I used to pride myself on how fast I was in the canyons. I was a member of the illustrious “Primer Grey Crew.” To be in the PGC you had to be damn fast and also own a bike that was not considered top-notch machinery. The bike needed a small engine, cheap suspension, or just had to be a few generations old from the latest kit that was being lauded in the magazines.
The fast guys all had primer grey paint somewhere on their bike. It was because they crashed and had to repair the damage. They had the time to make the bike functional, but the effort to add paint was beyond their means or desire. Paint is used to keep rust away, so the only practical reason to paint plastic is to sell testosterone-laden men a new motorcycle, or to convince estrogen-laden women to talk to the owners of such motorcycles. The PGC had no time for this. We did not cruise the boulevards for approval of outsiders… we cruised the cliff-lined canyons in search of corners so tight our footpegs and exhausts would shower sparks behind us as we leaned impossibly through rock-strewn hairpins.
I was king of this environment. I had no fear, made no apologies. I took no quarter and I gave none. I have shoved my body through the tall grass lining a corner because it was the fast way through, simply assuming no tall rocks were hidden in their depths. I have left skidmarks in my wake, along with the baffled faces of slack-jawed pretenders who tried to keep up. The PGC made no apologies. Speed was the goal and the dragon we had to slay.
I cannot tell you the day it happened, but I can tell you what was happening in my mind. I was destroying a particular section of canyon. I was one with the machine. I was on the rear tire of the rider in front of me, and the two of us were leaving behind another few riders. The PGC was in full effect. The comment afterward was seemingly of no importance. One of the slower riders mentioned how he was thinking of his newborn son during the ride. The risks he took in each turn were weighed against his desire to watch his newborn son grow up, go to school, start football.
I remembered a phrase in racing that a wife costs you 0.2 seconds per lap and each child adds 0.5 seconds. It occurred to me that “winning” in the canyons was a game of risk, not of skill. The fastest man in the canyons— the man who took the most risk– was not the fastest or even the bravest. No, he was the man that had the least to lose. Having nothing to lose gives you an easy chance to put everything on the table. But your version of everything is not the next person’s version. Showing you are fastest in the canyons means showing you have the least to lose.
This does NOT make you the bravest. If you chose to play on this field, you have taken the easy route. Truly, the man who is bravest has had the courage to love a person enough to commit to them for life. They may have even created another living person and have committed to making that person into a functioning adult…perpetuating our species…our culture. Then–on top of all that– they choose recreation on a public road at high speed with a motorcycle. Well, it doesn’t take a primer grey “badge of honor” to respect that. Simply showing up means that rider has put a lot on the table for their sport.
Although I still remain unencumbered in the conventional sense– no person to call and say I am safe at the end of the day– I can admire with certainty the people who chose to adventure in life while knowing there are people depending on their safe return each day. THAT… is courage. THAT… is playing the game of life “all in.”