Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lane Splitting on the Strait and Narrow

lane splitting
The year was 1520 when Ferdinand Magellan sailed his fleet through a narrow passage on the cape of South America, in what now called today, "The Strait of Magellan".

At the time, people believed that if you sailed far south enough, you'd reach the Gates of Hell. The fleet had sailed so far south, and found the waters choppy and the winds cold, that his men mutinied, and Magellan had lost some ships.

But determined was Magellan to push on in search of the elusive passage that would connect Europe with Asia.

As they entered the Strait, temperatures grew much more cold, and they found ice floating in the water.  The ships were tossed about.  In the distance, they could see fire and plumes of smoke, lit up by natives that they did know exist. Magellan named the area, Tierra Del Fuego, the land of fire. The crew thought for certain that they had sailed right up to the Gates of Hell.

Magellan, however, wasn't going to let Hell ruin his cup of tea. He was still smart enough, and skilled enough, to stay on course, navigating through the dangerous waters. and eventually out into the wide, warm waters of the Pacific.

At the time, the Pacific Ocean was named Mar Del Sur by Vasco Nunez de Balboa. But because Magellan was so rewarded by the calm seas, he renamed it, Pacifico.

As I raced down the freeway on my way home, I could see red taillights ahead, causing me to cut back on the throttle, making the roar of the ST's V4 motor to wind down.  I kick it down a gear, slowing some more, and then kicked it down yet another gear.

Like a Boeing 737 preparing to land, I made my approach, waited for the moment to come, and then guided my bike down the narrow path of cars stopped on the freeway.

Lane splitting can be like a test of skills and a rite of passage, where if you use your senses, and not so much your focus, where you're just feeling your way through like Luke Skywalker in an X-Wing Fighter, then you've made a connection between yourself and the motorcycle that's almost spiritual.

Along the way, I pass by other motorcycle riders who opted to stay behind the cars, getting caught up in the traffic.  I come up to another rider who's lane splitting, but at a much slower speed.  Every rider learns at their own pace.

The bumpy ride over the dots and reflectors glued to the pavement lessens my maneuverability.  My eyes are focused on a tiny square in the center of my retina depicting the width of space between side mirrors of vehicles well up ahead.  I'm hardly moving my body, giving the ST only minimal input.

Somehow my brain is able to detect the motions of cars and trucks beside me and my body and hands make the necessary adjustments to the steering.  Brain, hands, body, steering, braking, accelerating, it all works together in one fluid, poetic motion.

Going 40mph would otherwise seem like a piece of cake, but seems damn fast when you have only a four to five foot window to navigate through with stopped vehicles on either side, and the constant vigil for drivers who look like they're ready to make a lane change.

I manage to get myself into a groove, and find myself flying along.  Eventually I come up to the accident, get past it, and now all I see is empty, wide open freeway.  I crank the throttle and punch it into high gear.

I can't help but think that the few motorcyclists who opted not to lane split are still way back there, definitely safe, but stuck in traffic.

There's something almost spiritual about taking the more dangerous route, the more bumpy road, that requires one to focus and make the greatest use of their skills.  We could just play it safe, stay in traffic and wait it out.  But what if you could maximize your potential and find greater reward by taking the narrow, less obvious path?

Am I to remain in lock step with the rest of the flock, under some general idea that I'm safer this way, or should I be among the few that says "fuck you!", and lives by his own design?



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About Steve

San Diego, CA-based motorcycle rider who likes long road trips, old rustic bars, craft beer, and tough women. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, writing about the mysteries of life. (Read more...)