“HOW COME YOU RIDE A MOTORCYCLE?” How many times have you been asked that question?
Or, the more direct one that will be asked is, “Aren’t motorcycles dangerous?”
I will often reply, “Of course motorcycles are dangerous. And that’s why they are not for everyone.”
If the person is actually interested in taking the discussion further, I warn them that I could talk about motorbikes until the sun goes down, and comes up again, and I could keep going on and on after that. (And although that’s a true statement, it’s also a ploy to avoid a conversation with someone who may not be that interested in the first place.) In which case I’ll gauge their level of interest, and consider my mood, and determine if I want to have the conversation at all, or if this is someone who just considers I’m a crazy biker (which I receive as a compliment).
In other words, sometimes I won’t offer much about riding at all, other than to answer a few questions.
After some number of years of talking to riders and non-riders, it finally dawned on me that it’s really not easy (perhaps not possible) to describe to non-riders why motorcyclists do what they do.
If a non-rider does appear to be truly interested, I’ll let them know that I’ll be happy to answer any further questions they have, but I also let them know I won’t encourage them to get a bike. That decision will need to be theirs, alone.
RIDING AS A PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
In my mind, riding isn’t something to take up just for the sake of trying it out (although there’s nothing wrong with that). The way I see it, to really enjoy riding, one needs to proactively acquire the necessary skills and competence to not only enjoy it, but to survive. (And that competence will not be gained by taking a weekend training course, or getting a motorcycle license, although those are a very good start!)
Even then it is unlikely that such a new rider will yet have the capacity to truly respect the risks they are confronting.
Hence, I consider that riding is best viewed as a matter of personal responsibility, rather than as merely another interesting hobby to check out for someone who may consider it as a casual pastime. Frankly, I consider that such a rider is better off checking it out, and learning as quickly as possible, that motorcycling is not for everyone, and certainly not for this person.
On the other hand, I do not begrudge anyone who would take up motorcycles as a hobby and consider it in a way that someone might try out, say, downhill skiing, for the sake of example. (I like skiing, too). But the reality is, way more people get hurt and killed as a result of riding motorcycles, than skiing down mountains. So, the riding life should be considered in the appropriate light.
And although there’s no way to know when you or I are going to bite the bullet, I sure am glad I’m not going through the process of being a newbie to motorcycles and learning how to ride all over again. (I still don’t know how I survived my teenage years on these things).
THE SIMPLICITY OF INCOMPARABLE PLEASURE
For me, the simplicity is, riding offers an incomparable amount of pleasure, regardless of the risks. And though the inherent “risks” have been reduced over the decades as my riding skills and awareness have continued to improve, I’m also cognizant that the fundamental risk will never go away.
I could be killed tomorrow by a soccer mom in an SUV who is yelling at her kids, talking on her phone, applying make-up, while trying not to spill her coffee. Afterwards, she may very well be sorry for having killed me. But the probability is, she’ll be more concerned about putting the whole incident behind her while trying to extricate herself from the matter by way of taking as little responsibility as possible. In other words, it’s more likely she will be focused on diminishing any potential legal troubles than taking responsibility for any inattentive actions on her part. Who knows, for a few weeks, she may even give up applying make-up while on the road.
This is not intended to be a condemnation of soccer moms, but merely a reflection of the reality that drivers of 4-wheeled vehicles cannot be expected to be as responsible on the roads as an experienced rider. Bikers who have been riding for years inherently know they had better be more aware of what’s going on all around them out on the public roadways, than anyone else that he/she is sharing the pavement with.
MOTORCYCLISTS ARE A MINORITY
The good news is, that such a probability keeps the ranks of motorbike riders at the levels they have been. In other words, I’m GLAD motorcycle riders only make up a small percentage of the riding public. Although I welcome with open arms any folks who wish to join the clan of global riders, I’m not one to encourage anyone to do so. I’d be just as content if there were only a fraction of the riders on the road.
Here at the very top of Southern California, my favorite riding season is the winter when there are a lot less bikes around. You kinda get the sense that when you give a nod or wave to someone riding in the off-season, that they’ve been riding a while, and this isn’t just a weekend hobby for them.
RIDING IS NOT FOR EVERYONE
So, although I am not at all opposed to more riders, and as stated earlier, I welcome ALL riders to the fold, the truth is, motorcycle riding is NOT for everyone. And I like it that way.
So, Why Do YOU Ride?
(Add your comments below)
137 thoughts on “We Don’t Need More Motorcycle Riders”
Its therapeutic as I have NO music , No conversation and am able to mentally cleanse while being acutely aware of what is going on around me (Which is necessary ) And I do embrace the solitude as I do prefer to ride ALONE. I am not a biker , just a guy that enjoys riding and bikes. I never really mind getting lost on a bike but get pissed when I get lost in the car ???? Go figure ???
The one thing I hate on the roads over the last few years is the proliferation of the large SUV driven by people who never actually use them for what they were designed for, (off-road). So many people sit in their large top heavy SUVs thinking they are invulnerable and seem quite willing to run over anyone stupid enough to get in their way. Maybe it is time to tax the large SUV so that the “soccer mum” has to go back to driving a smaller sedan and actually learn to drive properly. I know I would feel a lot safer on the road if there were fewer SUVs.
The motorcycle is a connection with unvarnished reality. The laws of physics have no court of appeals. For some it is more than they care to deal with. For others it is a Truth they can find no where else.
I have two different answers when I’m asked that question…..I usually provide one or the other, depending on who I’m dealing with.
Answer number one is, “Of course they’re dangerous….that’s why I do it!”
Answer number two is, “If you have to ask why I ride….you probably wouldn’t understand my explanation.”
Each one, of course, followed with an ear-to-ear grin. 🙂
It’s fun. It gives a sense if freedom. The view is open and I don’t feel closed in. It kind of gives me the feeling what it could’ve been like for the lone cowboy crossing the open range on his trusty horse, his best friend. Crossing New Mexico & Arizona gave me that feeling. It’s a sport, so that automatically entails some work…..fun work. As an air plane pilot must keep up his flying hours, I try to ride often to keep my experience level up. There is less protection and i try to learn I can about safety…..articles, accident statistics, forums, videos, personal protective equipment, bike maintenance & operation. It’s hard to say all the reasons I ride but if I think safety first, then I ride with more confidence & enjoyment! It’s exhilarating and fun!
Thom (5/21/12) says motorcycles are for people who can’t afford a car. What? Maybe in third world countries, but here it’s quite the opposite. People buy motorcycles because they can afford one (along with their car or cars) and because it’s FUN and touches their soul on some level. Pure and simple. I never feel closer to God as when I’m listening to Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, et al AND when I’m riding my Harley 🙂 A spiritual experience, of sorts.
I’ve been riding now just 5 years…and most people think I’m either brave or crazy or both. But giving up riding, in light of all the risks, would be unthinkable to me. It’s part of who I am, so much so that I’m moving out west where I can ride year round. This weather in New York is as intolerable to me as is not being able to ride for 5 months because of it! Come April, my house goes up for sale…
Riding is about all those things others have mentioned (freedom, adventure, risk, relaxation, etc.), but not being able to ride because there is snow and ice on the road really SUCKS! So, for now, I entertain my fixation by watching videos of those who get to ride year-round.
I ride for sheer pleasure and rejuvenation. When I ‘m on my motorcycle, all that matters to me is being “Here N Now,” especially when I do it alone, I feel I am in the great outdoors and soon I become a part of it. It’s just you, your machine and the open roads that give you the feeling which is matchless. When I am in a group, I feel good to ride with like minded people, that’s probably why we are called BIKERS. So, motorcycling is diffidently dangerous when someone doesn’t give importance to safety, however what YOU get of it can only be felt and not explained… Gotta go, I have miles to cover.
I wish I could describe the feeling I get from riding my bike. Best I can say
Is that it makes me feel more alive than almost anything I can think of. I can tell you
what it is not. No stress relief as I ride in SE Florida where your unaware drivers
are homicidal. I previously had a very large touring bike and there was no stress
on the road, however at 0 speed it was a handful. Traded that one much less
stress , however the homicidal drivers are still there. I don’t care to have the wind
in my face (never a problem with last bike) and I just installed a larger windscreen
on my current bike and I am an almost lifetime full face helmet wearer. I don’t get a sense of freedom I can derive that better by hiking in the woods. I don’t do it to get attention or to be cool.
Some of the other things that add to the experience is the comraderie especially
if you are with a group. Sure motorcycling is dangerous and when as a teen I saved
enough cash to go down to the Honda shop; tell ya what I’m gona do (with due
respect to the Hondells) my parents gave me the same BS. Your uncle’s friend
crashed into a tree and killed himself. Years later back from the Navy, I rode with
my Uncle who confided in me that his friend was so drunk that he doubted that he
felt a thing. There is danger. Keep your head on straight an enjoy the ride
I cannot add anymore comments than already said; riding is fun and thrilling. I am in TN and ride all year, save snow or ice. What I really appreciate is the riders who ride alone. I belong to CMA and do group riding, although not often. Hope to see you all on the highway – be safe, be responsible and enjoy the wind in your face.
I ride because for the simple pleasure. I have a talk with GOD, Talk to myself, ease the stress of a day and in general to just be on 2-lane roads just enjoying the view, the restfulness of being away from the rat race . My wife also rides her own, so getting up on a Sunday morning going to church, eating breakfast and going on a short ride together makes us both smile ,sitting at a lake after 2hrs riding the bikes, watching people fish or relaxing in their way, and talking to them about what back road we just rode and see that smile of “they love riding, I wish I did –look” Could go on but I’m sure some of you understand.Just be safe
For me riding a motorcycle is like the freedom I received when I was very young on a bicycle, for that matter the motorcycle is an extention of the first bicycle. You hop on and off you go for a planned or unplanned trip. It’s a way to kill time or accomplish something purposeful. It can be a tool or it can be toy. Anyway I look at it even with the added responsibility of doing what some may consider dangerous the feeling of freedom I get while riding is always worth it.
From my first bike (a Moto Morini) when I was 13 to my last acquisition (696 Monster) at 56 and all the bikes in between, dirt or street, riding a motorcycle is something I can’t imagine not doing.
(1)When a non-riders ask about my bike & why I ride,(2) Then the next thing they say, is I rode once,& hit the gas & did back flip etc(3) How come ALL you guys speed & pass every one? I just say, (1) it,s fun.& I enjoy it. (2)I hope you didn’t get hurt to bad (3) It’s not all of us, you just remeber the bad ones. Then I get on my bike & do wheelie & speed away.(just kidding) This is why I ride!
Joe says: ” These days, it seems to me that attitudes of drivers have changed. Most 4 wheel drivers seem much more courteous than they used to. Perhaps it is because our numbers are growing to the point that almost every body loves somebody who rides a bike.”
I think he’s on to something! I find drivers quite courteous as well. So far I haven’t had any problems and I travel in heavy taffic quite often. Cagers tend to hang back when I’m changing lanes, they let me in their lane, they don’t stop too close behind me when I’m stopped, etc. On the other hand, in my car, it’s a free-for-all here in Seattle!
I agree, Joe and Marco. There’s something shared in that “wave”; good people recognizing they have something in common.
Yes Joe ks is right on. I ride alone as well but I do feel like I’m a part of a larger community. There is s bond that you do feel when you pass another biker and exchange “the wave”
I think pack riding is overrated anyway.I always feel more of a sense of freedom and adventure when I can go my own way.
drDave, you said “In part, I wanted to become part of a group of other riders. As far as I can tell, that was a complete failure.. .” … I know what you mean by group riding, but it’s something I’ve never done myself. At least not in the way you mean. I’ve always ridden “alone”, the only exception being that I did ride some with a couple of other gi’s when I got my first bike in 1974. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with group riding, but then on the other hand, I still can’t help but feel like part of a great group of people even when I ride alone. Every time I pass someone else on a bike going the other way and they hold our their hand at me. People in 4 wheelers don’t do that. I wouldn’t necessarily say motorcycle riders they are all magnificent people, but I do think there is just something special about people who get around on motorcycles. I ride alone all the time, but at the same time, I feel like nobody ever really rides alone, if that makes any sense. The title on this forum is “We don’t need more motorcycle riders”. To me, that’s kind of like “We don’t need more Americans”. To both, new motorcycle riders and new Americans, I say if you do it right, and if you have have the understanding of what you have become a part of, welcome aboard. You’re not alone.
In part, I learned to ride as a challenge to everything about my overcautious life. I ride, and I’m still cautious. . .but I ride. . .and there’s just nothing like it. I’m so glad I did it.
In part, I wanted to become part of a group of other riders. As far as I can tell, that was a complete failure.. . .there don’t appear to be any local groups of (BMW) riders; the ones I’ve found are several hours away in any normal traffic.
I’d advise people who want to become part of a riding group to check* before they buy. . .or you may find you’re the only one. . .
I DO expect ALL drivers to be responsible. No exceptions. That also means I plan on their lack of attention. But it should never lessen their responsibility nor my “extra” diligence/attention and planned contingencies.
Where do I begin? Like Mike above I got my first “real bike” in late August of this year and I’m 51. I’m fulfilling a life long dream, even if my NC700x is the DCT version with paddle shifting option : ) I already have 2800 + miles on it. I’ve joined a terrific motorcycle club and go on charity bike rides, with the 10,000 bike Love Ride coming up this Sunday. I’ve even motorcycle marshaled a 3 day charity bicycle ride along the Southern California coast this past weekend. I’m meeting new people and making new friends. I’ve seeing incredible views I wouldn’t get from a car. I love the gas mileage I get from my bike, especially with today’s skyrocketing gas prices. I like the people I meet with similar interests and have discovered there are groups who want to shake the bad image that some feel about motorcycle riders. I’ve been riding on two wheels motorized for 7 months now. I have a LOT of learning to do, including learning a standard transmission : )
The no 1 reason I ride a mc is because it gives me the freedom of choice to go further, quicker, cheaper mostly at my pace w/the option to max out all five senses doing it. I can SEE, TOUCH, HEAR, SMELL and TASTE (yes bugs have a taste) far more than with any other sport. Also, I usually get to control which sense I want to enjoy more of at any moment. Sky/deep sea divers miss out on about half, sports that require a ball only get an inkling of all five at once & usually seem to leave players broke/disappointed and always sore somewhere. Auto sports has the five senses but, is limited by huge money. My no 2 reason is…BIKERS put something back. MORE PARKING SPACES, CLEANER ENVIRONMENT, LESS CONGESTION, LESS LANDFILLS & ARE MORE COST EFFECTIVE. Still riding at 70
Why do I ride? I’ve really only been asked that two or three times. My answer is always the same. I ride because I love being a part of the environment rather than looking at it through a window. I have ridden my motorcycles in nearly every conceivable weather condition over the years, from riding a to college in Washington state in the snow back in the day ’cause I didn’t have a car, to horrendous downpours in Nova Scotia, to 107 degree heat in Las Vegas, to 60+ mph winds in South Dakota and Montana. My wife and I have taken my Harley into all 48 contiguous states and every Canadian province from British Columbia to Nova Scotia (not including the NW Territories or Newfoundland). I wouldn’t trade my riding time for any other hobby, no matter what. We have run into bad weather, of course, but we also have hand fantastic weather and seen sights you just can’t appreciate from a car. You can’t really explain to non riders what it is like to feel the wind, smell the aromas of nature, see well in every direction and appreciate the beauty of this country. I’ve driven over 100,000 miles on various bikes and hope to drive many, many more. Ride Safe and be happy!
My kids thought I was crazy when, at the age of 54, I got my first bike, a 1996 Suzuki GS500E three years ago. They became convinced of my insanity (I prefer to use the term obsession) when I sold my 1974 Austin Mini that I had owned and loved for 12 years to finance the purchase of my newest bike, a 2004 Honda ST1300. I guess I don’t have to explain the thrill I get riding, but I also understand that I have a huge responsibility to stay alive. I have a family that counts on me for many things, bills to pay, and a business to run. I do everything in my power to be safe. I’ve taken two safety courses and will take more. I don’t take unnecessary chances and I ride as if no one sees me. But I figure I have about twenty more years of riding ahead of me and I don’t want to miss a day of it. Be safe.
I kinda disagree with the “less motorcycles is better” idea. The way I see it, one more bike on the road means one less cage on the road, and… one more person who is aware of their responsibilities when they ARE in a cage!
Riding as well as driving is a skill action. You have to educate yourself in order to do this action correctly and safe. Before you decide to jump of a perfectly good airplane, just for the pleasure or thrill of it, it is very wise to educate yourself on the parameters of the action you must take in order to arrive to the ground in one piece. Now, why people don’t do the same on motorcycle, cars, suv’s or big rigs. All this vehicles offer a different type of thrill, but they also are very different and in a moment of danger, they also react totally different from one to the other. If you are not prepared or skilled on the vehicle you are driving the results in a panic situation are probably going to be disastrous. The power to weight ratios in all this units are totally different, also the ability to drive them is also very different. It has happen that a policeman is driving a cruiser car for a while and all of a sudden they change him to an SUV and ends up over turning it in a curve where he has driven other times at high speeds. How many times have you been driving down the road in your car and a motorcyclist passes you and you become irate because it scare you all so sudden? In the majority of the accidents I have reconstructed where there is a motorcycle involved, 99% of the time the driver of the car was unaware of the motorcyclist until it was to late or have collided with it. This is called “Reticular Thinking”. It is that part of the brain that chooses what is dangerous to you at that moment. It is not paying attention on your task at hand. It is the “Chiuaua Syndrome” on the part of the motorcyclist, thinking to be braver than the car and thinking in most cases that the driver saw him, (first error), and the “Pitbull” Syndrome on the part of the driver thinking that the motorcyclist will stop because he can not get hurt (if he or she saw him). A Scooter does not behave the same as a Hayabusa even thou they are both Motorcycles. A Ferrari does not behave the same as a Trooper. An 80 thousand pounds big rig does not behave the same as a 350 truck. We all drive in the same streets and being aware of all the different types of vehicles that we have to share the road with and understanding their capabilities will go a long way of saving life’s. I love riding because it releases some of my feelings when you feel bad. But when you ride you have to be thinking all the time of your surroundings, the people you are sharing the road with and thinking you are a TARGET. This will keep you alive quite a bit longer and sure motorcycle riding is not for everyone, the same as para-shooting is not for everyone either. Educate before riding and ride safe.
Why do I ride? I ask myself that question sometimes when the logical side of me says what the hell are you doing? Then I remember when I get back on the bike the incredible feelings of freedom,the beauty,the sensual pleasures and adventures you would never have in a car. I agree riding isn’t for everyone and that’s another thing I like..It makes me a little different from most people and I experience something the majority never will…the thrill of riding a motorcycle.
I have to disagree with the blanket statement, “Motorcycles are dangerous”. Motorcycles in and of themselves are perfectly safe as long as the rider can “ride”. It’s the idiots in cars ‘n’ trucks that make M/C riding dangerous (well, them and the beautiful, but stupid deer – but that’s another story). When I started riding 52 years ago, my father, a life long rider, told me, “ALWAYS assume people in cars ARE going to try and kill you and ride accordingly”. So far, knock on wood, that has served me well.
Very well said Jimbo!
” Why do I ride a motorcycle”? Because I enjoy it, I enjoy the precieved freedom, the smell and sounds around me, being part of the environment, an active particpant in the journey, short or long, and not a mere spectator inside a cage. Nuff said.
“Aren’t motorcycles dangerous”? Not no but HELL NO. In and of themselves motorcycles are not dangerous. Motorcycles, like guns, cars and street intersections become dangerous only when the human element is introduced. Sitting in your garage a motorcycle or car poses no danger. A gun in a cabinet poses no danger. A street intersection poses less danger at 3 in the morning then during rush hour. Think about it, what is the common denominator?
Informed riders, like sky and skuba divers, free rock climbers, speelunkers, police and firemen are aware of the risks and train and educate themselves to minimize those risks. I, for one, would never jump out of a perfectly good airplane but have no qualms about setting off across the country or across town on a motorcycle.
I accept the risks of inattentative and distracted cage drivers and those that drive like they own the road and everyone else “get out of the way”. When I ride I must anticipate what every other driver entering my “space” might do and prepare for the worst. I also must realize I am entering another drivers space and he/she may focus on a single task and not see me. Keep the shiny side upright.
Can’t disagree with that. I ride my own motorcycle (8 years old) to work on freezing days because I can’t afford to put gas in the car. The name of this article is “We Don’t Need More Motorcycle Riders” but I suspect we are going to see a whole lot more of them before to long. Honestly, though, in a way, that seems like a good thing. 40 some odd years ago when I first started riding one, I had drivers look me in the face, make eye contact with me and then pull out in front of me. If I got killed, there was always the handy “I didn’t see him” excuse. These days, it seems to me that attitudes of drivers have changed. Most 4 wheel drivers seem much more courteous than they used to. Perhaps is it because our numbers are growing to the point that almost every body loves somebody who rides a bike. I don’t know, but I really do feel safer than I used to. Having said that, one thing that will always be true for a motorcycle rider: The number one responsible person for your life is yourself.
Apologies are unecessary. I wasn’t talking about the USA , just the developed world in general. My late mother was a USA citizen. We talk about motorcycling mostly as a leisure pursuit. When you see the real uses that motorcycles can be put to, it changes your outlook completely.
I guess I misunderstood what you were trying to say. I have also been to less fortunate countries.
A short story: Once there was a man who had no home. He did have a beat up old car and it was winter time. He had two jobs but hadn’t gotten his first pay check from either yet so he had no money to put gas in the car, which he had to park somewhere. So, he parked outside a Denny’s restaurant, just for a place to be. He sat there for about an hour, looking in. Another man in similar straits happened by and he invited the second man into his car. The other man asked him “What do you think of that Denny’s?” The first man replied “Sure looks warm in there. All those people sitting around, drinking hot coffee, talking with friends and family, and that smell of cooking food sure is great. I sure wish I had a dollar for a cup of coffee. The second man says, “Well, it happens I have two dollars, what say we both go in and have ourselves a cup?” So, they went in side and sat down at the counter. The first man happened to sit down next to a man wearing a suit, obviously a business man. “Hi there.” he said to the business man. “How are things here at Denny’s today?” To which the man answered “Ok, I guess. Coffee service kind of sucks today, though” … How we see a lot of things in life pretty much depends on whether we are on the inside looking out, or on the outside looking in. I think it would do every American a bit of good to spend some time on the outside looking in. So I guess I understand your point. I misunderstood because something also quite common is people hacking on America and Americans and I thought that was your point. I never apologize for my country, but my apologies for having misunderstood your point..
Hi Joe, I love motorcycling and people have all sorts of reasons why they ride and no harm in that. My own guilt trip came on a motorcycle tour through countries less fortunate than those of us living in the “developed world”, I realised that motorcycles were a real help in the lives of those that could afford one. I’m talking small (100cc and below) motorcycles here, which make up most of the world’s motorcycling production, loaded beyond belief with all sorts of people and goods. So Joe, enjoy your trip , no need to take one for me, I’ll be at the Irish Indian Motocycle Rally this weekend but I’ve already taken my guilt trip. Wish I had some of that beef jerky to take with me though, we can’t get it here for some reason
Enjoy your trip.
“Rich beyond the wildest dreams…” Are you kidding me? I work darn hard to pay my bills and support my family, but always found a way to save and have my bikes while making sure the wife stays in a relatively new 4 wheeled vehicle and has her bike. I follow my passion daily, even if it is just for an hour. It does not necessitate being rich, just wanting it bad enough to make it happen. I hope the days are close by when you may enjoy your passions.
I don’t know where you get your information, but there are those of us right here in the good old USA who have never bought a new car, some who can’t even buy a house, but for all that, I do have a fairly nice used car, and a bike. I didn’t buy the bike to thumb my nose at the rest of the world, as you may think, however, maybe this weekend I’ll load it up with horse bread, hard tack and a little beef jerky and take a guilt trip just for you.
Motorcycles are for people who cant afford a car. That’s why motorcycles exist. The majority of the world’s motorcycle riders don’t have an option. You can only follow your passion when you are rich beyond the wildest dreams of most of the world’s motorcyclists.
I ride because there is nothing more thrilling than the sound of my Harley and feeling all that power between my legs, as well as the thrill of flying down the highway while birds soar overhead. It’s me and my Harley. We are one and for the moment I’m riding, I forget all my problems. Nothing else matters.
I hear all the time: you don’t LOOK like a motorcyclist! Or, from one guy, ‘well if YOU can learn to ride, then so can I!’ . Was he referring to my being a girl? Of course. But many men don’t ride simply because their wives don’t want them to which is so sad. I say: follow your passion. It’s never too late.