Momentum of Life

During this past year i’ve started riding a motorcycle on my commute to work. Partly because of the high gas prices and partly because of my love of 2 wheeled transport. I’ve also enjoyed watching a few old films about motorcycling.

One of my old favorites can be seen in the form of brief clips on Youtube featuring the legandary racer, Malcolm Smith. This guy had an understanding of the physics of riding motorcycles that was so far beyond anyone else of his time, that literally left all of his competition in his dust scratching their heads and wondering how it was possible to make his bike literally fly.

Malcolm Smith was able to harness the byproduct of speed- momentum. Riding a 2 wheeled vehicle on dirt roads is a completely different world from riding one on hard pavement. Riding on the dirt you have a minimal differential between traction and skid. On the hard pavement of concrete and asphalt, the differential is extreme and dramatic on a bike.

Malcolm Smith learned how to maximize this difference to his advantage. He learned that the faster he went, the less effect the irregularities had on his ability to maintain directional control. That combined with the poor traction of the dirt surface enabled him to literally fly along the dirt course at full throttle just glancing gently over the highest surfaces of the terrain. The momentum of the machine and rider combined to let them both glide smoothly over all the ruts, washes and dips in the course as his c0mpetitors fought continually to navigate them one by one.

He also learned the importance of balance and the application of power to keep the weight off the front wheel. By using balance he could steer the bike while keeping the front wheel elevated so that the bike remained always at a relatively fixed angle so the rider minimize the bucking action of a bouncing machine. He also kept lightly seated in the saddle by letting the foot pegs support his weight most of the time allowing his leg muscles to isolate the harsh jostling of the machine from his body.

All of this enable Malcolm to maintain a smooth and focused posture on his bike. He was able to look way beyond the immediate road ahead of him and watch the terrain hundreds of feet ahead of him and think of the adjustments of balance, throttle and steering well in advance.

Today, the lessons from Malcolm Smith have become the basic skills of the successful dirtbike racer. Dirtbikes are now manufactured with “floating” suspension systems that can best harness the techniques pioneered by Malcolm.

There’s an interesting word in the english language that brings the concept of momentum into broader context. That word is, “forget”. Paul, the apostle wrote, “forgetting the things which are behind, i press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”. God has taught me how to avoid being bogged down in many problems in life by helping me maintain a healthy perspective of their relative trivialness or importance.

God gave us the Bible, not as a rulebook, to focus us on every little thing in our lives. But, as a guide to channel our momentum, to train us in the art of balance and discretion. God is teaching me to see a course and a goal, not all the bumps and valleys along the way. Sure there are plenty of trials and problems to work through. Triumphs and disappointments to distract us, but a constant hope that enables the disciple of Jesus to “fore get” so to speak and move on a steady course in life.

Wayne Hollyoak