Riding this thing makes me a shittier person. I walk with a swagger that isn't mine, I look around and assume that people are watching me. I assume that women are checking me out. It's almost paradoxical that the two things I like the most about the bike are the anonymity the helmet and gear provide and the ostentation of being a biker. I can be, or pretend to be, the centre of attention, while also being unable to be truly embarrassed or upstaged. I'm realising that I am much more concerned about my image than I thought, because truthfully this thing scares me, but I keep riding it anyway. I imagine that I'm Valentino Rossi or one of the Crazy 88 or something even more ridiculous. I rev the engine at a red light and only later do I remember that I hate people who do that.
The fear ranges from a general uneasiness when riding around town to outright terror when the speed limit goes to 100 and I really open the throttle up. But along with the terror comes exhilaration. I'm finding that danger a bit like being drunk, in that it shows you more of your real self, and I don't like what I see. It's why I don't drink.
The air is much more dense than we usually think it is. It pushes against my chest and punches me from both sides, making me feel less like a blade slicing through the air and more like what I really am: a fragile animal perched precariously atop a couple of hundred kilograms of screaming machinery, with only a few layers of heavy-duty nylon between my skin and the low-grade sandpaper that is the road. And the wind roars also, so loudly that I need earplugs. Even then, when I stop and remove my helmet I am suddenly aware of the great pulsing pressure of silence in my head.
I constantly imagine myself suddenly and without warning being thrown over the handlebars and bouncing along the road as my bike somersaults off into the long grass. With every bounce my skull rattles around in my helmet, bruising my brain; my ribs snap one by one like paddle pop sticks; my pelvis is ground into gravel and my shins are split again and again until they're two bundles of matchsticks. I imagine opening my eyes and seeing the bitumen rushing past a few centimetres before my face, while I slowly come to a stop and the end of a long red-brown smear on the road. I imagine this on repeat as I stare down the long black strip of road ahead.
When people ask me how I like riding it, I shrug and say, "yeah, it's a fun hobby." When people ask me if I think it's dangerous, I shrug and say nothing.