Why We Ride—A Psychologist Explains the Motorcyclist’s Mind and the Love Affair between Rider, Bike, and Road

Hold on a minute! Don’t let that “Psychologist” term in the title turn you off. It turns out author Mark Barnes, PhD, is not just some psychologist who rode a little and instantly became a self-proclaimed authority able to talk about it in impressive-sounding psychobabble.

Rather, he is a motorcyclist who rides a lot—on a range of bikes, on and off-road, over many years—who happens to be a psychologist. And a darn good writer, too, with a wide-ranging view and a remarkably profound understanding of motorcycles and the people who ride them.

Why we Ride—A Psychologist Explains the Motorcyclist’s Mind and the Love Affair between Rider, Bike, and RoadHis book, Why We Ride—A Psychologist Explains the Motorcyclist’s Mind and the Love Affair between Rider, Bike, and Road combines introspection of his own motivations for riding motorcycles with the keen observations of a practicing clinician of the motivations and attitudes of others who ride.

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The book is a compilation of some of the more than 200 columns he has written for Motorcycle Consumer News between 1996 and 2017. The pieces selected for the book are from his column “Mental Motorcycling” and, contrary to what you might expect, are down-to-earth, practical, entertaining insights, not dry, clinical dissertations on the human condition as related to motorcycling.

Barnes looks at the intersection of riders, motorcycles and the environs of the road, track, trail, the garage, the rider’s mind and heart. He explores the restorative power of the open road and the consolation that comes from the memories of our earliest days in the saddle. He explores the quiet satisfaction of mastering the mechanicals of a motorcycle and unique solitude a motorcycle can provide. Equally well, he considers the evolution of skills and attitudes as a rider ages.

In one of the book’s most interesting installments, Barnes takes an unvarnished look at the “them vs. us” attitudes that can crop up between Harley-Davidson devotees and almost any other strain of motorcycle owner, but particularly bikes of Asian origin. Barnes describes it this way:

“Virtually every time I visit a riding hangout, I overhear derogatory comments directed at complete strangers, though muttered to a nearby buddy. The neon-leathered squid berates a Wide-Glide’s performance and reliability, while the bare-chested, black-vested H.O.G. member sneers at the plastic-coated effervescence of the latest, greatest, soon-to-be-obsolete offering from Yamahonkawazuki.”

Barnes exposes this type of thing as what it is: conflict-oriented, territorial human nature. His circumspect view of that all-too-prevalent conduct that happens wherever motorcycles congregate is enlightening and his proposed strategy to tone it down is clear-headed and is not rooted in the naïve notion of “let’s be nice,” rather he says:

“No, the answer is in cultivating curiosity. What if you allowed yourself to check out how the other half lives? What if you could double the joy of your beloved passion by including something you’ve always looked down on? Every new motorcyclist ought to have to take a survey course in which they are exposed to all of the major categories—not just in a book or video, but in actual experiences. They ought to cruise down Main Street on a Harley, take a few laps around a racetrack, hit a couple trails on a dirt bike, vacation on a touring bike, and do some basic service tasks. People would still pick their favorites, but they’d be less ignorant and more respectful of what’s so great about the rest. And they might even spread the word and excite others about their discoveries.”

Not only does the book present a well-reasoned take on that issue and many others, it is surprisingly well illustrated with 104 color images all published on high quality stock. Why we Ride—A Psychologist Explains the Motorcyclist’s Mind and the Love Affair between Rider, Bike, and Road is entertaining and thought-provoking and well worth a read.

Book Data

  • Title: Why we Ride—A Psychologist Explains the Motorcyclist’s Mind and the Love Affair between Rider, Bike, and Road
  • Author: Mark Barnes, PhD.
  • Published: 2017 soft cover. 240 pages. 104 color images. Measures 9” x 7”
  • Publisher: Fox Chapel Publishers International, Ltd., 7 Danefield Road, Selsey (Chichester), West Sussex, PO20 9DA, U.K.
  • ISBN: 978-1-62008-228-7 MSRP: U.S. $24.99