by Sev Pearman
High and Mighty
Did I hear you say you are actually going to ride to the Arctic Circle on a motorcycle?” With this first question my guard was raised. How many times have you been in public and been interrogated? I was at a function with my wife for one of her friends and was, as far as I knew, the only motorcyclist. I was deep in hostile territory and steeled myself for the questions to follow. “Isn’t that dangerous? Do you wear a helmet? How many times have you wiped out? Been hurt? Are you a biker? (whatever that means) Are you in a gang?” Or, the worst one, “Your wife lets you ride?”
These are usually followed by what I call the “Uncle Larry Stories.” You have all heard this one, with just slight variations, “Yeah, my Uncle Larry had a bike, got it just after W.W.II/Korea/’Nam/Desert Storm.” (war named depends on age of storyteller) “His folks begged him not to get it. Told him they were dangerous an’ everything; but he wouldn’t listen. He always had a crazy streak, my Uncle Larry. Anyway, he was out ridin’ the thing, and he hit a car. Died a couple of days later. Closed casket funeral. His mom never recovered she died of a broken heart. You’d never get me on one of those murdercycles…”
As I formed a diplomatic counter to her argument, I was completely thrown off by her next statement, “That sounds so exciting! When are you leaving?” Of all the possibilities, I had not seen this one; the friendly, respectful non-rider. We chatted for over twenty minutes. She asked me how long I had been a “motorcyclist,” what my destination and route would be, and how long would the journey take.
I found myself getting more excited than I do while yakking with other riders. Here was a chance to provide a positive first impression with a “civilian,” my term for a non-riding car owner. We talked about the pros & cons of riding, the elusive feeling called freedom, and the importance of new rider training. She concluded the visit by encouraging me to make the cold trip, and I offered to help her find instruction, should she ever want to ride for herself.
As my wife and I drove home (yes we took the car) she asked me if I had enjoyed the party. I told her about my conversation, and that I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was absolutely high that I’d talked to a non-rider, shared my views about my passion, and hopefully left her with a positive opinion of motorcycling. “What could be negative about that?” she asked. I told her I became dejected when I realized my first reaction in that discussion was to become defensive.
How many times have you been cornered and lectured about your “dangerous sport?” How many times have you been judged and ostracized for your hobby? What about being dumped or rejected by a significant other? I realized that even though I try to be a positive messenger about motorcycling, my own attitude was a bit cynical.
I left the party determined to make both my trip next year, and greater effort to enlighten non-riders. Ever hold the door for a fellow convenience store customer while in your riding gear? How about a friendly wave when the cage driver glances at you from the next lane? Let’s not even go to ‘loud pipes.’ Every time we meet someone we have an opportunity to shape their opinion about motorcycling and ourselves. Remember that a ‘bad ass’ attitude can have long-term consequences.
Ever ridden to Alaska? I would love to talk about it. Please reach me at MMM Headquarters.