My bike reached 50 tonight and it thrilled me.
That blood-rush which I hadn’t felt for such a long time came back to me tonight and made my face glow. I admit it a little reluctantly only because of the way it came and I’ve no doubt that if my past self were here to witness it, he would have chuckled at the smile that a minuscule 50 km/h brought to my face.
It was about 9pm and I was riding east along Dien Bien Phu St. Sitting in top gear with the engine ticking over at an easy 7000rpm my Suzuki was effortlessly skimming over the afternoon’s rain, which remained in the form of shallow puddles dotted across the uneven asphalt. From the internal ‘fast’ lane I looked right, left and behind me– no other bikes, cars or people could be seen. For those few seconds I felt as alone and free as I have in ages and as the cool night whooshed over my open face I couldn’t help but feel content in my unbridled happiness. For a brief moment me and the bike were one and I achieved a what can only be described as a kind of biker nirvana. Two hundred meters further and I was stopped by a red light and again surrounded by a throng of fellow riders yet still content.
Looking back, I realise I’ve actually been quite lucky to own some pretty nice sports bikes. My fastest was a Zxr600 Kawasaki Ninja and my sexiest had been a Yamaha TRX 850. At nineteen years old, my first bike was a tiny but powerful four cylinder in-line 250cc Ninja and it too was more than capable of enough speed to effortlessly kill me. So of course, this meant that most weekends I’d cover my entire body in leather (the protective kind) and go riding up and down the tight, twisty and cliff lined roads north of Sydney. I also had the chance to hit 240 km/h on my second track day at Eastern Creek Raceway which was the fastest I ever went. What a thrill and a euphoric high that speed can bring and whenever I wasn’t riding all I wanted to do was be on that bike. I was addicted and craved that next adrenaline hit but more often than night it would never live up to the high expectations that had been building up inside me over the previous week.
The powerful corning, breakneck speeds and the challenge to keep your momentum going are amazing fun but even at the time, no matter how fast the blood was pumping through my veins, I never felt truly satisfied me by it. After a few scary moments over a few years I woke up one day and realised that I valued my life a lot more than pushing its boundaries. Whatever positives I was getting from it were far outweighed by the potential outcomes so I gave up bikes but told myself it was only till I was older and a bit wiser.
Nowadays, I assume I’m at least a little smarter as things have become a lot clearer to me. Vietnam’s roads don’t really encourage that speed or hard cornering which I used to seek. Not only are the roads chock-a-block full of unpredictable traffic and other obstacles but most of the bikes here aren’t really designed for aggressive riding styles. That’s all irrelevant anyway because now I just can’t understand why someone would actually knowingly risk it all at such high stakes? I have learnt that I can get the same satisfaction out of riding a motorbike at a comfortable 50 km/h so why would I waste my energy and risk my life at an uncontrollable 150 km/h? No matter how much fun it seems in the moment, going fast brings no real sustainable happiness or enjoyment. It’s a superficial pleasure.
It’s a bit like standing on your toes, stretching for that book on the very top of the bookshelf and barely being able to skim a finger on it’s edge. Why waste all that energy and effort when there is an identical copy sitting at chest height and like true pleasure, it’s within easy reach – much easier than we realise.
With a growing trend of flashier and much quicker high-powered sports bikes, the future on Saigon’s roads are worrying. You don’t need the speed to make the roads here anymore treacherous than they already are besides – others are much happier and more willing to join you when you have more control over your where your headed.
My bike reached 50 tonight and it taught me a thing or two.