Melissa Holbrook Pierson

The Perfect Vehicle

“The Perfect Vehicle” is a book written by Melissa Holbrook Pierson. She’s a long time motorcycle rider and if you apply the same rule of Top Gear (to be a real petrolhead you need to have had an Alfa Romeo) and translates it into “motorcyclish” it’ll be to be a real motorcyclist you need to possess a Guzzi at some point in your life. Guzzi is for me the bike equivalent to Alfa. They both have a glorious past, they both had a long time identity issue. And since they will give you some trouble there must be some love involved. Also, the throttle cable is connected directly to your heart, every time you twist it you get goose bumps.  So being a Guzzista, she’s also a real motorcyclist. 

Why we ride?

In this book, Pierson explores the world of motorcycles and she tries to explain the question that every non-rider asks: why we ride? 

We are fascinated by the calculated risk. Skydiving is challenging the laws of physics. Riding 450 pounds of steel on just two wheels is dancing with the laws of physics. Nothing with two points of support remains up. Only the human body does, but it doesn’t count because we’re living creatures. The motorcycle enters in this state of grace only through the human. The concept of motorcycle can’t exist without the human. That’ why the motorbike is different than any other machine and motorcyclists consider it, not as a living being but as a machine with a soul made of the sum of the human and machine. 

“Inherently unstable at a standstill, the bike is waiting for the human to help it become its true self” Melissa Holbrook Pierson

The sense of loneliness 

We are never alone or we can never be sure to be alone. In a wood or on the top of a mountain, in theory, it can be interrupted by another person. The loneliness on a bike at 60 mph can’t be interrupted. It’s like sitting on a little satellite orbiting the earth with just one patch of tire that keeps you in contact with the planet. It’s the same sense of loneliness you’d have crossing the space in a rocket. 

In a motorcycle the engine is very close to your body, it feels almost attached and it pumps like the heart of a living creature. Sometimes it vibrates so much that you feel it like your own. Each sound, vibration, or crack in the road is transferred to the rider through the frame. Almost like an extension of your body. 

The Perfect Vehicle by Melissa Holbrook Pierson is a book you should have in your bookshelves whether you ride or not. And there is the best foreword about motorcycles I’ve ever read. 

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Gasolist in chief, test-rider, and content writer. He began in the two-stroke era which makes him feel pretty old but gave him the chance to race everything from 125cc to 1000cc. All useless experiences when he got lost in the Sahara desert with nothing but a can of beans.

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