Motorcycling: A Metaphor for Life

Moto Metaphor - Val in Real Life

Throttle therapy is an amazing thing. Lately when I’ve been out on the bike to clear my head, I’ve been musing on how much motorcycling is a metaphor for life. The three concepts that come to mind are:

  1. Look where you want to go.
  2. Avoid target fixation.
  3. Lean and accelerate.

Here’s the skinny for my non-rider friends.  And for my rider pals who may not have considered this.

Look where you want to go…

look where you want to go - val in real life
Focusing where you want to go instead of the sea of chaos surrounding you is crucial in motorcycling and life.

Any decent motorcyclist will tell you that one of the single-most important concepts in riding is “Look where you want to go.”

Seems simple, yes? It isn’t. Keeping your eyes up and pointed towards your intended path… even when your handlebars may not be, is a counter-intuitive concept.

For new riders, it’s a huge leap to get past worrying about what’s right in front of your wheel at that moment. To keep your long-term path in sight, understanding that near-sightedness leaves you scrambling and unprepared for each upcoming decision, and learning to trust that the bike will follow your eyes is the key to successful riding. When you learn to keep your eyes up and trust your path, the ride flows easily.

The same can be said for life. Keeping the big picture in focus and making certain the things you do each day further that goal are what makes for a happy life. “Look where you want to go” rather than scramble frantically and unhappily through each day.

Target fixation

target fixation - val in real life
On the road, and in life, there are countless “deer-in-the-headlights” hazards we have to avoid.

The counter to “Look where you want to go” is target fixation. It’s a visual hazard or distraction that a rider locks onto and can’t look away from: debris, roadkill, oncoming car, pothole, etc. And guess what? You may not want to go there but you’re looking at it. You’re fixated. And that means you’re going to go where you eyes are pointed… directly into it.

Have you ever been so fixated on something in life that you failed to see or understand other things that were going on around you? Have your ever ruminated on a bad situation or unhealthy goal so much that you couldn’t get on with your life? That’s the life equivalent of target fixation.

Keep those hazards and obstacles in your peripheral vision. Notice them and make smooth adjustments to avoid them but don’t ruminate or fixate on them.

Lean and accelerate…

sharp curve - val in real life
When life throws you a sharp curve, lean in and crank the throttle!

One of the joys of riding is gliding through the twisties. The rhythm of dancing through curves is unlike anything else. But the process of doing that well involves another counter-intuitive riding concept — to lean harder and crank the throttle to make the turn.

Our human brains are hard-wired for fear. Our instinct when faced with a turn, especially one we’ve hit a little too hot at the outset or the radius changes suddenly, is stiffen up, go for the brakes, and pop upright. That’s the exact wrong thing to do. That knee-jerk, fear-based reaction will make for a bad day on two wheels.

Instead, leaning harder and giving the bike more throttle is the answer. Braking causes a loss of traction and the slower speed means less stability. And suddenly pulling upright causes you to lose your line for the turn because leaning is what allows the bike to navigate the radius.

I’ve come to learn that, in life, sabotaging my momentum and direction out of fear is the same thing. So when you’re navigating the turns in life, stay off the brakes and dig in!

The big picture…

For me, motorcycling has become an enlightening and empowering necessity in life. It reminds me to focus on my path, keep distractions at bay, and keep moving forward.

Adventure on, friends…

And now for your moment of green…

lassen volcanic national park - val in real life
When you keep your head in the right place, beautiful things happen!



  1. OK, so I’m going to steal “throttle therapy” from you and use it somewhere because I like it so much.

    I loved your thoughts here. Could also apply to corporate strategy. They pay consultants to tell ’em this stuff, you know! Just sayin’…

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Stevie! For you it’s shutter therapy, yes? 😉

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