I’m a motorcycle enthusiast trying to bridge the gap of misunderstanding between motorcycle riders and car drivers, whom we refer to as “cagers”. I’m also a stand-up comic so at times you may find my style a bit opinionated but that is only because I base my writing on the truth. If you are easily riled then my column may be an irritant to you. I thank you in, advance, for the entertainment that letters to the editor provide me, for it means I hit a nerve of consciousness. Now that we have that squared away, welcome. This blog is my point of view from behind the visor so we may all get along just a bit better out on the roads. So, for my first contribution to The Beacon I’d like to address the issue of appearance.
I once had a non-rider say to me he thought bikers like to wear black because we think it looks cool. To some, maybe it does, but that is not the reason for our choice of darkness. On a bike you are exposed to the elements, dirt, dust, bugs and occasionally some grease or oil. The easiest way to hide that dirt is to wear black. Dirt looks great on black. It blends right in. Sure there are brighter colors available but they eventually start to look black too.
Many people seem to have a fear of bikers, which I find odd, as it is Us that really fear You. If something goes wrong on the road you have fenders, bumpers and a whole steel cage to protect you. We only have skin and bones combined with a small layer of protective gear. We know we’ll most likely come out on the losing end and often from the result of actions that may not be our own.
There are some riders that now wear the high visibility colors such as the fluorescent yellow. These are common with commuters and some touring riders. They look bright going down the road so you should see them. They are hard to miss.
These may be riders that may have had too many close calls with cars or, after viewing statistics, wish to minimize close encounters on trips by sticking out like a sore thumb. It works very well but as a personal choice I don’t feel I should have to dress up like a neon bulb as a rider on a 600lb (272kg) machine that a working set of eyeballs should be able to see. This is not to discourage others from wearing high-vis but it’s just not my choice of attire.
A few sport bike riders have taken to wearing mohawks on the top of their helmet, usually a color to compliment their bike and often very bright. They look amusing and always give me a chuckle but I know the reason many wear them. They are hard to miss. Should a car driver see one and scoff or mock it at least he saw it. It’s difficult to not see one and it makes that one biker a bit more visible, especially in city traffic. I’m sure with some riders it is a bit of a fashion statement too. We’re expressive that way.
What many of us are trying to overcome is the invisibility factor we often face, the: “I didn’t see the motorcycle” kind of crap. Really? Hundreds of pounds of steel plus a human on top and with a bright headlight and you didn’t see the motorcycle? How about the tiny kid running out on the road, can you see them?
Scary skull-type facemasks or a gruff appearance can be common. You’ve seen them and it looks intimidating to many. It’s supposed to. If the appearance of a motorcycle rider looks like a person you’d really not want to tangle with, one on one, then it is doing is job of safety by making you want to stay away from us. Nothing personal but it is better that way.If we can scare the odd driver to allowing us our lane space we live to ride another day. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Off our bikes we are very friendly and approachable people. The biggest, scariest, baddest looking bikers I’ve known have been some of the most gentle and warm hearted people you could ever meet. Just believe we’re badass while on the bike and we’re good.
Unfortunately some people misinterpret our appearance and mode of transport as us being part of a gang or the criminal element. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are many motorcycle riding groups that display their logo, or patch as its called, but these are social clubs, much like your bowling or softball leagues. People sharing the same fun. Bike gangs involved in criminal activity are what we call the one percenters. They make up only 1% of the riding population however, they still share the same rights on the road as any motorist so respect their lane space, you know, for safety.
The majority of riders are often people just like you who are out enjoying their passion. We’re like anyone else looking to enjoy life. Instead of seeing scary bikers just think of them as you would someone heading off to golf, hike, jog, fish or any or a myriad of activities society enjoys. We are not gang members; we are someone’s son, daughter, mother or father, aunt, uncle or grandparent. We are business owners, government employees, office workers; truck drivers, store clerks, lawyers, accountants, firefighters, stand-up comics and all the other people of society… and we really enjoy motorcycles. End of mystery. Please respect our road space and you may get a friendly wave of thanks. That can’t be too gruff or scary to you now can it? We hope you make it home safe to your family too.