Intimate Involvement With Machines

Does your motorcycle mirror your characteristics or does it complement them?


IS YOUR MOTORCYCLE a twin? I don’t mean a V-twin, parallel twin or opposed twin. I mean your twin. Does it accurately and precisely reflect your real personality? Or does it represent the exact opposite: your alter ego? How might the dynamics often seen in couples also apply to the allure, and pitfalls, of intimate involvement with machines. Opposites attract and here’s a classic example: He’s an introverted, calm, tightly organized homebody–warm, but quietly reserved. She’s a gregarious extrovert who loves to travel–bright and charming, with a dramatic flair that can leave things in disarray. Each thought the other was the perfect choice and would serve as their ideal counterpoint. He loved her tireless exuberance and myriad social connections; she enlivened him and ushered him into a world of exciting adventures and friendships he’d never have entered on his own. She adored his reassuringly steady, reliable presence, and felt securely grounded within their attachment. He enjoyed helping her plan more effectively and get things accomplished, while she enjoyed introducing him to a more spontaneous and colorful lifestyle.

Eventually, he grew weary of her relentless tugging to go here and there and felt she should take more responsibility for getting her affairs in order–to slow down. She became frustrated with his reluctance to run around with her, his conservative practicality and lack of social contribution–a stick in the mud. The very same features that had been so attractive at first, became sources of disappointment and resentment later, a common dilemma. Their relationship is doomed unless they can find a way to integrate their contrasting proclivities and have “the best of both worlds.

RIDERS MAY LOOK to their motorcycles for similar counterweighting. One easy example is the straight-laced corporate cog who purchases a chunk of the stereotyped American Iron image, trading his pinstripes for fringed leather and a bandanna on the weekends. He and his buddies play “outlaw biker” and get a welcome relief from the straitjackets of their workday lives. Or there’s the timid, risk-averse soul who’s enamored of the idea of speed and the sexy shape of a sportbike fairing. He buys the latest literbike and exalts in the quick surge of acceleration he experiences on freeway on-ramps, then parks it at bike night. If pressed to inhabit these fantasy roles, both exemplars would find their infatuations short-lived. The businessman would detest the grungy, insecure subsistence of a genuine outlaw as far too chaotic, seedy and full of inconvenience and discomfort. Racer-boy would be instantly overwhelmed by the visceral overload, aggressive competition and rapid-fire demands of life on the track; he’d be panic-stricken, not exhilarated. At least with motorcycles, the bikes don’t eventually want their riders to be different people.

COUPLES CAN ALSO be “two peas in a pod,” with extensive overlap in their interests, strengths and weaknesses. While such twinship may feel intoxicating at first, with both participants relieved to have found their soulmate, such pairings can also become stagnant and suffocating over time. Neither side feels challenged, both grow bored and restless, with each craving variety and discovery that seems impossible while tied to their doppelganger. Shared blind-spots and vulnerabilities can yield rapidly escalating problems, undamped by alternative perspectives.

THERE ARE BIKES THAT FIT like the proverbial old shoe. Comfortable, forgiving, precisely matched to our idiosyncratic preferences, purposes and needs, they all but vanish in the service of movement. Whatever quirks they possess suit us just fine–we’ve got ‘em, too! Contentment is certainly nice, but if it drifts into complacency, the spark dies. No challenge, no growth. Accessorizing may restore some excitement for a while, but for the relationship to remain fulfilling there must be exploration of new frontiers. Otherwise, a whole new motorcycle may end up being the only conceivable solution. Is it better to choose a partner (human or machine) that complements or mirrors our own characteristics? Oddly enough, many folks oscillate between these two options, choosing the second after tiring of the first, and then reversing again. Neither is inherently superior. In a marriage, there are likely more reasons to work out the respective, and inevitable, problems associated with either choice. But with motorcycles, the best answer may simply be to have one of each.


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