In a previous life I spent time trying to explain complex (and simple) theories. Let me introduce you to psychologist Abraham Maslow and his theory of self-actualisation.
Maslow believed that self-actualisation was a higher order experience, where self-actualisers, once lower order needs (like esteem, belonging and safety) have been satisfied can achieve peak experiences, or moments of joy and transcendence.
For you, my students of all things automotive, I have an example of self-actualisation. An experience that engaged all my senses, and enabled me to achieve a peak experience, a moment of joy and transcendence. On a motorbike.
Heading for the North West 200 race
Let me take you back some twenty years, when a dozen friends and I are heading to the North West 200, a motorbike road race in Northern Ireland.
We rode from Aberdeen, stopping at Dunblane to pick up the rest of the chapter, and enjoy a rock and roll cup of tea and cake. Of course, much chat and cake meant we were running late to catch the ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast.
On account of rush hour traffic, if we were driving four wheeled vehicles we’d never have made it to the port on time, but on our variety of iron horses we did.
It was a fast ride (within speed limits), fully laden with soft luggage, on unfamiliar roads, and as we arrived at Cairnryan with time to spare the group were able to swap stories about skilled overtakes and one bike falling over.
A happy meal later the ferry delivered us into Belfast on a warm summer evening.
My self-actualisation came on the one hour ride from Belfast to Portrush. I hope I can paint the picture for you. We were at the front of the boat as the ramp dropped onto Northern Irish soil.
I clicked the Suzuki into gear, dropped the clutch, twisted the accelerator and followed my brother into the darkening Belfast evening.
The pack were behind us as we weaved our way swiftly through the motorway network in the city and very quickly we were on the open county roads heading north.
The evening was dry and warm, it was a tee-shirt night (although we were clad in leather), with enough moonlight to see the road and fields beyond. I was having my own adventure, pulling the revs, and unusually for me, moving competently up and down the gears.
Peak bike performance and gliding through a warm night
The warm clear night meant the bike engines were breathing well, delivering peak performance, and my bike was responding well under me. With a little physical input we were gliding through the night.
I loved everything about being out in the open summer air that night: the smell of harvest from the fields, the noise from the warm engine between my legs, the view of the countryside around me over the backlit dancing rev counter and speedo, and my co-ordinated physical activity with my hands and feet rewarding me with smooth progress up the A26.
A not so easy-rider
Best of all I was following my brother’s taillights with the pack’s headlights in my mirrors. I was enjoying the pleasure of riding competently on my own, while in the company and safety of great friends. A sense of achievement and a sense of belonging.
But, to be honest, I don’t find riding motorbikes easy. I sold the last one years ago as it was too uncomfortable. But this year I’m back, remembering the romance, challenge and practicality of two wheels and with a desire to self-actualise again.
After a Lock Down year of negotiation, I bought a tiny mileage 2003 Honda VFR from the Strathmore Vintage Vehicle Club at Glamis.
It’s a peach, when I first saw it I knew I had to have it. After a new set of tyres and a full MOT I’ve now run up a few hundred miles. Back on the road I’m exhilarated and frightened in equal measure.
Usually for the first few miles I’m making a mental note to ride home and put it on e-Bay, Gumtree, Press and Journal classifieds and Facebook, as I feel I’m going to: crash, fall off, or have a head-on collision.
Can a large ape ride a Monkey Bike? Well, yes, I can
And ahhh, it’s so uncomfortable, I’m sitting on a plank between two wheels. Then I manage to get round a corner with a degree of confidence, the tar sticks to the tyres, the pain is forgotten, and I’m being rewarded for my physical efforts. This makes me feel alive!
There’s something both challenging and fun about travelling on two wheels. But can being born to be wild be part of the answer to our future transportation problem? An old schoolfriend who has owned a Honda 400/4 since new, has just bought a new fun-size motorbike.
As cities like Aberdeen move towards a more anti-car stance maybe motorbikes could be part of the answer
Not fun-size as in Mars confectionery, which is a cynically mean version of the more fun large bar, no, this is proper fun in miniature. It’s a Monkey Bike. Can a large ape ride a Monkey Bike? Well, yes, I can.
Sure, it’s only got four gears, but it can put a smile on your face, and I’d say it’s ideal for city use and shorter journeys. As cities like Aberdeen move towards a more anti-car stance maybe motorbikes could be part of the answer.
Two-wheel motoring leaves more tarmac for cyclists and pedestrians and is space efficient in parking. Most importantly though this Green argument gives us all the opportunity to self-actualise. Thank you, Maslow.