Jay Leno’s 1962 Norton 650SS and the value of pondering

I thought I’d share this video of Jay Leno talking about his 1962 Norton 650SS. I can’t say I have any real love for Nortons, but I understand those who do love them, and he says a lot of things in here that I really agree with. A few things, even, that I have talked about before on this blog. He talks about the collapse of motorcycling in the UK, chalking up Britain’s failures in terms of market dominance to arrogance. That makes sense, definitely; the same thing happened to U.S. manufacturers. But I still wonder how motorcycling’s popularity fell into such steep decline over here.

Jay also talks about something that I thought a lot about recently on my trip to Scotland: that one of the true joys of motorcycling is the absence of rest-of-the-world white noise.

“(I’ve) never quite understand why people put radios and Bluetooth and MP3 players on their motorcycles, ” he says. “This is the one time when you can… kind of be alone and enjoy the solitude.”

Welsh-language poet T.H. Parry-Williams (who also once wrote an emotive essay about his motorcycle*) said there was an under-appreciated value to sitting and staring at a fire, that people simply do not take the time to remove distractions and actually think about things. Really, truly think. When was the last time you used your brain to such an extent that it hurt? There is great value in pondering, and if you live an existence in which you cannot go 5 minutes without needing to have someone or something else fill your head with noise, there is something wrong with you. No doubt this is why people vote for UKIP — they’ve abandoned the challenging work of thinking.

Getting my head out of the constant Twitter/Facebook/Google+/Tumblr/blog cycle and having nothing but wind and my own voice to listen to is always immensely beneficial. It rights me.

Jay starts to walk down the Old Man path when he says, “Your iPhone and Google Maps can show you what this looks like, but this machine can actually take you there.” Then he waxes poetic about the joys of having to perform constant maintenance on an old motorcycle (for me, the maintenance required for a modern Honda is more than enough). So, I can see how someone might feel he’s being a bit of a fuddy-duddy for criticising having media/connectivity on a bike.

But I don’t think it makes you a grumpy old man to value the zen and mentally restorative experience of keeping the rest of the world out of your helmet. All the time I had between Cardiff and Scotland gave me time to reconsider who I am and remind myself of where I want to go.

Anyway, point is: you can see in Jay a real fondness for his 1962 Norton. Which is a feeling to which many of us can relate, regardless of what bike we ride.


*Which Dr. Simon Brooks is convinced is actually an essay about sex. His reasoning for this was: ‘Who would write an essay about a motorcycle? It’s obviously about something else.’ Indeed. Who would write a series of essays on motorcycles, create an entire blog about them, even?