Saturday, 26 November 2011

Chasing Che

I am now reading Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Guevera Legend  by Patrick Symmes. And while it’s still too early to tell whether this is a book I’ll ultimately like and/or recommend, I did encounter this passage that is one of the best descriptions I’ve read of what it’s like to ride and “taste moments of oneness with the road”. Thank you Patrick Symmes.
There are moments on a motorcycle when all the glory of motion is distilled into one purposeful package. Chasing curves over a swelling landscape, a motorcycle enters the pure expression of physics and is bound to the road in a way no car will ever know. The rider and machine are literally balanced on the infinitely thin line where centripetal force meets gravity. Despite this state of suspended disaster, the sensation of risk is largely a sensation; the motorcycle is in harmony with the road, and risk comes overwhelmingly from other drivers. Any moment of travel on a motorcycle is a light and essential moment, an agile rebuke to a life conducted in one place. The raw force of the engine is not hidden beneath a hood, but alternately purrs and growls a few inches from the knees, demanding the consciousness of power. Sealed behind glass, insulated by climate control systems and music, the driver of a car knows nothing about the directions of the wind, the lay of sunlight, the small changes in temperature between a peak and a valley, the textured noise of differing asphalts, or the sweet and sour aromas of manured fields or passing pine forests. Engaged in all the senses and elements, balanced in the present tense, a rider on two wheels can taste moments of oneness with the road.


  1. I think it is wrong to romanticize Che Guevara, who murdered as many as 168 people during the Cuban revolution- most without any benefit of trial. They were just stood up against a wall at La Cabana Prison and shot, at Che's order.

  2. A very interesting quote about the feeling you get when you ride.

  3. I was going to make the same comment about Che that No Name did - biker or not, he was a pretty nasty man and not worthy of the adulation given him by people ignorant of history.

    But that passage is an excellent one, on a par with the famous Pirsig quote about the reality of bike travel against the TV/movie experience of a car. Thanks for posting it. I will steal it for my collection if I may.

  4. Noname and Richard - I'm not a fan of Che nor am I romanticizing him, but the fact is he was a person of historical significance and as such worth knowing more about.

  5. Richard - Steal away. I did. :)

  6. You could consign at least half the important historical names to the scrapheap if the criteria was simply based on them having to be nice people, but that's not what history is about.

    Not withstanding, that's an excellent piece of writing and stands on its own merit - thanks for that. Incidentally, when I read Robert Pirsig's book a good couple of decades ago, I found it profoundly depressing. However, it was a superb piece of writing.


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