Day Nine


"Of Maslow and Motorcycles"

September 13, 2002

Steamboat Springs, CO - Boulder, CO

267 miles

5:32 riding time

2 Passes Today
28 Passes To Date

West of Gore Pass

Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed a theory of human motivation in the mid-twentieth century.  This theory describes the process by which an individual progresses from basic needs to what Maslow called self-actualization.  (I'm remembering this from my Psychology 101 class I took in college, which was last century, nay, last millennium, so forgive me if I'm making some of this up.) 

Maslow's hierarchyfrom one's most basic needs up to the more cerebralare:

  1. Physiological
  2. Security and safety
  3. Love and feelings of belonging
  4. Competence, prestige and esteem
  5. Self-fulfillment
  6. Curiosity, and the need to understand

So what the heck does Abraham Maslow have to do with riding a motorcycle?  Hey, thanks for asking.  I've been thinking about what's important when you're in the saddle.  You've willfully placed yourself into a situation where you must focus nearly all of your available cycles on what's going on around you.  The single-most important task while riding is situational awareness:  Who's going to pull out in front of you?  What four-legged thing is going to jump out of the bushes?    What might go wrong with the bike?  Your mind loops endlessly over all the possible scenarios that could occur.  You evaluate the likelihood of a problem, decide whether it's worth worrying about, then move onto the next potential crisis.  And you're doing all of this while subtly coaxing the bike to follow the road.

Of all the motorcycle trips I've taken, this one has been the most comfortable, and therefore the most enjoyable.  In thinking about what makes a good trip, I realized that Maslow's hierarchy could be applied specifically to the act of riding a motorcycle.

Comfort counts

First and most important is comfort.  If there's any little thing out of place, too loose, too tight, too wet, too dry, you obsess on it.  If the temps are low and it's raining, and you're cold and/or wet, you will be miserable, and you will spend a lot of time thinking about just exactly how miserable you are.  This of course detracts from the reason we're out here, to enjoy riding and The Road.  This year I've got the first level of Maslow's hierarchy nailed.  I am staying warm and dry, regardless of the conditions we're riding in.  This is a significant accomplishment!

Security and safety come next.  Whizmo is a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) instructor, specializing in the training of experienced riders.  During breaks, we often talk about techniques for staying safe on the road.  MSF teaches an acronym called 'SIPDE', which stands for Scan; Identify; Predict; Decide; and Execute.  While you're physically driving the bike, you're mentally performing this loop over and over again:  Scan down the road; Identify things that might become a hazard; Predict which things have potential to become an issue; Decide your course of action, and Execute.  This simple loop becomes a mantra while riding, to the point that you're not even aware you're doing it. 

You're part of the club Dan, a BMW R1150GS rider we met today

Feelings of belonging are next up the scale.  Motorcyclists are part of an international club into which you're automatically accepted.  Bikers generally wave at one another, can easily start conversations and make new friends with other bikers, and look out for one another on the road.

Competence in the corners

Next is Competence.  On a bike, competence means being able to handle your bike and the road underneath you.  There is nothing more satisfying than executing a perfect turn by slowing to just the right entry speed, placing yourself at exactly the right point in your lane, turning your head to look at the exit, initiating your lean by pressing on the grip, and powering through.  A well-executed turn is a work of performance art.

The Road awaits

When you can juggle all these simultaneous requirements, you feel like you are in control.  You are a competent rider.  This is a very satisfying feeling. You always know in the back of your mind that your competence and riding skills are relative, and can be improved.  On any given day, riding competently within your skill envelope is a victory.  Someone may blow by you at twice your speed, but that doesn't matter.

It usually takes me a day or two on The Road before I feel like I've scaled the ladder to this point.  There are always fears and concerns, but every mile behind you builds confidence that you can do it.  As Whiz pointed out yesterday, riding is a job, and it can be done well.

Rocky Mountain National Park The Vista from Trail Ridge Road,
the highest paved road in the United States

So when I finally get to this point in Maslow's hierarchy, I am at the peak of The Road experience.  My mind is free to contemplate the countryside we're passing through.  Who are these people?  What do we look like to them?  Does their life look the way to them that it looks to me?  It's from this perspective that many of my columns are written.  It's a special place that I can only get to by putting on the riding suit, climbing on the bike and riding down the road.  Each day on The Road, I ascend the ladder to get into that special place.

From the 4 B's gas station
in Hot Sulpher Springs CO

Jim wants your vote

Today we danced in and out of the rain, but it wasn't a problem.  As we crossed through the Rocky Mountain National Park, we were on the highest paved road in the US, Trail Ridge Road.  At its highest, it reached to 12,183 feet.  It was like being on top of the world.

Scenes from Rocky Mountain National Park

Something Helga said yesterday is still floating around in my head.  You remember Helga, the German lady from San Antonio that we met yesterday.  She was telling us of the motorcyclists she met on the Alaskan Highway.  She asked them how they stayed warm and dry on their bikes.  They proudly showed her their heated riding suits, their waterproof gloves and boots.  She said (in her wonderfully thick German accent) "I told them they should just ride in their cars.  I asked them why they didn't just ride in a convertible.  When I want the wind in my face I ride in a convertible."  She got a puzzled look on her face, then said, "They told me in a car, you can't lean into the curves." 

Helga, they were right.

We've arrived in Boulder, and we're looking forward to taking a day off from riding.    We're planning to hit the road again Sunday morning.

Well, the Psycle Psychics are in deep, deep, super-deep pondering mode coming to grips with all the great questions that were submitted in Contest #5.  We're warming up our crystal ball, getting the Ouija board dead-level, and furiously shopping for candles and incense.  We'll have final results tomorrow.

Ok, we promised a new contest and we always deliver (when we feel like it).  It's a simple numeric contest; your entry is just a number.  (Don't think for an instant that we're doing a numeric contest because it is easier to read entries and score the resultsnope, the thought never crossed our minds.)

Contest #6:  Round up the Roundels

As many of you know, we're riding BMWs and Bavarian Motor Werks is quite proud of their logo called a "Roundel"they tend to festoon a bunch of these babies to their vehicles.  So here is the question:  How many total Roundels are externally visible on both of our motorcycles?  We're just looking for a count of the blue/white spinning propeller logos that are externally visible if you did a walk-around of both motorcycles.  Hint:  It is more than four and less than twenty.  And there is a curve ball because Whizmo's motorcycle is not exactly the way it rolled off the factory floor with respect to roundel counts.  So you can do any research you like, but your research will only carry you so far.

If you really want to win, print your entry on a $100 bill and FedEx it to Whizmo&Gizmo, C/O Hampton Inn, Boulder Colorado.  But if no one does this, you might still have a chance to win if you submit your entry by the usual email method by clicking here.  And don't forget to tell us what part of the world you're guessing from.

We want to add a final encouragement to enter every contest even if you don't think you have a good answer.  Why?  Because we may be awarding special prizes to those who are contest frequent flyers, who are the most creative, or simply hang around long enough whining about not winning.  Persistence could eventually pay off.