Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Handshake of Death!

We had a meeting of our Leadership Council last Wednesday night. It was held at a community college. I can't resist parking on sidewalks and taking pictures these days. At least until my broken camera's memory fills up.

The Leadership Council is part of our motorcycle safety program. It is comprised of instructors who have shown a dedication and willingness to be leaders in the program. The struggle for consistency is always present. New people need to be mentored. Policy needs to be clarified. Out of around 130 instructors, 10 have been invited to belong to the Council. I happen to be the chairman this year. This isn't really about the meeting. It just sets the scene for the little story of riding to and from the meeting.

You would think that most, if not all, of the instructors and staff would have ridden bikes. We are bike people, after all. We're the evangelizers spreading the word. There seems to be a huge difference between bike people and commuters. 13 people came to the meeting. Three rode. Ok, I admit, one had an excuse. She's due to pop with her second child in July. Makes leaning over the tank a bit rough, I suppose. Although, it's nothing a cushy tank bag wouldn't cure, I would think!

Actually, the third rider, Ray, only did it because I shamed him into it. Ray's the Training Manager for our program. He's fair game for a hard time from me. I'll come back to Ray in a while.

In my early years I thought bike commuters were just people who liked riding so much that riding to work was just another chance to enjoy the bike. Over time I've come to realize I was wrong. I just couldn't explain the difference satisfactorily. Then I met a guy named Jesus. He's of Latin descent. My Spanish language skills are getting rusty. Jesus needs to brush up on English. I told Jesus in Spanish that I needed to practice. He smiled and told me to go for it as long as I returned the favor. In our conversations I finally found the way to explain what I feel is the difference between the average rider and the hard core commuter.

Jesus thinks in Spanish. In every circumstance that will be his default reference. I, on the other hand, think in English. English will be my default reference. No matter how much I enjoy speaking Spanish I will always think in English.

Now change the languages to "car" and "bike". Most riders think in "car". No matter how much they enjoy speaking "bike", "car" will always be their default reference. Some of us, the hard-core riders who commute every day, think in "bike". This language is our default. Last Wednesday night provided the practical illustration of this difference.

There was a threat of rain all day. At some points the threat became reality. Which means riding became a little wet at times. Those who think in "car" as their primary language naturally brought four wheels. Those of us who think in "bike" rode. There was really no other way to go. We just fell into our natural language reference.

Rain? Sun? Very hot? Bitter cold? Doesn't matter. Getting on the bike to go somewhere is as natural as speaking English. It just happens.

Does my explanation make any sense? Do you have other ideas why we choose to commute on a regular basis in all kinds of weather?

The meeting got out at 9 PM. It was cold and wet. Ray and I rode home together. We did make some concession to the dark night and inclement weather and took the freeway. Ray lives a little further down the freeway than I. At my exit we performed what seems to have become a normal ritual for us. We call it the "handshake of death". It's not that dangerous but the name makes it seem exciting.

Ray has a ST1300 with a throttle lock. He takes the left position and locks the throttle. I come up on the right and match my speed to his. This manuever has to be performed at 70 mph or better to count. Riding side by side we shake hands. His right hand and my left hand. Followed by an exchange of smart salutes. The Air Force guy and the Army guy. I would only do this with a very skilled rider. It can be tricky, you know. The handshake has to last for a count of 5. Then we part and go separate ways. Chalk it up to male bonding, I guess.

Miles and smiles,


Mad said...

Very funny, especially the salute bit. :D

Gary said...

Silly rabbit... tricks are for kids!

Ride well,

Mad said...

Tricks are for kids? Damn, I was planning on learning some :(

irondad said...

All right, guys! I may be stubborn but I am NOT a baby goat!!

Steve Williams said...

I appreciate how you differentiate bike people from commuters. It reflects consideration of a bike (or scooter in my case) as a utilitarian vehicle. And I choose it almost always unless I have to carry something too big for it. Weather is not a consideration for not riding unless it is something really wild.

I have been thinking a lot lately of what it would be like to get rid of the truck and just have the VW and the Vespa. Could I exist with just those vehicles? Hell yes! Could I exist with just a scooter? Probably though it would require even more cunning on my part.


irondad said...

I don't think primarily of Sophie as a utility vehicle. Riding gives me so many things beyond transportation. Yet, I really have no use for bikes with flaws that they call "character". I tell people that the bike is a tool for me. I just want to get on it and ride. So perhaps I really do consider them utility vehicles. Interesting thing to think about.

Anonymous said...

I commute 30 miles one way in Northern Virginia. I always looked at the difference on being a bike person is that when I get up in the AM I check the weather to see if there is something that is going to keep me from riding to work. The "other bikers" check the weather to see if it is going to be nice enough to ride.

Ride Safe

irondad said...

That was well expressed! I've always told my wife that the majority of riders are like bugs. The more the sun shines, the more come out. Thanks for adding to the comments.