I have a question for you: what are the smells you bring back home after a ride on your bike? The topic might seem lighthearted but, as you will see, it is typically bike related and somehow even technical. Only on a motorbike you can vividly smell scents and odor, or feel cold, warm and hot winds.
Of course, this happens also while riding a bike or walking outdoors. Although, on a motorbike and with its speed, the range of opportunities is even broader. Smells and temperature constantly change and yet the simplest ride becomes a fulfilling journey.
I will start with a bad smell, sadly associated with danger and the likelihood to slide: stink of gasoline. Here comes the technical aspect: if your nose works properly, it might be possible to avoid a fall. After the smell, there it is on the asphalt: a trap. Just a few drops on the straight or almost a continuous line in the turn. Lorries and farm vehicles are the main “spreaders”. Hence, you slide the sole of your boot on the asphalt, you check if it is wet and slippery, you avoid passing on it and, if needed, you put your bike straight.
Luckily, there are also good smells. My favorite one is the scent of summer at the Elba Island, in Sardinia and along the wildest seacoasts. It is a smell of oriental spice. I have learnt that it comes from Helichrysum, a yellow little flower, typical of the Mediterranean scrub. Especially in summer when it becomes dry, this tiny plant releases an intense fragrance that stays long in your nostrils. You may know what I am talking about.
I also enjoy that strong summer smell of hay when it has just been mowed and that other smell strictly related to it. In Val Pusteria, where I usually go every year, the first cut of grass is done at the beginning of June, the second one at the end of July and the third one, a little poorer, in September. Of course, South Tyrolean farmers have to fertilize thoroughly and, with all those cows, there is plenty of raw material. When you ride your bike in those areas, you go from the smell of hay to that of muck. To be honest, it does not even bother me too much, it is natural.
However, aromas of journeys can be many more. I recall the smell of rain and that of wet asphalt that dries in the sun after a storm, the scent of sea salt in some sun-drenched shores, that of moss and fresh-cut wood of northern forests, that of harvest, of lavender - in Provence it embraces you for kilometers, or that of spice and dye in Morocco and Tunisia.
Finally, there are all those “technical” smells, dear to all of us: the scent of leather, or, even better, of leather jackets, gloves and boots. A wonder. Then, castor oil of two-stroke bikes that many riders still regret. And also bad smells: in the mountains, that of weaker engines stressed out going uphill. Or even, as it happened to a mad biker I once met, that of an earwig crushed on the visor of the helmet…