Bike Psych Motorcycle Publishing
CLIMATE CHANGE by Brenda Bates M.A. CH.t

The term microclimate refers to varying weather patterns in areas that are in close proximity. For example, in northern California's Sonoma County there are over 250 microclimates. This fact became experientially real to me due to my new Moto Guzzi Breva 1100. The Breva is the first bike I've owned that gives a computerized readout of the temperature. I find this fascinating.

I often wondered why the temperature given on the news for a specific area is often off by as much as 20 degrees. Thanks to my Breva, I've learned that this is because a temperature reading is only accurate for the spot in which the gauge is located. A mile or two away the temperature can vary a great deal.

Riding motorcycles never ceases to amaze me. There's an old saying, "As in art, as in life." I think it's also true to say, "As in motorcycling, as in life." On a recent motorcycle trip to Oregon, another epiphany occurred. I noticed something psychologically intriguing: microclimates can reflect and almost coincide with the mental and emotional shifts that occur while riding.

From psychology, we know that the thing we call "I," the self, is constantly in a state of flux. As individuals, our opinions and reactions can change as swiftly or slowly as microclimates. The "I" that once had one opinion may hold a different opinion at another time.

While riding the coastal route through Oregon, the temperature stayed in the 50s most of the way. The ocean breeze was refreshing and the scenery was breathtaking. I was quite comfortable on my Breva; my body was not experiencing any dehydration, my mind was alert, and I was as calm and cool as the ambient temperature. I felt happy and awed. As I rode inland, my bike's temperature gauge slowly crept into the 60-degree range. I was still comfortable and happy. But I began to have transient, angst-ridden thoughts, anticipating how uncomfortable I could soon become as I headed farther away from the coast. I then noticed that my mood was in sync with my bike's temperature gauge. The hotter the temperature, the more things there were to consider- - hydration, riding gear, traffic, etc.

As I rode farther inland, my mood shifted from its comfort zone to absolute annoyance. I glanced at my gauge only to find that it read 94 degrees! The sun felt uncomfortably hot and the air was stifling. I could see a traffic jam ahead, close to what looked like a gaggle of shopping malls. For a moment I questioned my motives for taking this trip on a motorcycle. I, even had a brief moment in which I imagined myself sitting comfortably in an air-conditioned cage. Agh! What was I thinking? Me? On a car trip?! This last thought jarred me back to my senses. As the temperature rose, so did my temper. I guess Einstein was right: everything is relative.

Psychologically speaking, the importance of having a witness to the events of our lives cannot be underestimated. Having a witness validates our experiences. Without a witness, individuals tend to second-guess themselves. For instance, chances are that there have been times when, upon tasting some milk that seems to be a bit sour, you have asked your significant other to give it a try, too. This is because you're seeking a witness to make certain that your taste buds are accurate. In the case of motorcycling, a bike's temperature gauge can act the role of a witness. In essence, our feelings are validated by the temperature gauge.

It is not uncommon for riders to bring the wrong riding gear due to an incorrect or misleading weather report on the news. We may even wonder if it's just us who are somehow feeling hotter or colder than what the weather experts predicted. Having a temperature readout on a bike validates that what we are feeling is, indeed, real. This alerts us to what to expect in terms of riding conditions.

I will always have affection for older bikes that don't have any of these fancy gadgets. However, I've come to conclude that once one gets used to newfangled gadgets, it's easy to see how they act as a psychological tool, a witness that may potentially increase riding preparedness and safety.

This article appeared in the September 2010 Road Bike Magazine.

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