What Are Common Motorcycle Rider Characteristics?

long-term-riderHOW SIMILAR OR DIFFERENT ARE YOU, COMPARED TO OTHER RIDERS? Over the years, non-motorcycle riders have asked me to express common traits among motorbike riders that I’ve observed. But I’ve been hard pressed to identify truly universal common rider attributes – other than a love of motorcycles and riding. Perhaps you know of some that you might add in the comments below?

Regardless, as I’ve thought about this from time to time (well, factually, I’ve not thought about it too much at all), it occurs to me that at least one common trait among “successful” motorcycle riders (those that have been riding for many years), would have to be their awareness of the road, and especially their awareness of other drivers on the road. Although such awareness cannot guarantee long-term rider survival, I would say it’s a factor that would separate out temporary, or short-term riders, from long-time riders.

Stated more directly, it’s certainly possible that a rider can be taken out, in spite of a pretty acute driver awareness, since it’s common for motorcycles to be smashed by automobiles that have violated the biker’s right-of-way.

Acute Rider Sensitivity to Road and Drivers

Having said that, if a rider does “not” have an acute sensitivity to on-the-road situational awareness, he/she is almost guaranteed to be taken out by an inattentive driver, sooner or later.

Stated another way, show me a motorcyclist who maintains a similar degree of situational awareness on a motorcycle that many drivers are accustomed to in a car, and I will show you a short-term rider. A motorcycle rider simply does not have the luxury of being as inattentive as may be observed among many drivers we share the road with.

On the other hand, show me any motorcyclist with a whole bunch of miles and riding experience under their belt, and I’ll show you a rider who has an unusually acute sensitivity to what is happening moment-to-moment in front of, and behind him/her, on the road.

(Conversely, show me a motorcycle rider who also drives a car, and I’ll show you an automobile driver who is more aware of their driving environment than the vast majority of other drivers).

Acute situational awareness of one’s riding environment means being able to avoid quite a number of potentially bad riding circumstances by foreseeing drivers moving into your right-of-way, and simultaneously changing your course, to get out of the way.

Even short-term riders soon learn that it doesn’t matter who is legally right or not, in terms of the laws of the road, since motorcycle riders get the short end of the stick in most confrontations with 4-wheeled vehicles.

From my view, acute situational awareness simply equates to a greater control of one’s self, environment and future, which I would argue, equates to a greater control of one’s life.

Well, OK, that may be stretching things too far, but at least I could more confidently argue that it equates to a greater control of one’s riding and motorcycling experience and staying alive. If you want to stretch that further to consider it also means greater control of one’s non-motorcycle life, I’ll leave that up to you.

Common Motorcycle Characteristics?

The more I ride, and the more I speak with other riders, the more I am aware that there are as many different rider personality characteristics as there are riders. Therefore, at least at this moment, I can not seem to come up with any other “common” characteristics among riders.

But maybe you can.

What would YOU say are common characteristics among motorcycle riders you have become acquainted with? (Add your comments below).

65 thoughts on “What Are Common Motorcycle Rider Characteristics?

  • I’m an anesthesiologist by trade, and a budding motorcyclist. I love both pursuits for the same reason. It’s using knowledge to take a calculated risk and improve someone’s quality of life.

    In the operating room, I operate a very complicated piece of equipment called the anesthesia machine. This is a potentially lethal contraption. I use my knowledge of physiology, pharmacology, physics and chemistry, plus my technical abilities, to safely use this machine on my patients. I take a calculated risk with my patients’ health, and in the end they are better off for it because it allows them to get through surgery with minimal discomfort.

    I take the same approach to motorcycling. A motorcycle is a potentially lethal machine. I love being adept at maneuvering it, although I must admit to being a newbie. For the record, mine is a BMW K1600 GTL. I use my technical skills to navigate this machine through the challenges of twisty California back roads. In return, I get the thrill of seeing nature whizz by me, the G forces of accelerating, leaning into turns, camaraderie with my fellow cyclists, and that intangible quality of being on the road.

  • I enjoyed reading these, mostly.

    I ride to feel free

    I have a busy job providing for my family , so an hour on a Sunday morning is just for me.

    Always aware of the danger, 20% more deaths now due to texting.

    No nights nor drinking.

    Back roads cranking Bon Seger on my big BMW

  • Charles Erikson says the Harley shops sell you the outlaw look. That’s for sure! I ride a Harley and clean cut types are few and far between at the Harley shops I frequent. I do think that the type of bike one chooses says something about the personality and the characteristics of the owner. (For me, it only reflects the guy I was dating when I bought the thing!!) I don’t fit that Harley image…I’m not a woman who likes to show off my body, cover it with tattoos, wear leather vests and ride in stilettos, and go topless at Sturgis. Of COURSE, I’m generalizing!!

    Commonality? Bikers have a love of freedom and adventure. I’ve talked to a lot of guys, some who have been riding for years and never had an accident and some who ‘boast’ many accidents, some serious. Maybe they’re just lucky. Of course, no matter how careful you are, you can still be wiped out by a crazy driver. So all bikers are risk takers. We just take calculated risks for the love of our sport. Personally, I know that I’d have a hard time getting through some of my days if it were not for my riding. So, for me, it’s crucial to my mental health.

  • @Charles Ericsson–You said, “The right wing has co-opted bikers to some extent with the helmet law issue, making it a big-government nanny-state thing, which I think is unfortunate.” I have a question… what about “personal responsibility”? Helmet laws are in-place to protect riders who are unclear on the laws of physics and probability. They are also there to protect everyone else so that when you go down hard, there is a chance you will be alive and well instead of brain-addled or dead and thereby dependent on the largess of the government to provide for you and your family. I’m all for letting motorcyclists compete for a Darwin Award by going sans helmet IF each helmetless rider has a minimum $5,000,000 insurance policy that will pay for ALL necessary medical expenses and provide for his/her family so that we, the taxpayers, are free from paying out due to a lack of such policy. If you want to ride without a helmet or with an inadequate one, that’s fine. Just don’t saddle the rest of us with the bill for your “freedom”.

  • I think that a common characteristic for anyone who stays in the riding game for more than a few years HAS to be sense. You don’t have to be book-smart, or even have a high IQ. You just have to be able to apply common sense to potentially deadly situations. There are all kinds of bikers. The Harley shops sell you on the outlaw look, while the Metric bike shops make you look like a racer, in my opinion. To each his/her own. I guess a lot of it has to do with freedom, but I don’t think it has to be the right-wing flag-waving type. It can just as easily be the Easy Rider type of freedom. The right wing has co-opted bikers to some extent with the helmet law issue, making it a big-government nanny-state thing, which I think is unfortunate. Riding doesn’t embrace any political philosophy, it embraces pure freedom.

  • Please explain what all this dick-waving and military/police love fest has to do with the stated topic. The common trait that I see in every motorcyclist I meet is a love of the feeling of freedom and inclusion that we get when experiencing the world faster than we could on a horse and not surrounded by a metal cage.

  • I’ve been riding on & off for a long time and cannot think of any COMMON TRAITS OF MOTORCYCLISTS other than the love of riding or showing off a beautiful or mean bike or experiencing the power & speed of them. Riders seem to come from all walks of life. I think we simply enjoy the open air, non closed in, not trapped overall feeling. You know, as contrasted to cagers. It’s maybe the same reason people enjoy riding with their tops down on convertibles. I don’t think it’s that many of us have a death wish or being in the hospital to get needed attention, right? Of course not! It also most assuredly breaks up our humdrum routine!

  • Since this is supposed to be how we see things on the road and not become a war of words I’ll just say that I’ve had some close calls and have seen some very ignorant Aholes on the road. I was riding next to a new car with the top down and the driver was looking at me and talking to his girlfriend while pointing and talking about my bike. Then without warning, he came into my lane and tried to push me into oncoming traffic. I avoided a bad situation and yelled at him as to what the hell is he trying to do. His come back was: “You are a biker, and bikers have no road rights.” I wanted to drag him out of his car and lay a beating on him, but sure as hell I would have been the, “Bad” guy because no one else heard what he said. I’ve been riding for decades and have put hundreds of thousands of miles on my bikes and have found that this attitude is found all over North America. People in cars seem to think we are on the roads to annoy them, and use the excuse, “I didn’t see him,” but in a lot of cases it’s that they just don’t think a bike can do much damage to their car and figure we will have to give way to them because they are bigger. Driving a bike with the idea that everyone is out to kill you so you need to be a little more paranoid, is a safer way to ride. It also keeps you guessing what might happen before it does in a lot of cases. I’ve had numerous other situations that I could mention but I’d be here all day…lol.

  • Peter, I agree with your assessment of the thread and I most often try to not reply , but sometimes I can’t help myself. Now as to your interest in my experiences in riding. I began riding when I was 15 and bought my first bike at 18 (Honda 450). I’ve owned and ridden many different makes/models of motorcycles since then. In the 1980’s I was a motor officer on Kawasakis. In 2008 my wife bought me my first Harley (2003 Ultra Classic with 28k miles on it). I traded that one with 87k in 2011 on a new Ultra Classic which currently has 51k on it. Since 2008 I have ridden in all of the lower 48 states and every Canadian province from British Columbia to Nova Scotia from my home here in Georgia. My major interests are touring this country mostly on the back roads, seeing as many of the National Parks as I can, riding every “famous” road I can find time for (Beartooth Hwy, Pikes Peak, Natchez Trace, Blue Ridge Pkwy, Going to the Sun Road, etc.) and just enjoying everything I can see. It is utterly amazing the sights available from the seat of a bike. Have you seen that full-size, metal skeleton of a T-Rex with a chain around his neck being led by a life-size metal skeleton of a man? You can find it on google, but it is so much more fun having seen it in person. And other silly stuff like the Cadillac Ranch outside Amarillo. In closing I’ll just say I ride a Harley and love it, but I’m not a stereotype of what many picture as a Harley rider. No tattoos and no FTW attitude. I have zero interest in jumping on my bike to race down to the local saloon, get shit faced and then howl at the moon. I ride for the sheer joy of experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of the world around me that I could not if I were driving a car or truck. So, Peter, that’s me in a nutshell (ok, a rather large nutshell). Oh, I never mentioned close calls or whether I think loud pipes save lives… One wreck (age 18 head on with a woman driver who crossed four lanes of traffic to go into a store that had a SALE sign posted.) Many close calls as a cop running code. Very few close calls as a civilian rider. This I attribute to situational awareness. I try to anticipate what others on the road are going to do, and then not be in front of them when they do it. Loud pipes CAN save lives depending on circumstances. Hope I didn’t bore too many people with my biography.

  • Gents:

    Read through your comments and struggle to see what these mean in relation to motorcycle awareness. With all due respect this site in general and this thread in particular is about giving help and detail to riders who may rely on this in the future. It is NOT a forum for you to vent your respective spleens about Cops or anything else. Please show the respect that the rest of us deserve and comment on the subject matter at hand. Vern – you show considerable restraint in your replies but I am interested in your experiences in riding. Roy – we ALL know there are good and bad in all walks but I want to know your views on how riding requires a level of alertness that most car drivers have become immune to. Gent – riding is freedom and the people at Motor Cycle Intelligence are providing an amazing conduit to express what this means to us. Please, as one rider to another, respect that fact.
    Keep the rubber side down gents and enjoy.

  • vern , thanks for serving all of us in nam and on the force. and for all that care I was arrested numerous times and imprisoned a few before I figured that breaking the rules of society only took away my freedom. have been straight many years, raised 8 kids live a life I love. and have nothing but respect for the verns and my kids who are soldiers who take the risks so we can ride, fly, or whatever.

  • vern try u-tube 1] cyclist gets retaliatory ticket for telling a cop to stop blocking bike lane 2] d.c. cops waves gun for snowball fight … oh this is good 3] pot stealing cop ..I guess he needed it for ..4] cops planting weed in traffic stop .. and there’s 5] cops tazer teen with broken back 19 times …. so mr. ”cops can not do anything wrong – ever” .. oh wait because I said something do you feel you need to shoot me now …you need to break that habit ..your not a cop anymore so people can shoot back ..welcome to the real world

  • vern again you show the cop mental state ..if some one speaks out ..your kind need to resort to …….. … in dec 2011 the spd was subjected to a dept of justice investigation that found officers has ”violated the 14th amendment and the violent crime control act of 1994” doj found spd ”engaged in a PATTERN of excessive use of force that violated the constitution and fed law ” … spd settlement was reached in july 2012 …the ket word here is PATTERN OF EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE just as you show in you past post to me ..keep talking there is room for your other foot in your mouth …. again like I said there is good cops and bad cops … as a rider do you not think something is wrong when active army riders are pulled over because they are wearing army club patch ,in a army town ..watch the video …

  • I will avoid using foul language to reply to you, Roy, but I am a Vietnam vet and a retired cop. I have first hand knowledge of being shot at and dodging rockets and I received an Honorable Discharge. Cowards? Most of the cops I worked with were military vets before putting on the blue uniforms of city cops, or the brown or green uniforms of deputy sheriffs. I’ll give you this, though…if you were looking to push my buttons, you succeeded. Cowards because they give out tickets? Picking on military people? I don’t give a rip who violates the law, and I don’t (or rather didn’t) look for or target any class of people, or any particular type of vehicle. Do some cops give more tickets to certain groups? I imagine so. You feel you can paint us all with the same brush, however, regardless of how honorably we served–in the military and the police force. I find it unlikely that you would say in person to any cop or former military man what you write here because you’d no doubt immedately thereafter swallow some of your own teeth. You can shove your vitupretive crap back up where it came from.

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