full of children to get knocked over the edge by a high-speed bike in the wrong lane; we can keep killing a rider or so a month. Or, ideally, we’ll figure something out first.

Meanwhile, knowing that I’m part of the problem, I spend less and less time there.

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