by Victor Wanchena
Not too long ago I was fueling up my bike after a long ride when the woman across the pump from me struck up a conversation. She said, “Nice bike.” I thanked her for the compliment and continued to fill my tank. She then commented on the brand. I thanked her again and answered her specific questions about my bike. As we finished filling our respective machines she turned to me and said in a rather strange tone, “Boys and their toys.”
What in the hell was she talking about? She had just referred to my bike as a toy and I considered that quite an insult. I wryly replied that anything weighing over 800 pounds and requiring a special license to operate could in no way be considered a mere toy. Without a word she turned and headed inside the station to pay. My rant was lost on her as she obviously had now reclassified me as a hoodlum.
Her comment was most likely not meant to be the insult I took but nevertheless this seems to be a pervasive attitude among non-riders that motorcycles are just toys, not legitimate forms of transportation. What’s worse is that this view is not only held by the bulk of the general public but quite a few riders as well. Too many riders refer to their bike as their “baby” and only roll it out on warm sunny Sunday afternoons. Granted, the weather in the upper Midwest keeps us off the roads 4 to 5 months of the year (I want a sidecar for this very reason) but simply because motorcycles are seasonal should not make them any less legitimate.
If you buy a new motorcycle most banks will charge you a rather high interest rate because they classify them as a “recreational vehicle”. Motorcyclists have been charged higher health insurance premiums due to their participation in a “high risk activity”. Despite a resurgence in the popularity of motorcycling and its return from the marginal edge of mainstream society, motorcycles continue to be viewed as playthings and not for what they really are; a mechanically elegant solution to one of man’s oldest problems, how to get from here to there.
It is this view that makes motorcyclists targets for inane legislation and is the reason that many times the uninformed make decisions that seriously affect motorcyclists. The more society sees motorcycles as a valid form of transportation the less problems we as riders will have to deal with.
And just when you think you’re at the bottom of the transportation food chain you remember the subject of this month’s test ride, scooters, even more maligned than motorcycles. Scooters have perennially been considered fit only for lazy college students and British geeks instead of their true role as a highly efficient mode of urban transport. But why? Well, the fact of the matter is that anything that small and cute with a tiny motor (read weed-whacker) is not going to have broad appeal. But that doesn’t mean they are any less fun, it just means that the fun is scaled down to fit the package.
So this month ride fast, take chances and do it on your favorite “toy”.