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MC Dispatch

Reader-submitted rides, reviews and stories


Keep it Simple

by Alison Green


Tags: GPS, gadgets, motorcycles,

alison and dog 

For nine years I was fortunate to live on a beach on Lake Superior and the kayak and canoe were part of everyday life when there wasn’t ice on the lake. Whether exploring the coastline near home, or venturing further, Superior was an integral part of life. One favourite mini-trip involved ferrying a vehicle to a landing 30km down the coast to facilitate a one-way trip – hopefully with a tail wind. On one such jaunt my girlfriend and I packed a good lunch, swimwear, and sun block, grabbed our paddles and lifejackets and sunhats and dragged our kayaks into the water. It was a marvellous, leisurely day of sun and water and fresh air. As we approached the landing we met a lone kayaker and naturally stopped to chat.  He was absolutely flabbergasted that we had just packed lunches and headed out - His kayak had been lashed to the top of his very fancy SUV for a three week trip circumnavigating Lake Superior. At this point he was within two days of completing his tour and this was the first time that the kayak had been in the water! His boat sported compasses (two) satellite radio, spare paddle, paddle floats, sea anchor, water filter kit, trailing rope, flares, and heaven knows what else… as compared to our kit of lunch and snacks and sun-tan oil. Yes, we lived on the lake and were careful about weather conditions, and our partners knew of our plans for the day – but really! He never planned to do overnight trips, but hadn’t even made it onto the water in days and days of driving alongside the lake! He said the conditions just weren’t right! 

What does this have to do with motorcycling you ask? Nothing really, but it does illustrate the slippery slope of doing too much research and having too much gear and being so prepared that actually DOING the activity doesn’t happen. Some days I fear that this tendency for gadget-wired, performance-enhanced  motorcycles will actually keep people at home for fear of all of the accoutrements not functioning as advertised. 

I keep a quote with me in my daily planner that reads in part -- 

  “to have a home, small but perfect in comfort, so that the business of existing is subservient to the joy of living” 

If applied to the world of motorcycles, the parallel is obvious.  If maintaining the trip blog and programming the GPS, and ensuring that the satellite phone is kept absolutely dry and keeping the weather scanner on the right channel, are causing angst – then some of the magic of travelling by motorcycle is being sabotaged by the very equipment that should free you to enjoy the trip. Where is the pleasure of the ride when mental energy is being spent on such concerns? 

Sad indeed is the poor motorcyclist whose fancy radar detector unit malfunctions and lands him with a hefty speeding fine – if one has become utterly dependant on such an item, then its demise can potentially ruin the trip. 

I’m all for anything that will improve safety, enhance the pleasures of the trip or make life easier along the way. What does concern me is the tendency for the equipment to take priority over those aspects of motorcycling that we cherish – especially freedom. I fear that many people will be drawn unwittingly into the world of gadgetry because they have been lead to believe that all of this equipment is necessary. It just isn’t so! It is nice to have the options – useful stuff, handy, entertaining in its own way – but not obligatory to the enjoyment of the ride. 

Personally I’m fascinated by the new generation of GPS units for motorcycles that come complete with helmet mounted wireless speakers to advise you of every up-coming route decision. They are marvellous inventions that could take a lot of the worry out of navigating through unknown cities or back-country roads. But I’m just not in that much of a hurry most of the time, and I enjoy stopping to check the map. I enjoy planning with paper maps and marking my planned routes – then deviating from the plan… sometimes I even enjoy getting lost! We are collectively in danger of forgetting the real reason that we ride a motorcycle in the first place. It is the RIDE – not just getting to the destination that is paramount. 

Seriously, the equipment that is available now is astonishing and very functional. I just hope that people don’t forget that most of this stuff is an option and not mandatory. 

A safe and appropriate motorcycle, proper gear, good health and a positive and sober mind – these are the necessities for enjoying a ride. Good weather helps too! 

Ride safe, and don’t forget to wave! -- Alison Green