The column-writing energy was high in February after I returned home from Ascari, Spain.After 12 years of flogging motorcycles for testing purposes, I had my first-ever crash at a product launch.During the session before I wrecked testing the Metzeler M9 RR on the wet track, I had gloated about being crash-free at launches with fellow moto-journalist Jensen Beeler, the founder of Asphalt & Rubber. Beeler also was crash-free, until that day.
Sadly, both of our perfect records were scrubbed along the Ascari tarmac, mine after 12 years, and Beeler’s after 15.But that sadness was quickly displaced by the coronavirus outbreak. By February, COVID-19 was strengthening its invisible prowess. The first case was diagnosed in the USA on January 20—a 35-year-old Washington man who, according to the World Health Organization, had recently returned from Wuhan, China.By March 24, as of this writing, the US has over 49,000 cases and 616 deaths. Worldwide the stats show over 401,000 cases and 17,480 deaths, the pandemic causing the postponement of countless events, from MotoGP rounds to the Olympics.Suddenly my debut press-launch crash didn’t matter. What did matter was helping others during this wacky time, and, of course, using motorcycles as a tool for stress relief—something I’ve done since those once horrible teenage breakups.I quickly found what I could offer. It came from my 12-plus years of working from home or remote offices around the world—balancing and managing work/life time.With self-quarantine mandates in place, many family and friends who had zero experience working from home began cracking.Suddenly, during a time when I get together with riding friends to tune bikes for the riding season, we were FaceTiming or texting about anything but motorcycles.Most of my friends have never worked from home and were leaning on me for some tips on managing time and productivity while keeping sane, something I’ve written about in other publications such as Forbes and Search Engine Journal.A few tips include sticking to your daily schedule, blocking full-focus time with zero distractions from email or notifications, which allows everyone to get more quality work done in less time, and, above all, mandating downtime.Everyone needs a release, and for many of my friends, motorcycles provide this release, regardless if they’re riding or wrenching on them.I get out as much as possible during the week to transition work focus. Riding is unbelievable for productivity measures. A secret to a truly productive lifestyle is getting away from it all periodically throughout the day, and at least one full day a week.A quick afternoon ride forces the rider to focus on the riding task at hand—the more spirited the ride, the more focus needed to remain safe. When at speed and fully focused on the ride, all other thoughts of work or those thoughts disturbed by C-19 magically diminish, pushed into the back of the mind where they somehow reorganize themselves for clarity.I’m no psychologist and have zero ideas about how this works. I really don’t care, because it does work. When we distance ourselves from something and come back later on, the mind is fresh, and the task is completed easier. Ask any professional writer or editor about walking away and letting a text cool down before final edits. Mistakes in earlier drafts become obvious.I’ve been performing my civic duty of social distancing, but that doesn’t prevent riding. A good friend of mine recently bought a KTM 990 SM T, and needed a release from the everyday reality of crisis mode in America. We planned for a quick meetup on a recent Sunday.Our riding time was short, like 200 miles, but the clarity in text conversations later that evening was much more positive. Motorcycles are magical in this way, even when you can’t stop at some random backcountry diner and wolf down some homestyle food.Working from home with a spouse and kids has challenged everyone, from some of my CEO friends who know leadership like no other, to those who work in sales.Luckily, most of my friends ride motorcycles. If not, they enjoy high-performance automobiles. These are stars of social distancing that everyone can use solo or with a group of other motorcyclists/automobiles. From wrenching to mountain cruises to building balance by riding on 2x4s in the back yard, now’s the time to take advantage of those moto passions.No matter what your views of COVID-19, life is drastically different now. However, motorcycles provide the same calming solutions, over and over during stressful times.Get out and ride whenever possible to refresh that mind and slow the natural anxiety associated with such an unusual pandemic. Your work and relationships will thank you. From talking with close friends who are self-quarantined in their houses with spouses, motorcycles are doing more than clearing minds; those machines are saving marriages.
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.