I sold my motorcycle back to my ex the other night after two or so years of deliberating whether or not I could actually part with it. While it no longer made sense to keep it (there really isn’t much about a motorcycle that’s practical to begin with), I had to unpack a lot of attachments associated with that hunk of metal and plastic, like all the memories, my perception that I was a lot cooler with a motorcycle, and my tendency to anthropomorphize inanimate objects, especially of the two-wheeled variety, before I could let it go.
That bike and I survived each other against odds that never seemed to be that great for rolling explosive devices in the first place. I dropped it countless times on loose, jagged rocks, I often neglected things like checking oil, or chain lube applications, or making sure fuel overflow lines were fit to do their job. On a very related note, one time, it caught fire in the desert, and I had many near-misses in traffic, some that I was very aware of, and likely many more that I was unaware of at all. Together we rumbled over high mountain passes here in Colorado, or just to work and back in the middle of the night. We skidded through sandy washes in Utah, and bucked some gnarly crosswinds on the plains through South Dakota. The bike carried everything I needed to eat and sleep for a few days, and quietly beared witness to nights of drinking around the campfire, recalling our misadventures of the day, and talking shit before we all finally wore ourselves down enough to go to sleep.
With the help of friends, I made sure the motorcycle came with me when I ended my decade-long volatile relationship, but with the exception of one weekend trip in the fall of 2020, the bike became nothing more than an occasional work commuter during the three or four months of our achingly short summer in the mountains. I no longer had anyone to ride with, as life did what life does – the moves, broken motorcycles, new relationships, and work had made it hard to get our old group together, even before my divorce. I held on to the bike because I held on to the hope that I would someday take it on more adventures, maybe with old friends, or new friends, or even by myself. I held on because it still made me smile during those 15 minute commutes, and sometimes, I would take the long way home. Eventually, I had to face some realities. I had no place of my own to store it for the winters, and had my tail between my legs when the ex offered to store it for me and I accepted. I didn’t have the workspace, or time, or skillset, for that matter, to do even basic maintenance. I couldn’t change my own tube when I had a flat tire, and almost got myself stranded.
While I feel bad for giving up on the motorbike, I decided that I can love the memories the bike has given me, and still let it go. Over the last few years, I have been dedicating most of my free time to riding bikes of the non-motorized flavor. These I can pick up by myself when I crash and I can load them in the car if I need to take them in for maintenance. This alone has given me the confidence and freedom to regain my sense of self, and to go places I didn’t quite have the skills for on the motorbike, whether I am with friends or alone. And I usually go alone. While riding and racing mountain bikes has brought new friends into my orbit, and I am looking forward to someday having a built-in riding buddy, there is nothing more empowering than passing other bikers and hikers on the trail, and as we give each other a courtesy roll-call of how many people to expect in each party, I get to tell them “it’s just me”.