I.C.E. bike aficionados like to poke fun at electric bikes like the Brammo Enertia.
“Sounds like a blender, not a bike.”
“Dontcha need a lengthy extension cord when you ride?”
“How ’bout a race . . . with my belt sander?”
But last weekend, one particularly insistent acquaintance had this little gem to share:
Electric bikes don’t make enough noise. They don’t have a soul, like my bike.”
A soul. A soul? First of all, I want to clarify: this gentleman was not speaking figuratively. I know this because I asked him, specifically, if he was being literal, or just speaking metaphorically. He knew what I meant, and assured me that he believed, in his heart of hearts (not in his brain, of course), that his bike, a particularly monstrous black and chrome-covered heavy cruiser, had a soul, as in, a certain spiritual essence that somehow transformed his bike into an animated being, capable of manifesting qualities such as loyalty, integrity, and determination.
Loyalty: “She’s always there waiting for me, just where I left her.”
Integrity: “She never lies to me.”
Determination: “If it hadn’t been for her headlight shining the way, I don’t think I would have made it home that night.”
In a world where some religions disagree about whether dogs have souls, how am I to debate this man about whether his motorcycle has a soul?
Loyalty: “Could Newton’s law have something to do with the fact that she’s where you left her?”
Integrity: “Could it be that she never lies to you because she does not have the ability to talk?”
Determination: “It was you who had the determination to make it home. She just provided the light, generated by electricity.”
It would serve no purpose, however, to debate the vagaries of souls and physics with this man. So, instead, I agreed.
“You’re right, your bike has a soul. And yes, mine does not.”
He nodded, satisfied that he has made his point. But I’m not finished.
“Your bike is a living creature. And it feasts on the blood and remains of dead dinosaurs.” A puzzled look came across his face. “Well dead dinosaurs and other organic materials… heated and compressed over the millenia. Extracted from the Earth. Refined and transported to your local gas station. Fed to your bike’s gaping maw of a gas tank. At which point it consumes it hungrily.”
He shook his head. “That’s not right.” But he had nothing else to say beyond that.
“So your bike is kind of like a vampire, sucking the blood of dead … no … wait. Vampires need living beings. A zombie. Your bike is like a zombie because it can thrive on dead, decayed flesh. Except that can’t be right, either, because, and I know you’ll agree with me on this, no matter your religious persuasion: zombies do not have souls. They are the un-dead. Their souls have departed and their bodies are left, re-animated by some weird super-flu or extra-terrestrial source, depending on which movie we’re talking about.
“But your bike clearly has a soul, in spite of the fact that it can feast only on the refined remains of long-since-dead living things. I suppose for all intents and purposes, your bike is more like the car in the Stephen King story, ‘Christine,’ than either a zombie or a vampire. Say what you will about that car, it had a soul and it would not be ignored.”
By this time, my new friend was mounting his steed — I mean, his mare; starting her up, and revving the engine, the thumping heart of the beast. The sound, which shook the ground beneath us, was part of the problem that vehicles like mine were trying to solve–it took petroleum to produce that sound, and he wasn’t even moving forward yet.
“I’ll always prefer a bike that runs on gas, pal. I get decent gas mileage with this thing so I’m not gonna change. You can keep your electric mixmaster… I won’t be caught dead riding something like that.” And with that, he roared down the street, rattling the windows around me. Maybe I need to change my approach. I’m not winning the hearts and minds of my fellow riders, that’s for sure.
After he left, however, a guy in his late teens came over and asked me about my bike. “So, you just plug it into the wall?”
He smiled. “That’s cool. I gotta get one of those.”