A question the author is oftentimes asked is, “why do you ride? Isn’t it dangerous?” Depending on who is asking the question, my answer is, in turns, sarcastic, rude, patronizing or sometimes, just sometimes, I take the time and trouble to explain why.

This is, dear reader, one of those times. Sit down, make yourself comfortable and try and understand why I do this.

The “this” is of course, ride a motorcycle and write about it. More specifically, writing about motorcycles and motorcycling in paultan.org, a platform more for the car person.

There is a certain ‘image’ or ‘mythos’ attached to riding a motorcycle, most of it marketing hype perpetuated by the manufacturers. The mental picture of the “Lone Wolf” riding the highways, alone against the elements and railing against authority is a powerful image and one that sells bikes.

But, why do bikers do what they do? Why do they ride?

In Malaysia, as in most of South-East Asia, a motorcycle is considered to be one step up from a bicycle. Motorised transport, as it were.

Meant to be cheap, easy to maintain, reliable, a small motorcycle is used as family transport, business vehicle, school bus, daily commuter… You name it, it’s probably been used as such.

Then there is the other side of the equation, the rider who rides because he or she just… does. Going back to the question in the first paragraph, I am occasionally stumped when I am asked this.

Riding is as much as part of me as breathing. I can think of doing nothing else.

It is, intrinsically, a part of me as my writing. I ride because that is what I am.

So, for a certain segment of the riding population, and this is more apparent in First World countries than in the developing world, people ride for recreation. In Malaysia, we have both, the bikers who ride because they have to, because that is all they can afford and the bikers who basically own luxury toys.

Everyone in Malaysia is familiar with “rempits”, those young boys and souped-up small motorcycles zipping in and out of traffic, riding fast and dangerously. More than a few readers have had unfortunate encounters with these road hooligans.

The other is the super biker, who gets all togged up in a leather race suit and expensive helmet (sometimes not even that) and treats the road as a private race track. Most often seen on the Karak highway at weekends, behaving like everyone else on the road is to give way or suffer the consequences.

Then there is the rider who rides on the weekend for the pure enjoyment of it, meeting with buddies for a cup of coffee and a chat at some café or restaurant at a favourite ride destination. There are cross-overs, of course. The author is a good example of someone who rides daily because he chooses to, despite having other transport options available.

The riders who keep the big bike for the weekend or long trips and use a small motorcycle or scooter for daily riding duties and shorter trips. Then you have the rider who makes one bike, big or small, do everything.

But, why do we ride? Is there something special that sets riders apart?

For some, a motorcycle in their teen years is the first taste of freedom and independence. For others, it harkens back to their youth, of the time they were dating that hot classmate in college or the girl from the convent down the street.

And yet others take to the thrill of riding. For riders, the essence of the sport is your control over the motorcycle.

Fast or slow, a motorcycle demands attention from the rider, at all times. Failure to do so results in painful and expensive encounters with the tarmac, with road furniture, with other vehicles.

A car insulates you from the environment, a motorcycle makes you part of it. After all, motorcyclists are the only road users who carry their own crumple zones and impact absorption with them.

Hence, that sense of situational awareness and defensive riding on the road is second nature to every rider. Or if it isn’t, those riders tend to lead short but interesting lives.

Danger comes with riding and riders accept it as part and parcel of the sport. Of course, some riders have bigger or smaller risk appetites than others and in their wisdom, ride accordingly.

The gearing up, pulling on the boots and gloves, donning the helmet, puts one in mind of a knight going to battle. And for some riders that is the attraction.

Others prefer the cut and thrust of fast cornering and high speed. Still others take things off-road, where bike handling and reflexes are paramount.

Some take the long road, cruising along the highway for miles and miles, taking in the sights. Where, for them, the journey is as important as the destination.

And in this myriad of different motorcycle riding styles and riders, the one thing in common is, we ride. The author was once asked, “what happens when it rains?”

My answer to that was, “if it rains, you get wet.” Aside from tropical cloudbursts where vision is practically zero, I never stop for rain. And sometimes not even then.

Bikers tend to be independent, risk taking, fool hardy creatures. Who else would knowingly get on a vehicle that has no stability standing upright, with a fuel tank between the legs, with no protection other what can be worn, and ride?

Because, the mastery of a motorcycle is a rush like no other. Big or small, highway or dirt, hustling a motorcycle and making it submit to your bidding is a skill few master but many attempt.

A lot of writers have penned a multitude of words about riding motorcycles. Some wax lyrical, others are straight forward and to the point.

But I leave you with the words of Hunter S Thompson, one of my favourite writers and one who inspired me to start writing, some three decades ago.

“Faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.”