“Writing about music is like tap dancing about architecture.”

–someone who may have been Martin Mull, Elvis Costello, or a zillion other people to whom this observation has been attributed over the years

The scene in Jurassic Park where Sam Neill and Laura Dern see a living dinosaur for the first time. Only this time, it's a T-rex riding a motorcycle.

Motorcycling may not be music or architecture, but it is a truth (though probably not a universally acknowledged one) that a well-tuned engine can sound like music to your ears.

Another related truth: Any design that speaks to you never goes amiss. That goes for motorcycles, architecture, and anything else in life you care to mention.

What these things also have in common is that they’re topics best experienced, rather than written about. So how do you write about them?

ONE: WRITE WHAT YOU WANT TO READ

Sam from iCarly sits and reads a book, exclaiming that "these things are great! It's like TV in your head!"

Figuring out your audience can be difficult sometimes. It’s one thing if you have target audience notes, but it’s quite another if you’re starting from scratch. That’s where keeping it simple and not over thinking things helps.

If you’re already into motorcycling, think about how things were when you started. What did you want to know? Anyone can rattle off a list of tech specs from the manufacturer. While those can be meaningful and helpful to more experienced riders, they won’t mean much to someone new without context.

It’s absolutely vital to convey the importance of any details you mention. Some examples:

  • Explain why you should care about braided stainless steel brake lines, or don’t mention them at all. (Answer: More consistent brake pressure = quicker, firmer response. Unlike rubber hoses, they also don’t crack.)
  • What’s the difference between a set of Kenda tires and a set of Michelin Pilot Road 3s, and why should I care what comes stock from the manufacturer?
  • Non-riders might have a romantic image of tearing up the countryside on two wheels wearing nothing but jeans, a t-shirt, and maybe some sunglasses. They may not realize how much getting something in your eye at 60+ MPH sucks, so you should probably tell them.

Leave the dry tech lists for press releases. It’s your job to bring motorcycling to life for your reader, so they feel like they understand the experience. Maybe they’ll go try it for themselves, or maybe they’ll just feel like they have a better understanding.

TWO: HAVE A POINT OF VIEW

A nighttime shot of a lightly modified Honda Hawk GT 650 motorcycle

My bike is old enough to rent a car. Some might say it’s a 3/4 scale bike. I, for one, love it.

I wouldn’t love it as much if I didn’t have those clip-ons, though. The stock bars make you sit more upright, but the feedback sensations while riding aren’t nearly as good. #thanksbutno

Motorcycles, like art, are highly subjective. You might hate it. That’s fine; it’s not your bike. It’s also fine if you’re neutral on the matter while I’m over here waving my #sporttwins4ever flag. (See also: I like naked middleweight bikes and I cannot lie. And I think the Kawasaki H2R looks amazing and mean. #aboutme)

The important thing is, you need to figure out your angle before you can effectively write about it. Otherwise you sound passionless and cold. Who wants to read that?

THREE: TAKE YOUR READERS ON A JOURNEY WITH YOU

Prince and Apollonia riding Prince's purple Harley in the movie Purple Rain This is where your art comes in. Writing about music and writing about motorcycling are both about effectively describing how those things make you feel

Talk about how sun-warmed leather feels substantially different against your skin from any other type of jacket.

Describe how looking through a visor with a certain type of tint makes the world look as good as motorcycling makes you feel.

Discuss how every time you ride, you feel like you’re flying (and the next thing you know, it’s two hours later and you’re halfway down state).

Seasoned riders will be nodding in agreement (or tweeting angrily), while those who are merely bike-curious will feel like they understand just a little better…maybe even enough to find a way to finally go for a test ride!

Either way, you’ve won, because you’ve engaged your readers.

What are some of the strategies you use to write about experiential topics? How have you changed your approach over time? Let me know in the comments!


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