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.

4 thoughts on “5 Life Lessons I Picked up from Riding a Motorcycle”

  1. Hey SGbikerboy, I’ve been reading your whole blog now and am really inspired by you… I got my 2B license about 2 months back, and did so without my parents knowledge. On the night of getting my license I broke the news to them and they flipped. I got destroyed that night hahah…

    They had the standard concerns of danger and all, but they really had nothing going into their heads.

    So I just wanna ask, how can I convince them to allow me to ride? Would love to hear from an experienced rider like you.

    1. Hi Reuven – thanks for reaching out, and congratulations to your obtaining of your 2B license!

      You’re probably not gonna be too happy hearing this – but you really should NOT be doing something that your family and loved ones strongly disapproves. The thing is, every situation is different. And I can’t advise on how you could convince them otherwise. Try sharing your views on WHY you’d like to ride a motorcycle, and what you intend to do to keep yourself safe. Perhaps with time, patience and lots of enthusiasm, they might just see your point.

      In any case, good luck and ride safe!

  2. Firstly, Hi SGbikerboy. Greetings from Penang. I have recently just found your blog by chance and So far it is an interesting read. I just got back to riding (~3 years ago) and just started a blog.

    Secondly Hi Rueven. I do agree with what SBB mentioned in his reply to your comment and I would like to share my 2 cents on how to put your family’s mind at ease. I had the same issue you are facing.

    You need to reassure them that you won’t be speeding and will be riding within your limits. What I notice in new riders (myself included) is they tend to speed. One very good advice I got from the motorcycle salesman is this: “The main problem with new riders; especially those on racing bikes; only want to go fast but they have not learnt how to use the brake properly to slow down.” Go slow. Remember better late than never.

    Another way to put their mind at ease is to promise them that you will call them and inform them when you have arrived at your destination safely. I called my mum everytime I am leaving and when I have arrived at my destination. Now I Do the same thing but with my missus and not my mum.

    Also don’t put your ego aside while riding. Let other bikes overtake you. The objective of the game is to arrive safely at your destination and not who arrives first.

    Try to wear as much gears as possible to help put their minds at ease too. Parents will surely flip when they know their children is going to take up motorcycling. I was lucky as my mum encouraged me and my sister to take up the motorcycle license as a means of transportation during emergency but not as a means of transportation. She also flipped when she learned I was using the bike more than a car. It’s their normal reaction to their children’s safety.

    Last tip is promise them you will not go riding at night, in rainy seasons and if your gut feeling tells you not to ride today. Always listen to your gut feeing. It is like your guardian angel.

    For me all vehicles are dangerous. The only thing that is standing in the way of your safety is you. Always remember to respect your ride.

    It will take some time and maybe ears to fully convince them but they will come around surely but slowly.

    1. Hey Kelvin!

      Thanks for dropping by and penning your thoughts here! Congratulations to your re-entry into the riding world! I’m certain you’ll enjoy your new adventures with your D7! Ride safe, and rubber side down!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *