Here it comes, the first time you cross paths with another motorcycle… Perhaps you are like me, the rider waved to you, and you realized, you are now a member of a new community. You have joined a subculture, and as with any cross-cultural experience, it pays to have some basic understanding about the world you are now a member of.
In the movie “Zombieland,” the young hero had a list of rules he lived by that allowed him to survive when others did not. Coming up with a survival list of rules is not a bad idea; in fact it can truly save you!
Here are some good rules of thumb to keep in mind as you begin to meet new members of the motorcycle world and are invited to ride with them.
Rule # 1 Be Honest
Be honest with what you know and what you don’t. Sometimes it can sound like a foreign language when you hear people talk about their motorcycles, or rides they’ve been on. Often when another rider hears you bought a bike, they will start asking you questions about it, and you may not know how to answer. This can be especially true when it comes to motorcycle specs. Resist the urge to fake it! If you don’t know the answer, see this as a chance to learn something new.
Also, be honest with your riding skill level. Soon you may find yourself riding with people on a higher level than yourself. The temptation to try to keep up can prove fatal. Follow the philosophy to ”ride your own ride.” Tell the group, in advance, that you are new and ask them for pre-arranged meet-up points so that you can find the others should you fall behind. That will take the pressure off keeping up. Motorcycle skills are acquired over time and miles and cannot be rushed. Ride your own ride, and stay safe!
Rule # 2 Use common sense and common courtesy
Motorcycles are very personal to people, as yours will be to you. Never put down another person’s brand of choice. After you get to know people, you may be able to get involved in some light-hearted banter, but in the beginning play it safe. Brand loyalty runs deep in the motorcycle world. So, when you meet someone who rides a different kind of bike than yourself, use that as a chance to learn and increase your motorcycle knowledge, but don’t put his or her bike down.
Another courtesy rule to follow is to never sit on another person’s bike without their express permission. This is a huge “no-no.” There are few things more offensive than when a stranger hops on someone’s bike. Not only is this an invasion of a very personal space, there is also a practical reason behind this. A novice can easily move something as simple as a mirror and cause an issue for the rider further down the road. If you want to check out a bike, ask. If they say no, shrug it off and don’t’ take it personally.
Rule #3 Learn rider language
There are verbal and nonverbal communication methods among riders. For example do you know what a “poker run” is? How about a “patch holder?” A lot of this lingo doesn’t make it into your average conversation with non-riders. If you hear a term you don’t understand, just ask! Or better yet, do a quick Google search for “biker slang;” this can bring you up to speed in no time.
Nonverbal can be as simple as the hand signs you learned in order to get your endorsement, or other signs such as patting the top of your helmet (police office up ahead, slow down!) or using your foot to point to an obstacle in the road. Again, Google can be our friend. Learn these signs and practice them even when you are riding alone, until they become second nature.
If you stick to these simple rules, they will help you enjoy the world you have entered!
My next blog will talk about riding skills, what to be aware of and how to increase your skill level.
Until then, remember, ride safe, ride smart, and have fun!
David Ianetta was born and raised in Boston, MA. After moving around in his younger years, he now lives in North Carolina. David has a passion for riding motorcycles,often exploring the scenic back roads of NC with is wife, Rika, who rides her own along side him.
David also writes a Daily Blog for Freedom Biker Church called, “Daily Rock“ located at www.freedombikerchurch.com and is a contributing writer for Southeastern Rider magazine.