The Process Beyond The Parts

PHOTOS | KATE DISHER-QUILL

As a machine, motorcycles themselves bare no ego. Motorcycles have no explicit beauty, beyond the beauty that humans impose upon them. A motorcycle is essentially a slew of parts joined together to perform or serve a function, yet people inevitably attach deeper meanings to these bundles of parts.  They sacrifice safety to join the machine and the road together, defining for themselves a sort of freedom. They devote a lifetime to countless hours, manual in hand, drawing conclusions about why their machine won’t function properly. They go as far as to create social groups dedicated to honoring and showing off their bundle of parts.

So what, fundamentally, creates all these situations in which a motorcycle takes center stage? I have found myself confronted with this question daily, as I attend a school not only dedicated to a machine, but motorcycles in particular. It is here where we deduce this machine back to its most minuscule of parts. Each person in their own right has at one point in their life developed an attachment to a machine, which led them to dig deeper. How can this conglomeration of bearings, gears, and wires create a social movement? How can it cause a desire, and a feeling of escape from the monotony of life? 

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The relationship with my very own bundle of parts, namely my Iron 883 Sportster, began a little more than five years ago. After a crash in 2013, my motorcycle was reduced to a number of orange circles, highlighting the dents and damage on the exterior in a salvage yard. I found it interesting how quickly a machine can be cursed and tossed to the side if it no longer serves a purpose. My dad retrieved the mass of bent and dented parts that had sat in a pile in the snow for some length of time. 

By honoring the event that transformed my life, everything around me has become exponentially more beautiful and treasured.

Several months later, my father transformed my frozen heap of parts into the fully functioning motorcycle that I continue to call my sidekick today. The motorcycle still bears scars outlined in orange, but it also boasts of the attentive nature of my father. A new frame pieced together, a new front end complete with a meticulously laced wheel, a dent removed as a favor from a friend- all and more resuscitating the bike. My motorcycle bares orange circles, my wrist and legs bare scars – all a part of an event I like to think that has designed a course in life even lovelier than before. It has evolved into a symbol in my eyes - a symbol of rebuilding, overcoming, and carrying on with purpose.

There’s a longstanding tradition in Japan called “Kintsugi”. It is the art of repairing ceramics with gold in order to illuminate the scars and show respect to the history of the object. This philosophy teaches acceptance to damage, and a confidence that all is not lost through the events in life that cause these scars. By honoring the event that transformed my life, everything around me has become exponentially more beautiful and treasured.         

Now, as I join hundreds of students at my school investing years in learning about these bundles of parts, I begin to understand the widespread connection that people may have with these motorcycles. We are all dedicated to the opportunity to translate the damaged to the worthy. Each moment spent with our bundles of parts, whether riding or deducing a mechanical failure, will offer an opportunity to sprout a humbling and transformative process within ourselves if we are willing to listen.

Could it be that we find ourselves in a sort of unison with our slew of parts? Are our motorcycles and us connected in the fates that we share? I find myself believing that these machines can teach tremendous lessons and philosophies to incorporate everyday - to explore, to bond, to rebuild, and to accept the inevitable. 

Are you willing to listen?

Kristen is an old soul. Generous and kind, she is forever pushing her own boundaries and encouraging greatness in others. When she isn’t riding bikes, she’s under them (she’s a trained motorcycle mechanic, and could teach you more than a thing or two). Kristen is IVV’s Content Editor and US correspondent, bringing tales of her adventures across the interwebs to inspire and invigorate.