Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Snubbed and fired up.

I still have Steve's ST1300. My plan was to return it on Monday. The spare key that was supposed to let me into the garage wasn't there. Instead, a large orange cat greeted me with a series of long, irritated meows. I couldn't blame him. A food dish sat empty and echoing on the patio. There's a girl who's supposed to be feeding the cat. I think she's carrying the key with her instead of leaving it. Oh well, I'll just have to play with the bike for the rest of the week.

"Please don't throw me in that briar patch, Bre'r Bear!"

For once I'm looking forward to the rain. I want to see how the 1300's weather protection differs from the 1100. Since the hard core commuters out here deal with a lot of rain, it would be useful information.

This post was originally planned to be a ride report from the weekend trip. It's been postponed until the next time. Something happened to me on the ride home that set me off. It's not the first time it's happened. It won't be the last. This time it flat hit me wrong. We've finally reached that camel that broke my straw back. Wait. Strike that. Reverse that. The point's the same either way.

We woke up Sunday morning and looked out the window. Motorcyclists are much more tuned into the weather than a lot of folks, you know. First thing I usually do is go for the coffee pot. Right after I look out the window, of course. A light rain had fallen overnight. The good news was that the skies looked to be clearing. This post isn't about our ride home. It's about a particular incident during the trip. I'm usually pretty even tempered. Right now, though, I've got to let off some steam here. I have had enough!

I always wave at fellow riders. A lot of them wave back. I enjoy the brief moments of connection. There's no personalities to deal with. No individual quirks to like or not. It's just a couple of riders out enjoying what we do. Personally, I make no distinctions. There's other forums for that. Squids with minimal gear or fully outfitted touring riders get the same enthusiastic wave. The more I ride a variety of bikes the more I'm reminded that we're all enjoying the same things. The different bikes change our perspective just slightly but the big picture's the same for all of us. I make no judgements in these short encounters. The same can't be said of all riders it would seem.

Not all wave back. Most of those are riding a certain American brand of cruiser. OK, I'll just come out and say it. The vast majority of those who won't wave back are Harley riders. That was also the case with this particular encounter. My comments here are not a blanket stereotype. I don't believe in those. People should be sized up by their individual actions. Unfortunately, instead of deciding to be their own individuals, many people choose to join a group. Because of things lacking in themselves, they're willing to let the "Group" dictate to them what they do. What really gets me is that this "Group" is made up of individuals just as lacking as they are. It's one thing to follow a worthy role model. It's quite another to be led by those who have the exact same deficiencies as you. No good can come out of it.

This will offend some people. If it does, it does. I know a lot of riders choose to ride a Harley because they appreciate the bike, the fact that it's American made, and so on. I totally respect that. In fact, it's the way it should be. On the other hand, the Harley brand attracts the people I described in the paragraph above. Harley knows it. Their marketing shamelessly uses it. One ad in particular makes me fall on the floor laughing. It shows a big group of bikes on the road. Then the ad touts the fact that if one were to ride a Harley they could be a "rugged individual". There's a lot of insecure people out there that are easily swayed. Thus is born the stereotype. It's not really a stereotype, then, is it? Not if sheer numbers bear it out.

So what set me off, already?

Katie and I were winging along on a beautiful road in the Southern Oregon hills. It's early afternoon and the world's a wonderful place. Awesome scenery with a little sunshine thrown in to sweeten the recipe. We've passed and exhanged greetings with a number of riders. Except for those of us who are hardcore commuters, riders are like bugs. Sunshine brings out more of them! Not a biggie. If someone rides for enjoyment and decides that riding in the rain isn't so enjoyable, what's wrong with that?

At some point we encounter nine Harleys coming the other way. Four bikes are two-up, while five are being ridden solo. Both Katie and I show the raised palms. Katie really likes waving at other riders. Thirteen riders twelve feet or less away from us. To a person the only reaction was a stare in our direction. With their "beanie" helmets there's no mistaking the fact that we were seen. There's no doubt, either, that we were deliberately being snubbed.

I've tried to hold to the High Road in the past. "They don't want to wave?" Whatever. I'm above it and I certainly don't need their approval or recognition. This time I found myself seriously offended. This was meant as an insult to us. It was clear that the Harley riders considered themselves better than us. Katie added a couple of other possibilities. She thought maybe their skills sucked so badly that they were afraid to take their hands off the bars. When I asked her to account for the passengers Katie offered that perhaps their last "watering hole" stop was also a factor. From the horrible skills I've seen exhibited by riders who come to our classes trying to get legal, I can believe part of it. Still, though, I firmly believe it comes down to attitude.

I totally resent being looked down upon by someone who has absolutely no basis for any sort of feelings of superiority. Let me see. You're somehow better than me because you overpaid for a bike that grants you entry into some sort of conformist club? Being desperately needy drives you to do things that aren't good for you. You're a victim of your own insecurity and that makes you better than me? All that somehow makes you some sort of "Elite" rider? Pardon me, I just peed down my leg because I'm so impressed with your greatness!

Let me tell you about "Elite". Most folks will agree that motor cops are among the most skilled riders around. I've been there, done that. What about the people who train them? I'm there, too. Motor cops don't go to training just because it would be nice to have a little better skills. No, these men and women need to have their skills so finely honed that they're second nature. It's one thing to ride a bike well. Imagine doing it while involved in all the other dangerous things involved in law enforcement. When a cop comes to training they expect solid instruction. Skills gained are literally the difference between coming home at night or not.

Which means they need instructors they can believe in. You know how cynical cops are. They make an instructor prove to them that they're worthy of trust. That means "Show me". If an instructor "ain't got it" they won't last long. They usually don't get picked in the first place.

All I'm saying here is that my peers and I are truly part of an "elite" group of riders. Yet you won't see us with these big neon signs on our bikes calling attention to the fact. When I'm out riding I'm just some guy with a goofy grin on his face. These riders have no idea who's on the bike going the other way. They think they're better than anyone else who's not on a Harley? '

Ok. I'm getting a long ways out on this rant. I'm just so sick of it. There's too much division among riders as it is. We're much better off working together than working against each other. Why can't folks see this? I know, I sound like Mary Poppins or something.

On the way to Medford we rode through Eugene. Not far away was a bakery. It's a big facility where Franz or Williams bread is produced. I can't remember which. The smell of the fresh baked bread grabs you by the nose. Your brain is filled with wonderful thoughts. I defy you to tell me that experience is any better based on which bike you're on. It just doesn't matter what you ride. It's the fact that you're riding. Period.

I feel better now. Nothing's magically changed by posting this. I just needed to release a little steam. Please feel free to offer your comments. I'm sure I'm not the only one with deep feelings on the matter.

Miles and smiles



Anonymous said...

You are offended by the fact that they didn't wave. It appears that you are the insecure one? The ashamed one perhaps? Are you the one that deep down inside really desires to be part of this great group of road warriors? To drive a Harley, not just a borrowed piece? To get decked out in leather, ride 30 deep from 6 in the morning till 3 the next morning? There is no need to be bitter because you are not part of a group. I'm not trying to be mean, but rather than gripe about them, why don't you go BE one of them! Side note, I just thought of a parallel one could make...Most of the time, Harley riders wave at other Harley riders, small children or hot chicks. It is the same with bus drivers, you don't see them waving at every semi that passes right? Nope.

irondad said...

anonymous,( somewhere in Minneapolis? )

Offended? Yes.
Insecure? No. After all, I made statements I knew wouldn't be popular. And I signed my name to them. HOW AOUT YOU??

As a further sign of my security I'm letting your comment stay even though you chose to attack me while safely hidden in anonymity.

I won't go into why's or why not's of joining this group. I've already stated what I set out to write.

Bus drivers and truckers never wave at each other anyway. It's drivers of volkswagon bugs and motorcyclists that have the waving tradition.


Lucky said...

I can't help but think anonymous is being sarcastic.

All the same, you reached out in a friendly way to other people. In turn you were snubbed.

Why didn't you throw a rock at them?

Waving is exactly the same as saying "Hi" to another person. The person who refuses to say hello back is the one who's afraid.

There is no requirement that everyone stop what they're doing and share a sweaty man-hug, there's no demand for the other's time or money, just a friendly acknowledgement of another person.

The breed apart mentality is a defense mechanism. Get over it.

Join them? Screw that. I'm going to wave to everyone, including scooters, bicyclists and hot air balloons.

Krysta in Milwaukee said...

Oh, good grief! An _anonymous_ poseur... er, poster... showing that (s)he Didn't Get It.

No, Dan obviously doesn't want to ride that brand, or he'd be doing it. He obviously doesn't want to be exclusive in who he greets, or he'd be doing it.

He, like many of us, enjoys riding and being part of the large group of people who also enjoy riding.

Why can't people leave it at that level and greet each other politely, or at least return a wave? Will it kill you? (Unless the riders' skills really _are_ as bad as Katie suggested, probably not.)

I don't remember the comedian, but does anyone else remember the skit of a jumper on a bridge, and the Good Samaritan who tries to talk him down? After umpteen exchanges determining that they share a religion, a church, a branch of the church, etc., comes to one point of difference, calls the jumper a heretic, & pushes him off?

We're in the same sanctuary, folks. It doesn't matter which row you're in.

Just be nice. It won't kill you.

Krysta in Milwaukee said...

ps for Dan - on second thought, maybe A. Nonny Mouse up there was writing satire. Gave me a good laugh 'til I started thinking (s)he was serious.

ART said...

I'm with you Dan. I'm guilty sometimes because I don't wave back instead I just shake my head up an down to respond back. I used to wave at fellow biker first now I just wait until I see them wave first and then I wave back. Now that the weather is getting nicer I see more riders around. I'm not sure whether I should be happy now that there are more motorcycle around or hate it. I enjoy the fact that I'm the only one that I know commuting year round... I don't know...But I know how you feel Like they say Some will wave back Some will not So what who cares... ride on...


irondad said...

That's a great point. It's one person reaching out oh-so-briefly to another person.

The ST1300 has no tank bag so the rocks were buried in a saddlebag. No time to stop and dig them out!

As to sarcasm or satire, it's possible. Yet, if one friend pokes fun at another at least it's known who's doing it. I never take myself so seriously that I can't stand to be the subject of some ribbing. However,if a commenter won't put a name to it, then I have to assume it's meant as a sneak attack.

Exactly. If I'd wanted to I'd have done it. Pure and simple. Funny, Katie somes something similar to me all the time. "It won't kill you to be nice for a change!"

Too many people do look for differences instead of similarities. Too bad.

I know how you feel. My ego's big enough that I like being one of the very few bikes out there during the nasty part of winter. Yet, come nicer weather, I find that seeing the other bikes helps rejuvenate my enthusiasm.

Gramp taught me that people have to do what their heart moves them to do. Based on that, just keep riding Bubba!


ps said...

Hear, hear!
I commute on an antique Vespa in the midwest. I am probably the only one out there when it's 15 degrees, but I have a short commute. When it's below 60 or wet, the handful of other bikers--mostly wearing gear and riding imported bikes--almost always give an enthusiastic wave.

Now that it's sunny and warm--the tough guys mostly wear beach clothes and no helmet and rev their engines at stop-lights and reinforce negative stereotypes. Never a wave. Last week an anonymous person dumped their ash tray on my Vespa while it was parked. Oh, but it was slightly wet that day, so they weren't out on two wheels, of course.

What I really don't understand are the women that ride on back wearing even less clothing.

BTW--in the countryside here, farmers always wave at anyone. It's a nice tradition.

Dick said...

I ride in Northern California and I find it is not the same as your psty og the country. I ride a HD Roadking. I wave and most riders here wave back. What happens here is that almost ALL Harley riders wave back but the sport bike riders are the ones who do not wave back much. I get the same thing you do but with a different group. Most of the Honda goldwing and BMW crowd do wave back.Strange. I wonder if it is different depending on what part of the country you ride in and what you ride.

Bryce said...

Waving is like farting.
Everybody can do it, however the circumstances have to be just right.

Learned a long time ago, first rides in the season, everybody waves. Which lasts for about a
month. Then nobody waves.

I also don't wave often, My large head, in an even larger white reflective helmet nods in passing much
like the up and down fairground horse. Oftimes it's just too darn dangerous to wave, for whatever reason at the time.

With the end of the riding season,
the waves return, you are once again part of that elite group
who rides with the approach of

And then winter arrives and nobody
rides or waves!

irondad said...

Like Rodney Dangerfield, you can't get no respect, huh?

I always marvel that any guy who claims to care about a woman can let her ride with so little gear, not to mention clothing when on the bike. Whatever kind of bike it is.

When I ride back country farming roads I wave to four wheelers, too!

Someone mentioned it before. Harley riders wave at other Harley riders. Interesting about the sport bike riders not waving. I had the opposite experience. I was riding the VFR and waved at a guy on a Harley. He flipped me off. Maybe it does depend on where you ride.

I realize it's not always possible to wave. Especially if the clutch hand's occupied during a shift. There's times when I've been on the freeway and concentrating on some traffic situation right in front of me. Only out of the corner of my eye do I catch the rider coming the other way and realize they're already by. I'm sure they thought I was a snob but I truly had things that took all my attention at the moment.

I think I'll pass on the farting part, thank you. Pun intended!


Dick said...

I was raised in the midwest farming country where EVERYBODY waved to each other if they knew them or not. This was all in cages. I started riding full time, year around in SF bay area in '68 and stopped for 20 years and have been riding for the last 2 years again. I have NEVER been flipped off by anyone. (other than cages) I didn't ride HD for the first 20 years and I can't remember any statistics from that era of riding. So it is a big mystery to me your experiences.

balisada said...

Several weeks ago, I needed to go to Cottage Grove, Oregon. The weather was supposed to be nice, so I decided to ride the 45 or so minutes.

I ran into a fair amount of motorcyclists that day, and although I usually get a responding wave (I always seem to have to initiate the wave, but once, some time ago, someone waved back from the other side of the freeway - cool!) that day I wasn't getting any responding waves, even on the back roads, and it was starting to get my dander up.

It was on the last two miles of my trip that someone initiated an enthusiastic wave.

Okay, faith in humanity restored, but I felt like some of the other motorcyclists should have waved. After all, we are all motorcyclists!

So, while my co-workers insist that I need to be riding something a little bigger than a Rebel 250 ("Little Sister, I worry about you blowing around on that little bike of yours. You should be on something bigger."), I know that he is diplomatically suggesting that I buy a different type of motorcycle. The brochure he brought in a while ago was interesting though. If I had the extra money to toss around, I would probably purchase one that caught my attention (and then give it a sidecar. It would be a hoot.).

But here is the thing. I have discovered that I am perfectly happy riding around on a little 250.

Yeah I know.

It will not get bigger if you add water.

It did not shrink in the wash.

But it has the zip and maneuverability that the bigger motorcycles don't quite have. The 70 miles per gallon is nice too.

But my co-worker has to be a part of a group. For some people, belonging is a very important thing. Yeah, I know it's a bit odd that someone is trying to be a rugged individualist, just like all the other rugged individualists, but that is their thing. The actions taken are expected by the group.

I understand.

They ride an image.

I ride a motorcycle.

When they stop riding an image and wave I will be here waving.

Actually, I will be waving anyways, because every once in a while I run across someone who waves back.

balisada said...


Wave :)

irondad said...

What a neat comment! Thank you for sharing it. I'm not going to add anything to it. It's perfect by itself.


American Scooterist Blog said...

I've had a Harley for fourteen years now. The reason is it was the bike I wanted as a kid. I worked, and found the right pieces until the machine matched the drawings I made in that notebook as a boy. When I got the bike it didn't have anything to do with image, it was what I liked. My friends (save one) all rode Japanese metal. We still rode and I guess, never thought about who had what.
So then I moved to Minneapolis, which totally threw me for the crappy road design and pretty much parked the bikes until I moved to central Minnesota. I live in one of these sorta upscale neighborhoods where people think they are the shit. They all ride the biggest fattest ugliest lumps of coal you ever did see. I swear they payed extra for the sneer when they shelled out for the two zipcode choppers. I believe they ride from a few bars to a few other bars. That's where I see the bikes, all the time.
So I chose not to be a conformer and ride my Vespa even though there are other, more "appropiate" bikes in the garage beside it. And I wave or nod to everyone. And I get just as pissed as you do when they pull the Borg Assimilation bullshit.
All I can say is I don't ride to be seen, I ride to see what might be worth seeing.

Harv aka The Roadbum

Lobsterman said...

I used to drive a Jeep. They do a wave too, "it's a Jeep thing". To my knowledge Jeep drivers don't distinguish between models, a Wrangler is no better than any other model (of course that was before the advent of the 2 wheel drive urban Jeep). They don't wave to H3s or Fords or Toyotas etc. It's not snobbery, it's just that the wave acknowledges something in common.

Now I ride a scooter, and commute on it winter included. I wave to anyone else on two wheels. Here in Cincinnati they wave back sometimes and sometimes don't. It doesn't seem to make any difference what they are riding. I've been waved to and also ignored by all kinds.

I have nothing against Harleys... the local chapter rides by my house every New Years Day and I always go out and wave, and they wave back.

Last weekend was the annual WKRP scooter rally. People stared at over a hundred scooters passing them all at once. I waved at lots of kids, bystanders, gawkers, etc. Sometimes the circumstances dictate waving, sometimes not. Maybe the Harleys were returning from a funeral and waving didn't seem the thing to do.

I will continue to wave, and be happy when somebody waves back.

Allen Madding said...

Hey Dan,
As I'm sure you are well aware, I ride a Harley. And, I wave at anyone on two wheels unless my hand is busy with the clutch. I have encountered the exact reverse of the snubbing you described on numerous occasions. It seems the a large portion of the metric crowd can't be seen waving at a Harley. More power to them. I wave at folks on Vespas, they're out on two wheels refusing to fit in someone elses mold and certainly not concerned with looking cool. On a recent trip back from south Georgia, I encounted 15 crotch-rockets on I-285. I was in the B lane and they approached on my left in the A Lane. The leader paused beside me for a second and looked at me, I raised a hand and waved. Without returning the wave, he throttled off. This same scenario repeated as the entire 15 bike parade passed me. I have quit worrying with the unfriendly. It's tempting to flick-off someone who can't simply wave back at a fellow rider, but I really want to encourage riders of all types see each other as one community. I'll extend a friendly greeting. They can accept it and return it or not. Same as speaking to them at a gas stop.

I've seen this attitude in a lot of different avenues of life. In stock car racing, some of the late model drivers saw themselves too good to speak to ministock drivers. On the water, some of the powerboat owners look down on the personal watercraft owners. Some of the folks in the big 40 foot RVs look down on the tent campers and the folks with pop-up trialers. What does it amount to? I think it is napolean complex. They buy something that they can bolster their egos and leverage it to make them feel superior to someone else. I wish them luck with it.

For the last two years, I have ridden a Harley Sportster 883, the smallest thing HD currently manufactures and the lowest in horsepower. I've ridden with Harley groups that snubbed me for riding a Sportster. I've had non-riders smirk at me for riding an 883. But I am happy to be riding. It sure beats the days before I owned a bike. I find it funny when someone says a Sportster is a girls bike though, as Evil Knievil made all his jumps on a Sportster :)

To surmize, I'd say that there are bad apples worried about their egos and looking cool in every group no matter what their mount. Enjoy riding and don't let the bad apples ruin your day.