Motorcycle Culture is Weird
And it just got (gloriously) weirder.
Time To Read: 4 mins | October 17, 2016
I’m legitimately jealous of people who are so deeply passionate of a single thing, they can become experts at it. That could be anything from an academic discipline to a sport to Mario Kart – a person devotes an incredible amount of time and energy to become a master at something, and that’s only possible if it’s a true, true passion. It’s borderline autistic, in the best possible way.
Where as my focus is more comparable to ADD. I have the attention span of a golden retriever, jumping from one shiny thing to the next, never devoting enough energy to any one thing to become a master of it.
Take motorcycles, for example. I got my license and bought my first bike four years ago for several reasons. Practically speaking, it’s the fastest way to get around Los Angeles, the galactic capital of traffic jams. But California is the only state in the union that allows ‘lane splitting’, meaning I can just blast between the crawling cars, simultaneously getting me across town in half the time and giving my mother heart attacks.
There’s also the undeniable cool factor. When you’re a broke kid straight out of college, you can only afford so much for a vehicle, and thus the chances of getting something stylish are borderline nil. But motorcycles are, relatively speaking, much cheaper, and all the badass guys in movies drive them. So as much as it was a time-saving practical purchase, it was also a cheat to appear ‘cool’ as a broke twenty-something.
But all of that is secondary. Because when it comes down to it, I really just wanted to drive one.
There are experiences I’ll never get in this lifetime – I’m not going to play quarterback for the Cowboys, I’m not going to walk on the moon – but driving a motorcycle at questionable speeds on canyon roads? That thrill is within my grasp, and I’m not going to die having not done it.
Now, one thing about motorcycle people is, most of them are hardcore motorcycle people. That passion I was elaborating on earlier exists strongly in a huge percentage of riders, more so than other hobbies. If you get into a conversation about bikes with a random rider, odds are he can spit out makes, models, parts, serial numbers, dates, appearances in pop culture and God knows what else off the cuff. Bikers love the details and intricacies of bikes.
But I, the golden retriever, couldn’t care less. It goes fast and looks cool, so I own one. That is the extent of my passion.
This makes conversations with other bikers awkward. Usually it’s a friend of mine who brings up the subject, because I’ve learned not to. “Oh, you own a motorcycle? So does Malcolm!” And then I proceed to have no idea what the shit this heavily-tattooed, slightly smelly manly man is talking about (I hang out in questionable neighborhoods), and after I fail to look like I know what I’m talking about – “What tuning have I done? I put air in my tires last week.” – the contempt simply oozes out of the true enthusiast’s pores.
As long as I don’t have to open my mouth, however, it’s a fun club to belong to. The camaraderie between riders is special, like nothing I’ve ever been a part of — bikers always wave to one another. It’s just a small move, usually a hand held low with fingers splayed, extremely casual. But if you’re passing another rider, going the opposite direction, or just stopped at the same red light, riders always acknowledges other riders. It’s incredibly charming that an entire demographic of stereotypically ‘hard guys’ would give a sign of respect to complete strangers, just because they share the same passions.
With that being said, there are divisions. Cruisers (think Harley Davidsons) will always wave to other cruisers. Sport bikes (crotch rockets) will always wave to other sport bikes. But the two categories won’t always acknowledge one another. It happens often, sure, but not as unilaterally as signaling to your own breed.
This trend is exaggerated when it comes to scooters. Like they’re evolutionarily beneath the big boys, bikers don’t give a nod to their less powerful cousins. In fact — I may be wrong on this — I don’t believe scooterists (real word, probably) wave to one another on the road. Maybe the same camaraderie doesn’t exist under 150cc’s. I do know that, personally, the very few times someone on a scooter tried to wave at me, I instinctively scoffed under my helmet and sped past.
Except one time.
I was driving through my neighborhood, headed somewhere probably unimportant. There were long lines in front of all the stop signs at the upcoming intersection. When I finally reached the front of the queue, a scooter was across the way.
The scooter was a shade of neon pink I didn’t know was possible to achieve outside anime, trimmed with an ungodly amount of polished chrome. The woman riding it looked like she was pushing 85, wearing a teal pantsuit and a bedazzled baby blue helmet. May you live long enough to see such a sight.
I was immediately smiling in appreciation – when I reach that age, I can only hope to be that badass.
So you can imagine how hard I started laughing when this senior citizen scooterist began repeatedly honking her horn at me, and waving over her head like I was a grandchild she hadn’t seen in years.
That, simply put, doesn’t happen. I was so beside myself with glee I started waving back in an overly enthusiastic manner, also over my head like I was keeping the beat at a rock concert. I did this for so long, the car behind me decided to join in the fun and started blaring his horn, too.
In hindsight, he may have been telling me to move. But as I drove away from the intersection, still laughing like a maniac, something occurred to me: that little old lady, in her ridiculous, awesome outfit, with that unbridled passion and devil-may-care enthusiasm, is more of a biker than I am.
photo: if a sleeping tortoise could dab, it would look like this. dominical, costa rica