Tag Archives: Philosophy of Adventure Motorcycling

The Philosophy of Adventure Motorcycling


Published in ‘Horizons’ by the IOL, an interesting document here. It’s a synopsis of a masters’ dissertation by Matt Healey whose in the ‘outward bound’ business and went to Morocco on his DRZ where he considered AM as an alternative educational tool. He’ll be talking more about it at the International Journal of Motorcycle Studies conference in London in a couple of weeks time. Some selected and unordered quotes below.


Since the publication of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – An Inquiry into Values” there has been a link between the motorcycle experience and its relationship to values, philosophy and spirituality. 

I wanted to reflect on the idea that Adventure Motorcycling is an authentic activity, congruent with the values of ‘traditional’ outdoor adventure activities

… the recent commoditisation of the “Adventure Motorcyclist” has given rise to an emerging sporting subculture. That being said, the rich culture and history of the motorcycle mirror that which informs our construction of the mountaineer, sailor and explorer. 


For the philosopher Sartre this feeling could be interpreted as the realisation of the concept of ‘existential freedom’… This awareness of freedom and choice is an uncomfortable situation and generates the feeling of ‘angst’ … How we choose, what we choose and therefore logically how we live in an ‘authentic’ way suddenly becomes apparent. 

This relationship between authenticity and adventure is where I found myself as I considered why I was doing what I do on a motorcycle. This ‘angst’ exemplifies the sense of uneasiness that first awoke in my mind when I started to consider motorcycles and adventure. It generated palpable feelings of disquiet in my psyche, and still does when I pass non motorcyclists in a rural or off road setting. I become aware of myself as an interloper…  

The physical risk, psychological challenge and cultural alienation of the trip were often experienced giving rise to the adventure sensation. The experiences we had during our expedition to the Sahara reflect those that most of those with adventurous persuasion would identify with, but also the symbolism of consumption, whilst showing an appreciation of the wilderness aspect of adventure; again helping to portray a double edged sword through invasion of the wilderness by modern means. This reliance on technology is by far the most problematic area within the adventure biking construct. The motorcycle is part of an extension of ‘the self’, but also ‘other’ in the values of the appreciator of wild nature. 


The rationale for pursuing this study into reflecting on the motorcycle adventurer was motivated by the opportunity to find a new viewpoint from which to explore adventure and what it means to a post modern society… I wanted to challenge a particular school of thought, and draw into the light an acceptance that adventure can be provided in ways that are not necessarily bounded by neo-traditional methods or a denial of technology through romantic nostalgia. 

The ‘Adventure motorcyclist’ is nevertheless a problematic area, balancing as it does the opportunity for the rider to experience adventure in a way that epitomises all that can be distasteful about modern overconsumption.