In my family, I am the first (hopefully of many) to really be a “biker”. I have uncles that have ridden once or twice. I’m not aware of my grandfathers ever having ridden a bike. As such, I have nothing to fall back on as far as stories of the “olden days”.
Back in “the day” taking a long motorcycle trip was more of an epic adventure than it is today. Today, setting out for a 300 mile day trip is nothing but time. With your cell phone in your pocket you’re never really out of touch with anyone. With a credit card in your wallet, you aren’t really strapped for cash. With modern motorcycles (pretty much anything made since the 90’s) the rides are ultra reliable. With increasingly reliable weather forecasts and a little careful planning, you’ll never get caught without the proper gear. With GPS (either in your bike, your phone or a hand held unit), you’re never lost.
So heading out for a long motorcycle trip, even an overnight trip, really is a very safe endeavor. You don’t have to worry about getting lost. You don’t have to worry about breaking down and not being able to call for help. If you maintain your bike with any degree of regularity, you probably won’t break down at all.
It’s not much different from any other mundane activity. If there’s no risk, is it still great?
I have to say yes… it is still great. Part of the greatness is the exclusivity. Part of the greatness is being on a motorcycle. Part of the greatness is the romanticism and mystery that bikers understand but non-riders don’t. And even with all the safety, planning and electronic helpers, there’s always risk on a bike. Always.
So let’s look at why it’s still great.
Motorcycles are an affordable and economical means of transportation. They fun to ride, easy to park and super fuel efficient. But due to the stereotypes and reputation, they aren’t as popular as cars. Granted, you can’t haul eleven 9-year-olds to a soccer game with your motorcycle.
But when you introduce yourself as a biker or you start talking about motorcycling or you start telling stories of the road, people know. They know you’re part of a club that they don’t belong to. They understand that you have another family.
They could join, but they don’t. And that sets you apart and makes you awesome.
Romanticism and Mystery
For people who don’t ride motorcycles, there’s a lot of misunderstanding out there. Some people have the old vision of hooligans in leather jackets and funny hats (from the 50’s). Others think bikers are dirty hippies wearing denim vests and headbands (from the 60’s and 70’s). Some fortunate but misguided souls think of guys wearing pilot glasses and knickers on a bike with an engine that sounds like a ping-pong table (from the 20’s and 30’s).
Of course there are those that think all bikers are just hard drinking, heavy metal party goers.
Whatever the case, when people learn that you’re a motorcyclist, they instantly get a different vision of you. They think that under that facade of normalcy that you are presenting that you are a dirty hippy or that you have a leather jacket. They think about you differently and I suspect that many people are jealous. They’re jealous because of the freedom bikers enjoy.
As I mentioned… even with all the advances in technology that we enjoy today, motorcycling is inherently more dangerous than riding in a car. The same things that can happen to you on a motorcycle can happen to you if you’re in a car. Just to name a few:
- A semitruck might experience a blowout and tire shrapnel could hit you
- Bad road conditions such as gravel or an oily surface might cause you to lose control
- A deer with a deathwish might decide that “NOW” is the time to cross the road
- Some moron in a car with a deathwish might decide that stop signs don’t apply to them and blow through an intersection.
You get the idea. The difference though is that in a car, truck or SUV, you will likely survive any of those with relatively little injury. On a bike, any of those could be really bad.
And yet, we accept the risks. We understand and we still go out for that ride. Normal people don’t quite get it. They think that we are the the crazed lunatics with a deathwish. Of course we’re not, but despite all the risks we face, we still mount up and go for that ride.
And that makes us awesome.