What’s in a Motorcycle Mile?

by Liz Jansen

What you pay attention to grows.

Numbers make it easy to measure and compare. But to be significant, they need to be meaningful.

motorcycle-mileHaving just returned from an extended trip across western Canada, I’m often asked what it was like. It was an extraordinary experience and I love to share my stories and hear those of others. Invariably, I’m asked, “How many miles did you travel?” Then I have to think about it because other than for general planning and motorcycle maintenance, I don’t keep track of how far I’ve gone. It’s not a meaningful metric for me.

I often see people describe their travels by the number of miles covered or countries/states/provinces visited. That’s fine, but tell me about the people that touched your heart, the times your breath was taken away by the sheer splendor of nature, the kindness you received. That’s what I want to hear about.

For some people it is important to test their limits, prove to themselves what they can do, so they push themselves beyond what most of us could endure. Paul Pelland, aka Long Haul Paul, is such a person. He’s riding a million miles with MS, for MS. So far he’s traveled more than 200,000 miles, raised over $85,000 towards MS research in four years, and inspired thousands of people. He’s following his heart and making a difference.

For someone else, the mere accomplishment of learning to ride may be the impetus for doing other things in life they thought were out of reach.

Everyone rides for their own reasons and they can’t be measured in miles. They’re not measured by how many motorcycles are parked in your garage. Whether you ride solo or in groups, on-road, off-road, or race, doesn’t matter. Nor does the brand of motorcycle you have.

Earlier this week I bumped into a friend I haven’t seen in years. After our initial greeting, she asked, “Are you still riding?” “Sure am,” I responded. “That’s what keeps you so young,” she offered.

What wanted to come out was, “It’s because it’s what my heart wants to do, not because it’s a motorcycle.” Instead, I thanked her and nodded. I was grateful for the compliment.

Motorcycling’s not for everyone, but if it’s ‘for you’, it’s really for you. You know it, even if you’re fearful about learning to ride or getting out on the road. If you truly want to learn to ride, you’ll get past those obstacles and become a rider. And you’ll love it.

But if you’re riding for any other reason, like someone else wants you to do it, or all your friends are learning, it’s not going to work. You won’t enjoy it, it will be stressful, and you’re at greater risk of a mishap. There’s something else your heart wants to do, something you have a special gift for that will energize you when you share it.

Even if you ride, it doesn’t mean you have to stay with it permanently or ride a minimum number of miles per year. Interests and life circumstances change, and with that, sometimes the motorcycle is in your life to help through a transition or teach you something.

Then it’s time to part ways.

When you follow your own calling and do what you are here to do, good things happen. And that’s what counts.

That’s how we grow. And that’s how we make a difference.

photo credit: Sònia Pereda (Grandma’s) country road via photopin (license)


Author, writer, student and motorcycle aficionado Liz Jansen combines her artistic mediums to create stories that inspire readers to embark on their own journey of self-discovery. No helmet or jacket required.

10 Comments on “What’s in a Motorcycle Mile?

  1. I’ve often wondered what it’s like to be riding for days on in and how liberating of the spirit it must be, but it’s all so contingent on weather or so I imagine. When I envy motorcyclists it’s usually because the conditions are perfect and it seems like the greatest adventure, but when the weather is messy, chilly etc., not so much. But I suppose that after a while you sort of toughen up and bond with the bike and go with the flow of the adventure. Right?

    • Hi Gary,
      Weather makes a difference but unless it’s unsafe to travel, the difference is in how you prepare for it. If you stayed in every time the forecast showed rain, you’d never get out. Weather is part of the experience. Anybody can ride in perfect conditions. When you’re traveling, you’ve got to deal with what you get. And that’s when you learn about your self.

  2. Hi Liz,
    Thanks for another great insight into motorcycling and life in general. I always look forward to your writing. Still looking forward to a Mojo article from you.

  3. Liz – great article. I was one of those who fought through the fear because there was something inside of me that was fulfilled only by riding. Over the years, that fear is gone – however, I’m still very cautious and alert. I learned to ride later in life – age 59 – and now, at age 67, I love it more than ever.

    I agree too about the long trips. I want to “see,” not “measure.” While I usually do know about how many miles I have gone, I take trips to see and soak in all that’s around me, stopping when there is something beautiful to see because I don’t care about riding a certain number of miles. I ride to be part of the world around me in a way that nothing else provides.

    Thanks for the article.

  4. Liz – You are so spot-on when you said learning to ride won’t work if you’re doing it for someone else. My husband & I are both MSF Rider Coaches and we see this situation play out time and time again. The husband or boyfriend bringing the wife/girlfriend to a class because “she wants to ride her own bike” (translates to: I don’t want her on the back of mine any more). Most times we see the student drop out or get counseled out of the class because riding is just not for them. Many times, the student will confide in me (being a female) that she really doesn’t want to ride, but her partner wants her to. I explain to them that it’s totally OK and they shouldn’t be concerned with what someone else wants for them – only what they want. It’s heart breaking because, when they are not successful, they feel like they failed. I try my best to explain it just how you worded it. Sometimes they feel better, sometimes they don’t.

    • Lisa – you’ve articulated it so well. It’s indicative of a greater pattern. We can see it, but can only guide.