5 Life Lessons I Picked up from Riding a Motorcycle

Taking my motorcycle license was a response to a mid-life crisis call for some adventure. And a bike purchase came naturally and rather quickly after I’ve got my license. So I’ve just started riding since early this year, and each ride has not only increased my technical competence and confidence, but also taught me valuable lessons in life.


1. You are small. You are very small.

Inarguably, motorcycles are the amongst smallest motor-driven vehicles on the the road – notwithstanding the latest craze of powered bicycles and personal mobility devices. And just like riders are sharing the road with the larger vehicles, we as individual human beings, are sharing the world with other (often larger) animals too. So respect what Mother Nature has given us and learn to share the limited resources that are available to us all.


2. Focus on what’s ahead of you. No distractions.

I drive too. And when I do, I find myself occasionally distracted with many things – fiddling the radio to get the correct station playing your music, dialling the air-conditioning knob to get the correct temperature, talking to fellow passenger(s) in the car, or (gasp!) meddling with my mobile phone and answering text messages – okay, admittedly, at traffic light stops. But when I’m on my bike, it’s just me, my bike, and the road. No distractions. Just pure focus on the road ahead of me and looking out for any crazy drivers trying to knock me down. And I actually feel less sleepy on long rides than when I’m on long drives. And I think many of us should “ride the bike of life” than “drive the car of life”. We need to focus on what’s important. Focus on what’s ahead. And not let the smaller things in life (like radio and air-conditioning) distract us from our true goals in life.


3. What’s right may be wrong. What’s wrong, may actually be right.

I recently encountered a minor incident; I was losing concentration at a traffic light junction and by the time I noticed that the lights have turned yellow, I was very near the stop line. Nevertheless, I slammed on my brakes and came to a screeching stop – albeit over the line, but nevertheless still safe. But on reflection (and at the comments of many whom witnessed my stupid act that I captured on video), I should not have risked putting myself in that vulnerable position. What if I skidded and fell? What if a truck came ramming me from behind? As I pondered over the situation, I realised that my decision to come to a stop was to be right – not “beating” the red light. But by doing so, I put myself, and possibly others, at risk. I guess this also applies to many other things in life. Sometimes, we make stupid decisions thinking that we are “doing the right thing”. Yes, perhaps many decisions are indeed “right”. But sometimes, there is a “bigger right” that can only be achieved with a “wrong” – just like saving oneself by going through the junction instead of slamming the brakes and getting hit from behind. Of course, I’m NOT advocating beating red lights and then justifying the decision with saving skin. But there are times when following through with a bad decision (if it has already been made) is better than trying to correct a bad decision.


4. Put your ego aside. Life is too short for egos.

As many riders would have also similar experiences, I’ve had my fair share of idiot drivers. Drivers who think that their bigger vehicles have better entitlement to the road use than the puny motorcycles – perhaps because they pay more road tax, or maybe because they paid more for their cars. But being a (somewhat) middle-aged person, with a loving wife and a beautiful young child, my priorities are very different from my previously bashful youthful self. If an accident were to occur, it doesn’t matter as much if I were legally or technically correct, but the probability of me getting hurt is significantly higher than the cabin-caged driver. Yes, perhaps I’m kiasi (afraid to die). But saving skin is my higher priority now. I may have the right of way, but I now choose to give way. Because an a**h**e driver cutting into my lane without signalling may hurt my ego, but (if I can help it) I’ll never allow him to hurt my skin.

And I think we can achieve so much more peace of mind if we adopt more of this mentality. Sometimes, certain events frustrate me. But I’ve learnt to let such events hurt my ego, than to hurt me proper – emotionally, financially, physically or opportunistically. Because, it’s easy to repair an ego – especially if you WANT to. But not so easy for some other things in life.


5. What’s inconvenient may actually be very convenient.

Before I picked up riding, I had always thought that riding a motorcycle was a very inconvenient form of transport. It’s almost always either sunny or raining in Singapore – neither of which are ideal weather conditions for travelling without an air-conditioned cabin and roof over your head. Sweat in the sun? Yuck! Splashed by the rain? OMG!

Perhaps also because I’m a weekend / leisure rider. I ride in the mornings. I ride weekends. I ride in the cool evenings. But as I ride, I realised that I experienced many more “nice weather” days than “foul weather” days. And in my recently 360km trip up to Kuala Lumpur, I realised that I had the advantage of weaving through the snaking lines of cars caught in the infamous KL traffic jam, and arrive at my destination faster than if I had driven up instead.

Although Singapore has the reputation of having the most expensive cars in the world (over $100,000 for a 1.6L Toyota Altis??!), riding a motorcycle is often seen as a “lower” form of transport, or a “poor man’s” transport. The “rich” drive, and the “poor” ride. But I now appreciate riding a motorcycle to be a very efficient form of transport – in terms of cost (way cheaper than cars – in both purchase and running costs such as parking and ERP), resource (40km/l of petrol vs 8.5km/l on my car), and time (when stuck in traffic). It has it’s downsides, of course. But when properly applied, riding a bike can be a very useful solution to the transport problem. Is this for everyone? Definitely not. But I’m now thinking, “why didn’t I start riding earlier?” I suppose it’s the same in life – sometimes, the “lower” form solution may actually be the “better” solution in some way. Again, not for everything (everyone). But definitely worth considering.

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