Buying a motorcycle for the first time exposes a person to a huge new world of experiences - some directly related to the act of riding a motorised, two-wheeled vehicle on roads shared by sometimes terrible drivers rolling through town in huge metal boxes, and others involving motorcycle culture in general. So what can a motorcycle newbie expect when they ride out of the dealership on a new bike? Let's take a look at a few myths and challenges…
Firstly, You Will Hear Lots of Horror Stories About Riding Motorcycles.
One of the first things almost anyone contemplating riding a motorcycle will hear from someone - a spouse, parent, friend, or family member is how dangerous riding a motorcycle is. Sometimes these dire warnings come from near strangers upon hearing you ride a bike (or want to). The worst of those warnings will come with a horrific anecdote or two, like "Remember when the Anderson kid hit the back of that truck and got his head chopped off?"
And it's true, riding motorcycles can be a dangerous activity, especially while navigating busy city streets. More on that shortly. But after a point, hearing about how dangerous something you are set on doing can be just gets tiresome. Any responsible new rider should accept that riding motorcycles can be dangerous, and then take as many steps as possible to make his or her riding safer. But yeah, be prepared to hear lots of horror stories, and the suggestion that you will surely die a fiery death mangled into pulp from lots of people you know. On that note...
You'll Quickly Realize That Lots of People Drive Like Absolute Fools.
I don't think it's a controversial observation that a lot of people here tend to drive like irresponsible idiots, speeding 20 kilometers over the limit, swerving in and out of lanes, while texting or talking on their cell phones. Safely maneuvering though an environment like that can be a challenge, especially for someone without a lot of experience on two wheels. Intersections and traffic situations that seem perfectly safe from within a car start to look alarmingly dangerous on a motorcycle. The change in perspective can be huge - as can the realisation that you also drive in ways that will make your toes curl.!
Motorcyclists routinely encounter terrible drivers on the road, and it tends to make a person cautious. Pulling alongside a huge truck with a bunch of dents on one side? My mind always assumes that person keeps hitting stuff, and I immediately try to put distance between myself and him. And when you know that a bad encounter with a car and a motorcycle is probably worth a trip to the hospital instead of just a mild fender bender, it tends to change a person's perspective.
Car Drivers Can Suck, But So Can The Road.
It's bad enough that the average motorcycle rider is going to encounter bad drivers whose selfish and crappy driving could result in the kind of grisly demise those folks always warn about. No one wants to be an unpleasant statistic, but it's not just irresponsible car drivers who pose a threat to motorcyclists; the roads can be dangerous all by themselves.
Roads seem to be perpetually under construction (or destruction in our case), and they change daily. A road that was fun to ride on the day before can transform into a nightmare of closed lanes, or new potholes overnight, and while that's usually just irritating when you're in a car, it really sucks to discover when you're riding a motorcycle.
A Lot of People Don't Dress Well to Ride.
It's none of my business, but I sure see a lot of people riding motorcycles who aren't really dressed for the occasion. And by that, I mean they've made clothing choices that aren't smart ones. It might be comfortable, especially in a hot, humid location, but wearing flip flops and khaki shorts while riding a motorcycle looks dumb, because it is dumb! There are scary photos online of the consequences of just such a clothing ensemble in the case of an accident, and seeing those was enough to convince me that at the very least, long pants and some form of protective footwear are pretty much mandatory when I ride. Ditto with some form of protective eyewear. A bug hitting your face at 90 kilometres per hour feels like being hit with a rock and a hit to the eye is not something you want to experience without protection.
When a person gets on a motorcycle, he is essentially sitting on top of a rolling engine with no protection at all other than what he chooses to wear. I'll save beachwear for the beach, and just toss the khaki shorts. Those look stupid on anybody.
A Lot of Motorcyclists Disagree About Loud Exhausts.
There's a "Loud Pipes Save Lives" school of thought. But there's no massive study that I'm aware of which supports this claim. Anecdotally, I've heard stories from people claiming that the almost comically loud aftermarket exhausts they had installed on their bikes "saved their ass" a time or two, but my experience has always been that riding defensively is what always has saved mine.
I recently rode with a rather loud Harley behind me, and I was unable to hear my own engine sound at a traffic light, and was totally unaware that I had embarrassingly managed to stall my bike on take-off until I looked down at the clocks to see what gear I was in...(thinking I had slipped it into neutral). Loud pipes are a distraction and as any rider of a bike with particularly loud pipes can attest, long distance riding becomes a serious problem unless you have earplugs..!
The Type of Motorcycle You Ride Can Dictate What Some Other Motorcyclists Think of You.
It's sad but true, for a lot of riders, the type of bike they ride determines how other riders interact with them. Now it's true, not everyone is closed minded about this. I personally think that a person who rides a 50 cc scooter in city traffic every day is more of a "biker" than a dude with a custom bike who rides his 100 or 200 kilometres a year. But there are a lot of closed-minded creeps out there who think anyone on a sport bike is a dumb kid, or thinks Japanese bikes are garbage, or Sportsters are "girl bikes," or any number of other dumb things.
Some people are so caught up in the particular subcultures surrounding their brand of motorcycles that they view anyone who owns anything else as an enemy of sorts. It's ridiculous but you will get them. Remember, you are part of a community that has shared goals and a passion for motorcycles, so whatever you ride, enjoy it and leave the subculture ‘crap’ in your garage when you hit the road.
But don’t confuse this with the almost obligatory ragging that takes place between bikers of all makes. Pulling another rider’s leg about his brand or bike is actually just good fun (it's easier with certain makes.....), and don’t take offence or question your choice if you are on the receiving-end of a leg-pull. You will get your chance to do likewise in no time, so laugh and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with biking!
But In The End…
Despite encountering dangerous drivers, bad roads, and noticing some off-putting aspects of motorcycle culture, riding them is a blast, and I wouldn't trade that experience for anything else. There is a certain moving poetry that happens when a rider and his bike seem to become one with one another, and a state of heightened sensory perception begins to happen. Rolling down a moonlit highway on a motorcycle, witnessed by nothing except the passing landscape and stars, is a special kind of magic.