It has been said that to become a cultured person one should study the Japanese tea ceremony. Nothing is allowed to be rushed, and there are no shortcuts. The tea ceremony creates a sense of tranquility and peace, and is best described by the Japanese idiom, ichi-go ichi-e, literally “one time, one meeting”. The term has several meanings. “One chance in a lifetime” is one.
Ichi-go ichi-e applies not just to people that one will never meet again, but to those we see regularly. No encounter can ever be repeated. Each moment in our lives is unique and special.
I have never been to Japan, and yet the country has always held my fascination. Ichi-go ichi-e and the country’s passion for precision captures the essence of its culture and carries over into many of its products.
My 2014 Honda CB1100 DLX motorcycle is one. It is an extraordinary piece of Japanese technology. No other motorcycle has roused in me so consistently that most alluring and ephemeral of experiences, the sheer joy one feels of simply riding a motorcycle. I think all committed riders know this feeling.
I have owned ten motorcycles since I was a teenager and ridden countless others. I loved them all, but none instilled that sense of joy more consistently and more often than the CB1100.
I wanted to make modifications when I bought it, but after reading several interviews with the design and engineering teams, I changed my mind. The bike was built around a single concept: to generate a feeling of peace and enjoyment at 3,000 rpm while travelling at 100 km/h, the speed limit in Japan.
Normally, a motorcycle is designed for maximum performance. The CB1100 was built to other standards: reliability, ease of use, functionality, comfort, and the creation of a sense of calmness in the rider. The engine was deliberately detuned to produce power at lower engine revolutions, giving a better ride overall.
In addition, the Honda engineers had spent countless hours dialing in the performance that they felt was optimum. I, on the other hand, had wanted to make changes with minimal experience. I decided to wait and see. Over time, I found that Honda had got it right. Although I replaced the stock seat with a Corbin, added LED braking flashers, and Beemer Buddy grips, I kept it stock.
Performance is always an issue in the motorcycle world. I have had several policemen roll up beside me and ask if the bike is underpowered. I usually shrug because the CB is, and it isn’t. It depends on one’s riding style. Normally, I like to ride with the rpms at or below 3,000. The bike is more comfortable there, but if I have to split lanes on the freeway, or travel quickly through LA traffic, I go into what I call mode 2. I keep the revs above 3,500 where there is more than enough power available. The machine then has two personalities, with the default being the more relaxed version, the one I enjoy the most.
The CB1100 has surprised me. I love to ride it. I will do errands at any time of the day, but the most telling sign of the joy I feel riding it is that I always want to take the long way home.
Ichi-go ichi-e is a concept I embrace. “Treasure every encounter, for it will never recur.” It is wonderfully appropriate, not just in riding motorcycles, but as a way of living.