“Wind Therapy” — Thanks Mike!

Mike Sheehan is a friend from a long time ago. We met sometime in 1973 after we Forristalls  (then Mom, Dad and 9 of us kids) were evicted from 17 Harvard Street in Somerville, MA. That’s when we invaded 1 Montrose Street in Somerville and shortly after were introduced to the Sheehan clan. If memory serves me, we Forristalls hit it off quickly with the Sheehan boys (translation: we both enjoyed the same level and types of ‘mischief!’).

Thanks to Facebook I caught back up with Mike about a year ago to find out he’s an avid Harley Davidson enthusiast – who now sports white hair on his head and chin and is a grandfather. On one of his Facebook posts he used the term, “Wind Therapy” in reference to jumping on his bike and going for a ride to get away from whatever it was he was doing. Man, he nailed the concept, in just 2 words, of what it’s like to zip down the highway on 2 wheels.

As I was riding to work this morning, Mike’s “Wind Therapy” concept was running through my mind as I tried figure out a way I might be able to describe that concept or feeling — that riding a bike is like therapy — to someone who doesn’t ride a motorcycle. These are some of the ideas that bumped around inside my head.

It’s the closest thing to understanding how a bird feels. Zipping along the highway – especially in the darkness of 5:00 am – helps you imagine the freedom a bird might feel soaring solo above the earth. The only thing separating you from the birds is a little physics holding you on the ground.

It’s a freedom one just can’t experience in an automobile. What can it be that gives this feeling? I think, as Mike said it best, it’s the wind. Not just in your face, but buffeting your chest, whistling through your helmet, hitting your knuckles even through your gloves, flapping the bottom of your pant legs, and simply inducing the feeling of being in flight.

It’s the way things ahead of you are crystal clear then become a flashing blur in your peripheral vision. It’s the way your peripheral vision detects the dashed white lane lines blinking by you below your feet. And this is a phenomenon lost when you actually look down at the lines. There’s even a more cool factor when you drive through a tunnel. Going through the tunnel on I-10 West beneath Central Ave in Phoenix Arizona, my peripheral vision above me picked up the tunnel’s roof lights as flashing blurs while the stillness of no wind created a vacuum effect luring me to the other end of the tunnel.

It’s defying gravity. Hold any object at a 45 degree angle and let it go. What happens? It falls over. Hold your bike at a 45 degree angle while negotiating through a wide highway turn and what happens? Defying gravity! No you and your bike do NOT fall over. Instead you start feeling the minor G-forces of the turn wanting to pull you to the outer edges of the curve while your counter steering and corner-side leaning help propel you in your intended direction. I can only imagine how cool it must be for fighter pilots to experience the G-forces they do when completing a high-speed turn.

It’s the ultimate trust factor – trust in your ability to harness the power of all those horses and the trust that the 2 or 3 square inches of rubber that connect you to the road will keep you on the road. And trust that what you learned in your Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses will help you to keep experiencing the joy of riding your bike.

So, on euphoric rides like this morning where the traffic was minimal, my presence was observed by all other drivers, the air was crisp, the stars beckoned me to absorb them, the corners welcomed me with warm embraces and I arrived once again safely at work, I once again appreciate Mike’s analogy of riding a bike being wind “therapy.” So, “Thanks, Mike!” for waxing philosophical about riding your bike – it’s a concept woven in my mind’s fabric when I’m on my bike.

This is the kind of therapy even Tom Cruise would appreciate.

What’s your wind therapy story?