In like a lion
78 CB550 HONDA
Words: Karen Hare / Photos: Joseph Visser
Every Monday J shows up to work with images or video of the progress of the weekend; the roar of the bike as if it were baby’s first words, his face filled with excitement.
A recent trip to India has been a catalyst for the current motorcycle obsession. It whispered a wild freedom atop two wheels, one without the sounds or screens of anything Apple. This winter J and his bike speak of this, a quiet conversation, both knowing and dreaming of wind at their cheeks and gravel underfoot. They remember the feeling of warm sun. We have all been waiting (most impatiently) for spring to arrive. We see this longing surface long before its warm or dry, in shorts and sandals mid April and in J, riding through slush without a seat. We all find ways to escape the winter, to stay busy while still. For many, the winter is a time to be contemplative and creative. Manifestation becomes a way to see progress, a sort of proof that in fact time is moving. It is a way to attest that we exist, that life continues and a new season will come.
Muddy Water: What is it that draws you to the motorcycle?
J: Freedom, a non-sterile environment. You can hear and feel everything when you’re on the road. Everything is there, the smells; it's like being in India.
MW: Wind and sun on your face...
J: Yeah it's totally awesome; it's so good.
MW: Why fix it yourself?
J: I want to understand what I'm doing. The 'do it yourself' thing, you have to. It's the same with woodworking we both know that.
MW: This motorcycle is meant to be used...
J: Yeah, exactly: I want it to be well used. I've had to stop myself a few times, when I took it for a ride and I'd want to clean it right away, or changing a tire I'd chip some paint, I would have to stop and remind myself that that's kind of the point. It should be well used.
MW: How has the motorcycle changed over the winter?
J: Umm, well it looks way cooler…new paint, exhaust and tires. There’s two things happening here, this one I didn’t really delve into the engine on, but I knew that it was sound. But I’ve done a little bit, adjusted valves and carbs, stuff I had no idea how to do before.
(Another motor sits taken apart next to a manual, I suppose this is the other thing that is happening, a dissection to simply understand.)
MW: And you’ve had to take it all apart to paint it?
J: I had every single nut and bolt off with the exception of the motor, I didn't open the motor up. Which is ridiculous actually. For this type of bike, it wasn't supposed to be perfect. But I wanted to do it.
MW: It’s good to have something tweaked so it’s yours.
J: It’s like our tools at work, you hear a sound and you’re like oh’ that’s not sounding right…I like to understand what I’m using.
MW: It’s the worst feeling when something breaks and you’re totally vulnerable to it, especially when you’re travelling.
J: And a lot of it is probably going to be pretty simple fixes.
MW: Where is this motorcycle taking you?
J: Around the world: indirectly. Actually further than that, but I haven't developed that thought yet.
MW: Is it a little bit about being outside yourself?
J: Yes and no, I grew up on motorbikes, but I never really did anything with them for the last 20 years. So it's a new lease on life.
MW: And you and I have talked about the fact that you can’t hear your cell phone on them…
J: Yeah, it's awesome. I associate motorcycles with no computers and no phones. It's kind of like skateboarding actually. It's the same thing.
MW: Something to pull you into the physical so you can let your mind rest.
J: Even going to work in the mornings is so different from being in a car or a truck. Not having the heat or the radio, you feel like your actually participating in the world. Not having to be entertained by anything is pretty awesome.
MW: Which is the greater escape, the dreaming of being on the bike while working on it through the winter, or the actual act of being on the bike in the summer?
J: Probably a little bit of both. By the time fall comes around I'll probably be ready to take the thing apart again, but for now I'm done. I just want to get on it.
This summer J will take his daughter on a motorcycle trip to Sudbury Ontario, camping along the way, taking in the simple life, being free from it all (for a little while at least).