Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Us and them

Back when I started riding motorcycles it was the done thing to give a friendly nod to anyone else on a bike.
Yet over the years this tradition has been eroded. As in so many areas of life it appears that motorcycling is being gradually broken down into cliques.
It seems to have got to the stage where every type of bike has it's own little club giving so many riders the attitude of "You're not in my club so I'm not going to acknowledge you".
You have sports bike riders - often with matching one-piece leathers and who wouldn't dream of taking their pride and joy out unless the sun has got it's hat on, and then there's the cruisers - usually mid-life crisis victims who think that riding a Harley very slowly at the weekend will give their libido a new lease of life.
Next up are the BMW riders - seriously sad when you won't acknowledge the presence of another biker unless they're riding a bike that came out of the same factory. The Honda Goldwing riders go around looking like they've got a nasty smell under their nose but I'n not sure they count as bikers anyway when what they're riding is more of a two-wheeled car than a motorcycle; really, why subject yourself to all the downsides of riding a bike when you're too big to exploit the upsides like filtering which is actually a legal manoeuvre not matter what the occasional self-righteous car driver might believe - moving out to prevent you slipping past a queue of traffic because "I'm stuck in a traffic jam and so should you be" - bitter and twisted, small-minded, ill-informed wankers that they are.
The assorted groups seem to be almost endless - scooters, mopeds, small lightweights, muscle bikes, tourers all have their own little clique.

I ride two bikes, one a Suzuki Bandit 1200 which I love with it's big engine that makes overtaking so effortless, and the other is a little Yamaha YBR125 which is my super-frugal commuter that despite only having a tenth of the power of the Bandit is still fun to ride in it's own way. I thoroughly enjoy my time spent in the seat of either of them, yet they each give a different perspective of the biker nod and illustrate the point I'm making rather well.
When riding the 1200 I'll generally be ignored by BMWs, scooters, cruisers, and Power Ranger style sports bike riders, but on the whole everyone else on two wheels is happy to acknowledge my existence.
The wee 125 is a different matter entirely. On that I get ignored by pretty much everyone apart from the occasional similar lightweight 125. Even though I've been riding for twenty five years, I don't have L-plates,  and I'm wearing a Shoei helmet, most seem to assume that I'm an inexperienced numpty and therefore invisible.
Car drivers behave differently too depending on which bike I'm on. The Bandit has muscular and imposing proportions so there's a noticeable level of respect from the majority of other road users, whereas on the 125 I feel treated like something of an underclass.
And still I'm happier than if I was in a car. Part of that is probably due to a feeling of sticking two fingers up at the rest of the motoring world - knowing that it's costing you so little to be out there on a little bike. The priceless smug feeling I get slipping past the traffic jam on the way home, especially the stupidly expensive cars driven by those who normally treat me with disdain is so rewarding even if it is cold and wet.

Nearly all of us who ride bikes do so because we choose to. We love many aspects of motorcycling, whether it's slipping past traffic, the acceleration, not being tied in with the whole car-based conformity thing, or simply the sense of freedom that can only be achieved on two wheels. We deal with the downsides like painful fingers when it's really cold, diesel spills, slicks of mud left by tractors, blind or arrogant car drivers, a very real vulnerability, and waterproofs that leak at the crotch in a downpour.
Whether you're riding a sports bike, cruiser, scooter or tourer; whether it's a 125cc lightweight or a 2300cc muscle machine - we're all in it together for the love of it, so why divide ourselves into groups?
We're all motorcyclists, we're in a minority as road users and we should all stick together and not let the "I'm better than you because....." attitude of the rest of the world infiltrate the camaraderie of motorcycling.
We're all in it together no matter what our individual opinions about the sort of bike someone else chooses to ride, so that's why I'll give the nod to anyone on a motorcycle regardless of style, engine capacity or manufacturer.
Unless they're riding in shorts and t-shirt in which case they're obviously a complete fucking idiot.