One of the local gangbangers was justifying his noise maker on the grounds of “safety,” and I recommended, as always, that he invest some time in learning how to ride competently. His response was, “How do you know I can’t ride?” A quick look at his social media page had turned up a picture of him on his goober-mobile and it was pretty much what you see in the drawing to the right. So, how do I know he can’t ride?
- In this drawing, the “rider”1 is wearing a jacket, boots, and jeans. No helmet, of course. While that isn’t even close to decent protective gear, the real gooberboy’s picture showed him in a wifebeater, lowtop tennis shoes, and a scraggly pony tail. I know he can’t ride because if he could he’d know how fast shit can go bad and how much blood, skin, and mobility he is going to lose when he hits the asphalt.
- The bike the dude in the conversation rides is just as disabled as the mechanical junk depicted in this picture. Everything from the feet-forward rolling-gynecologists'-chair riding position to the extended forks to the low ground clearance screams “this is a crash waiting to happen.” Obviously, the rider and the bike are overweight and under-equipped to cope with any emergency. Actions like stopping quickly, swerving to avoid an obstacle, getting up on the pegs to add stability and reduce suspension-load (as if this thing has a suspension), or even turning sharply without running out of ground clearance because of the exhaust parts or hard-mounted foot pegs are all out of this “rider’s” reach because the “design” of the motorcycle is non-functional. I’m not an emergency nurse, but I’d join them in calling this a “murdercycle.” It’s a stage prop, at best, but a completely disabled and incompetent vehicle to the point that it might as well be a trike. You know that “closed course use only” stamp that’s on your illegal exhaust pipe? This vehicle should have “for garage candy use only” written on the tank.
- What other clues did I have that led me to assume the character in this story can’t ride? My favorite reason of all, we got into this conversation from one of those “I had to lay’er down” stories. If you know much about me, you know I have no respect for that claim. I don’t care if it is made by some newbie or a motorcycle cop, if you fall down in your attempt to stop, you screwed up. You panicked, screamed, and fell over and tried to sell that as an intentional evasion tactic. Likewise, this goober couldn’t intentionally lay down a motorcycle with help in his garage. Just like the fruitcake in the drawing, he never uses his front brake for ordinary stops, but rides with a finger or three resting on the brake lever and when an emergency happened, he grabbed it and discovered that he had no idea how that brake works. In my character’s situation, that extended fork collapsed with the stress (Surprise!) and his already limited ground clearance vanished and he was instantly metal-on-metal. Then he “laid ‘er down.” Right.
- Finally, this ain’t my first rodeo. In my 18 years of teaching MSF courses for the state of Minnesota I taught about 40 of the old ERC (Experienced Rider Course) and a dozen of the renamed version of the same course, the IRC (Intermediate Rider Course). I have suffered the abuse of loud Harley exhausts and spectacular rider incompetence and seen these characters ride straight through obstacle ranges because “my bike can’t do stuff like that” or stop about 20’ beyond the minimum exercise distance because “I’m afraid of the front brake.” There are exceptions, for sure, and they are exceptional. One of the Minnesota Expert Rider instructors is a Minneapolis motorcycle cop and he does amazing things on his huge Harley. Of course, his bike is pretty much bone stock (which makes it the most unusual of all Harley’s on the road). It isn’t loud, it has a functional suspension, and he is a spectacular rider. Otherwise, 99.999% of the time, I can safely assume if you are on a Harley, especially a chopper, you are not a competent rider because you are not riding a competent motorcycle. You might think the stereotype is unfair, but so is life. I love it when someone proves me wrong, but you will be going against the grain when you try.
1 I keep putting “rider” in quotes because I don’t consider these characters in any way in charge of the direction of travel or speed their motorcycle takes. A more accurate description of these characters would be “handlebar streamers.” They are just dangling from the handlebars waiting for a crash to happen after which they’ll whine about how their “right of way” was violated or someone didn’t property sweep the street for debris or some other excuse that no actual motorcyclist would ever claim. When they crash, and they crash a lot, it’s never their fault and someone else is always supposed to get the blame and responsibility.