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Common Tread

Seven things I learned from dating a motorcyclist

Dec 18, 2015

In the past 12 months, I’ve learned a lot about my boyfriend by striving to comprehend his relationship with motorcycling.

Though in the beginning I tended to brush off his enthusiasm, thinking it was “just a hobby,” I’ve come to understand what having a “passion” really means. I’ve personally never known a love like that. Maybe I never will. But as an interested observer, I have learned these things in a year of loving a motorcyclist.

1. Motorcycles, and those who ride them, suddenly became powerfully, inexplicably sexy

Motorcyclists are sexy. Photo by Kate Chisolm.
Before dating a motorcyclist, I honestly never noticed them much beyond the occasional jolt of recognition when one sped past me on a highway. But after the first time I watched him zip up his leather jacket, disappear beneath a helmet, and zoom away from my house with 500 pounds of roaring metal between his legs, my opinion... changed. Though I still know next to nothing about what I’m admiring, I can now be found ogling a random bike parked on the street, admiring finely crafted gear, and even drooling over trackday footage.

2. I’ve had plenty of time to maintain an active inner life

Motorcycling is a lifestyle. Regardless of where it starts, if a conversation goes on long enough, it will eventually circle back around to motorcycling. Since my beau has a far greater capacity for motorcycle-related details than the average bear, I’m left with plenty of time to follow my own mental tangents to whatever enlightened tidbit or pop song lyric they might lead me to. And that’s not the only benefit.

3. I’ve learned some fun new words

Farkles. ‘Nuff said.

Understanding his passion. Photo by Kate Chisolm.

4. I notice other motorcyclists — constantly

The best way to get people to “Watch for Motorcycles” is to make everyone date a motorcyclist. The combination of absolute paranoia about my own partner’s safety and the Baader Meinhof Phenomenon (a.k.a. the frequency illusion, where the thing you just found out about seems to crop up everywhere) means that in the past year I’ve seen more motorcyclists than I previously imagined existed on the planet, let alone in my city.

5. I have become familiar with a nagging fear of worst-case scenarios

Whenever I know my dude is going to be on his bike, whether for a long trip or just a trip to the store, my mind inevitably wanders to a hospital bed. I’ll suffice it to say that my imagination is graphic, and that at this point I have contingency plans for situations most people don’t casually ponder in quiet moments. The anxiety is always close, because the fear is real. Motorcycling is a dangerous business, and there’s a lot that lies beyond the control of even the most skilled, responsible rider. And yet, I would never ask him to give it up. Partly because I’m really cool and evolved, but mostly because…

Motorcycling fills a specific, unique shape in some people's lives. Photo by Kate Chisolm.

6. I understand that motorcycles occupy a space in the lives and hearts of motorcyclists that cannot be filled by any other shape

I’ve often heard the advice that those who expect one person to fulfill all of their needs will always be disappointed. Perhaps it is my acceptance of this truth that made it so clear to me that motorcycling gives the person I love something that nothing else in the world can. This is why, despite the danger, I’ll never ask him to stop. How could I ask someone I claim to love to give up something that provides him such a profound sense of identity and peace? It seems ridiculous.

Not everyone who rides has this feeling, and not every partnership arrives at the same conclusion, but in my house, embracing his hobby was a decision I had to make once (because it would be too easy to talk myself out of).

motorcycle helmet
Easing into motorcycling. Photo by Kate Chisolm.

7. I ended up with a license

After a year of burning with jealousy over his road trips, his gear, his earnestness,  the utter freedom of it all (and the fact that for him, riding a motorcycle doesn’t mean staring at the back of a helmet), I ended up with an M on my license. I’m cheap and scared, so it’ll probably be a minute or two before I get a bike of my own, but having tasted the thrill of gripping handlebars instead of his waist, I suspect it won’t be too long.