If you want to live the life of a biker, you need to understand the rules of the road. No, not the ones you had to learn to get your license. Those are easy. The ones that help you get along better with other motorists, especially the other riders you share the road with on your travels.
Welcome To The Subculture
Motorcycle riding is more than just using a different vehicle to get around town. America’s motorcycle subculture grew out of the desire for post-WWII soldiers returning home to find the excitement and camaraderie they were used to from the battlefield, but with more freedom than the military had afforded them. Motorcycles were a cheap means of transport for this largely single and male demographic, and it let them relocate as necessary when they felt the need to move on and restart their lives.
The result was a rise of motorcycle clubs providing a loose hierarchy and a culture built on toughness and freedom. Hollywood was quick to take notice of the potential pop culture could find in the leather-clad, strong-jawed bad boy biker, and was quick to exploit the stereotype. All cultures have rules, and the life of a biker began to take on a set of expectations that largely exist to this day.
But Hollywood’s vision of bikers as criminals taking drug-fueled cruises and drunkenly fighting their way through seedy bars just isn’t true. Are there bikers that do this? Yes, and just like the truck drivers, bicycle riders, and station wagon drivers that do this, you should avoid them. The idea that most bikers behave in this manner is a creation of Hollywood propped up by bad action movies and the few actual bad guys who like attention. The outlaw life and the life of a biker are separate entities.
Don’t Expect A Guidebook
When you get your bike, no one is going to pull you to the side, put their arm around you, and tell you how to be a biker. You’re expected to know, and if you don’t, it can lead to problems. While missing a wave may not get you anything more than a glare, touching another rider’s bike could get you far, far worse. These tips will get you started, but pay attention to the riders you’re around and to how they behave. You’ll soon see the regional rules for what they are, and the life of a biker will truly have begun for you.
Do not touch another rider’s bike without permission! Let’s start with the big one. For some guys, their ride is just their ride. Others view it as a trusted friend. Some view their motorcycle in the same loving light as their girlfriend, and slapping its seat can have the same dramatic repercussions. Remember that while you both may be riders, that likely means something different to each of you. Be respectful of another’s ride as if it was a person.
That also means don’t expect to get to ride their bike. If you know them well, you can ask. Most riders will say no. They put a lot of work and love into it, and they aren’t ready to trust someone else with their ride. Looking at sweet wheels and not touching is often part of the life of a biker. Come to terms with it.
Everyone else on the road is trying to kill you, so decide to live, not to be right. When you’re riding a motorcycle, it’s harder for drivers to see you. A bike moves different than a car, and that’s what they’re used to looking for. Keep your eyes moving on the roadway for potential threats. They can come from anywhere, even the car next to you that you know just looked back in your direction. The right of way does you no good if you're waiting on an ambulance to scrape you off the road. Leave yourself a get-away whenever possible.
Learn how to “talk” to other riders. There is a whole slate of hand signals commonly used when riding in a group or riding solo. This helps you communicate threats, coordinate trips, ask for bathroom stops, and share the road safely, important tools in living the life of a biker safely. Modern helmets may have radios or Bluetooth headsets built in, but learning hand signals is easy, fast, free, and doesn’t require any kind of software upgrade to work.
As an example, you probably had to learn how to signal turns and stops with your arm to get your license. One thing you didn’t learn from the DMV is that tapping your hand on the top of your head while riding signals other riders that there is a police car ahead. Part of the life of a biker is helping other riders, so do some good and pass it on. Your new culture will appreciate it.
Respect others’ space. Everyone wants to be part of the group, but don’t force it. When parking your ride, leave plenty of space between you and the next bike to avoid damage or just crowding the other rider. If you come upon another cyclist at a stop, don’t roll up next to them unless you’re known or invited. It’s creepy and rude at the least. The one exception is if you see a hazard you need to let them know about. In that case, go ahead and build up that good karma.
Take care of each other. The life of a biker is a life built within a new family of sorts. You take care of family. If you see someone on the side of the road, stop and offer aid. If you’re riding at speed, give them a thumbs up. If they return the same, then you continue on knowing they have their situation handled. In fact, it’s a good practice to wave at any rider you pass. Many will return it, some won’t, but you’ll know you let someone know they’ve got people looking out for them. That’s something we all could use.
Take care of yourself. Sure, camaraderie is part of living the life of a biker, but so is self-sufficiency. Make sure you have your business handled, including the most likely things you’ll need to get yourself out of trouble. If another biker offers to help, that’s great, but be ready to help yourself too.
Own The Road
Make sure your bike is ready for your next cruise. Call (570) 992 1113 or go online to order your performance parts and accessories from West End Motorsports today.