Things, stuff, and other items of interest

July 29, 2010

Breaking biker taboos -OR- Why I wave at scooters

http://imgur.com/Qv0Qg
It used to be, that if you used the term 'Biker' to describe someone, everyone knew precisely what you meant. Male, independent, tough, a casual regard or disregard for society and it's norms, and most importantly: free. Utterly and completely one hundred percent free. The only worries that burdened his brow were gas stops and speed limits, and the speed limits didn't really bother him that much.

Or at least, that's the romantic notion of a biker anyhow. I'm not entirely convinced it was all that accurate. I've been riding motorcycles for a few years now, and I have to admit, I've never been able to wear the label 'Biker' all that well. It doesn't suit me, and it never will. I'm not so delusional as to think that will ever change.  This is neither good nor bad, it simply is. Oh, I meet some, maybe even most of the qualifications. 
  • Male? - Check.
  • Independent? - More or less. I like to think so anyhow. Though in the interest of historical accuracy I can not in good conscience claim that this has always been the case. I have some very patient parents. 
  • Tough? Well, I suppose that probably depends on your definition of tough. 
    • Scars, burns and broken bones I've had plenty. 
    • Once or twice, I've been kicked out of a bar or two. Usually peacefully.
    • I've had to work as security for private parties and corporate retailers.
    • I've worked as a butcher and hauled dead animal carcasses all across Northumberland county. On one occasion I was completely covered from head to toe in moose blood. It didn't bug me. Oh I wasn't happy about it, but I didn't freak out either.
    • I'm familiar with what emergency room doctors refer to as "Boxers' Fracture" and can confirm it hurts as much on the right hand as it does the left.
Contrary wise:
    • I can't talk about my deceased dog in public for fear of a complete emotional break down.
    • "Worlds' Greatest Dog"
    • I'll freely admit to tearing up every time I watch Band of Brothers.
    • The Princess Bride remains one of my favourite movies. (One of Mister Roussimoff's finest films.)
    • Every time I hear "In Flanders Fields" by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, I get more than a little choked up.
    • I nearly lost my lunch all over a doctor probably ten years my junior while he tended to my in-grown toe nail.

Thought I had an iron stomach for the gross stuff. Eye witnessing toe surgery is probably the single most disgusting thing I have ever seen.Tue May 04 20:23:46 via web
    So do I qualify as tough? I don't know about that,... but I'm no sissy (usually).
    • A casual regard / disregard for society and it's norms? - I have a yo-yo collection, need I say more?
    • Free? - That's a tough one. 
      • Free thinker? - Sure.
      • Free spirit? - If applied as it's used in contemporary dialect, probably not. 
      • Politically free? - As much as any other Canadian.
      • Legally free? - Yup. No convictions to date. w00t! 
    Three out of four ain't bad. I'm as free as anyone who decides to participate in society, pay bills, seek & maintain gainful employment, and eat regularly.
    So there you are. I may or may not meet most of the classically romantic requirements to wear to badge of 'Biker', and still it doesn't fit. Who am I kidding? I could be a fully patched MC member, riding a chopped hog down route sixty-six while the ends of my handle-bar mustache waved in the air behind me having long ago given up wearing a brain bucket, and I STILL wouldn't claim the title of 'Biker'. It just doesn't fit. Like a fat man in a speedo, like a plus sized gal in spandex, like the proverbial round peg in the proverbial square hole... it doesn't work.

    But then, I'm not alone there. Look around you next time your driving down the road and someone on a motorcycle passes you. Full face helmet on a cruiser? Reflective jacket? Reflective adhesive tape on the helmet / bike / jacket? Reflective vest? High beams or light bar? Full leathers in the middle of july? None of that's very 'Biker'. It is however very, very smart. What about the scooter riders? You just know that the real bikers look at these guys and start grinding their teeth. A more emasculating motorized vehicle I'm not sure I can fathom and yet in Europe and asiatic countries they are highly regarded as versatile, economical, practical vehicles. A buddy of mine has a very crude & obscene joke about scooters, that I will not repeat here because this ain't that kind of a blog. It is genuinely funny if you don't mind an occasional round of gutter jumping. North Americans would be well served if we started to hold the much maligned scooter in higher regard.

    Motorcycle riders have a custom. You've probably seen us do it. When we pass another rider who's going in the opposite direction, we give them a little wave. "Hey brother, nice bike. Ride safe." All of that in a simple gesture, offered and accepted among equals. It's something of an unspoken rule that this wave is proffered up only to other motorcycle riders. I have to confess that I regularly break this biker taboo. I freely admit to the fact that I give the motorcycle wave to scooter riders. Hell, I once gave the wave to a cyclist. My reasoning is pretty simple. So long as they're on two wheels, pounding the same pavement in the same traffic, and facing the same dangers that I am.... all the more power to them. They're as worthy of the wave as anyone else. Who am I to judge a fellow rider by the size of his or her bike / scooter? In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I draw the line at the imbeciles riding the 25cc electric bikes on the road in the gutter. If you can't master the absurdly simple concepts of defensive riding, don't ride. No wave for you, you pathetic excuse for a rider.

    Riding a motorcycle has become a hobby. A pass time. What was once a life style for the famous and infamous one percenters has become an after work outing or a weekend get away. Times change, it's inevitable. Traditions eventually fade. It's sad, but it's also true. There are still a few hold outs, some never-say-die bikers who will ride into eternity laughing in deaths' face and partying until the end of time. To them, I can only wish them well and urge them to ride hard & ride safe. For the rest of the riders, I'll give you a wave on the road when I see you. Scooter, motorcycle or trike, I don't care. As for those of you in four wheeled vehicles, keep a look out for us and for crying out loud check your blind spots.

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