Many motorcyclists ride as a way to relieve stress, to "clear the mind." Despite the fact that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance speaks very little about motorcycle maintenance, or Zen, some enthusiasts believe the link to be a natural one. Zen is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism which strongly emphasizes the practice of moment-by-moment awareness and of "seeing deeply into the nature of things by direct experience." Motorcycling demands moment-by-moment awareness and, unlike driving, rewards the rider with direct experience.
Hunter S. Thompson's book Hell's Angels includes an ode to the joys of pushing a motorcycle to its limits on the open road: he states that "with the throttle screwed on there is only the barest margin, and no room at all for mistakes... that's when the strange music starts, [and]... fear becomes exhilaration [and the]... only sounds are the wind and a dull roar floating back from the mufflers. Similarly, T. E. Lawrence wrote of the "lustfulness of moving swiftly" and the "pleasure of speeding on the road" on a motorcycle, which he compared to the sensation of "feel[ing] the earth moulding herself under me", coming alive, and "heaving and tossing on each side like a sea."
Milan Kundera also noted that "speed is the form of ecstasy the technical revolution has bestowed on man"; unlike a runner, "when man delegates the faculty of speed to a machine" such as a motorbike, "from then on, his own body is outside the process, and he gives over to a speed that is noncorporeal, nonmaterial, pure speed, speed itself, ecstasy speed." Not all motorcyclists have a "need for speed", but many do. Speed draws many people to motorcycling, because the power-to-weight ratios of even low-power motorcycles rivals that of an expensive sports car. The power-to-weight ratio of high power sport bikes is well beyond any mass-production automobile. All for a fraction of the price of those automobiles.
High speeds on a motorcycle can also be more exhilarating than high speeds in an automobile. Not only is the sensation of speed greater since the rider is not separated from the environment of the road, but motorcycles negotiate turns by leaning. And the greater the speed, the greater the lean, sometimes to the point of scraping parts of the motorcycle on the road. Some riders will point proudly to the worn-away parts of their motorcycle, proof that they take turns so fast that they must lean the motorcycle over to the limits of its capabilities.
Historically, wrenching was a necessary skill for riders, since the materials and technology used in motorcycles often meant that repairs had to be done on the road-side miles from home. Modern motorcycles are as reliable as automobiles, but the feeling that many riders have that their motorcycle is more than just a means of transportation leads them to want to do any wrenching on the bike themselves. This drive to wrench reaches its zenith with rat bikes. Riders of rats eschew paying anyone else to work on their motorcycles on principle, and therefore do all their own wrenching.
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