Motorcycle maintenance is far more than checking the oil once a month and maybe looking at the tires once they start squealing. Polishing a fender or cleaning a rim is a portal to concepts of mortality.
Operating and maintaining a motorcycle is much more like an airplane than a car or truck. Car or truck drivers seldom think of their oil or coolant levels. Infrequently the tires are checked for wear and typically lights are ignored until a police officer issues a ticket.
With a motorcycle, as with an airplane, it is different. Low oil can cause a motor to seize up, in a matter of moments. Tires with insufficient air pressure or excessive wear can be a catastrophe waiting to happen. Lights are SO important. A single missing tail light on many motorcycles, means they are virtually invisible at night.
On vehicles such as these, the little things are vitally, if not mortally important. A loose brake caliper can mean near instant death to a motorcyclist. To a pilot, a broken brake caliper can throw the plane into a ground loop or even cause the entire landing gear to separate from the craft at touchdown or take-off.
Preparing to take a bike out on a ride is much more than turning the key and hopping on. It is like a plane's preflight check. Turning signals; lights; front brake; rear brake; throttle; clutch; tires; oil; brake fluid; gas; chain; and constantly checking for loose items. If any of these are not operating correctly or within tolerance, they can easily be the direct or indirect cause of death.
Polishing the fenders and forks and suspension and gas tank provides ample time to think of these things.
I have never been one to buy things because they are “new and shiny.” I typically prefer function over form when it comes to my vehicles. This is an interesting case.
The bike's sharpness, the shiny suppleness of the rubber hoses and cables and fenders, are simply not for show. They are functional. Part of a bike's purpose is to draw attention. This is not for some self aggrandizing reason; simply an important purpose. Shiny and bright -equals- more noticeable and less likely a car driver will fail to see it.
I can't help but think of these things as I carefully ensure the hoses are clean and check for loose bolts and connectors and cables. And while thinking of physical mortality for a while; I think of emotional mortality and of my friends who were shiny and brilliant and caring and protected my emotional mortality.
The next time you see a red motorcycle being ridden by a guy with long hair, please pause. If you are my friend, and it is I on that bike, be prepared for a hug or twelve. Life is too short for one to not show a friend their thanks and appreciation.