I’ve never liked the way the words “riding community” are casually thrown around by everyone on a motorcycle. While we do all share a common love of riding, riders are very different people. It’s easy to say, “we’re all brothers and sisters,” but quite difficult to actually live it.
I’ve got a pretty substantial inventory of tattoos, so I get lumped in with tattooed folks a lot, and people often want to talk to me about my “ink.” It used to be that tattooed folks got lumped in with ex-cons and carnies, but now the general public seems to think tattooed people are all grown-up Limp Bizkit fan bros. Neither of these apply to me, so I don’t like to be lumped in with these groups. The fact that we both have tattoos says nothing about whether we’re gonna be bros.
It’s the same with the “community.” Riders in the MC community talk about unification, while simultaneously blaming “those goddamn rice rockets” for perception woes. Sportbike riders talk about how Harley guys don’t actually ride, while mostly riding to coffee shops in t-shirts and armor vests. All haters, busy hating.
I’ve been working with a small group of dedicated folks to help shape Assemblyman Quirk’s AB 51, the bill that would explicitly codify lane splitting, into something the community can live with. As part of this work, I attended a meeting of the United Motorcycle Clubs Of Alameda County—a gathering of probably 400 riders, all in leather vests. I haven’t felt that out of place in a long time.
We were all on bikes, but I didn’t feel like part of that community.
Towards the end of the meeting, I was asked to come up front and speak a bit. I was sitting way in the back. Talk about a long walk—black and yellow ‘Stich, boots a-squeakin’. But after I talked, MC guys were high-fiving me, and later on people were telling me how much they love CityBike. It began feeling like part of the community. When I rolled out on the FJR I was riding, standing on the pegs, people waved to me.
Maybe there’s something to this community thing. I’m not a joiner, and I mostly ride alone. But there’s no denying that while we may be very different people, we all face similar challenges on the road and in the state capital, especially if you’re in the rider community and not the poser community.
Photo: Angelica Rubalcaba
This column originally appeared in our April 2015 issue, which you can read in all its high-res glory here.