Uneasy Rider October 2015

Uneasy Rider: Fair Weather Bad Apples

First off, I don’t know if “fair weather rider” is even a meaningful term here in the Bay Area—essentially the Mecca of year-round riding—so I’ll clarify. I’m talking about the riders that show up in the commute around mid-summer. The September heat wave has these guys filling up the spaces between lanes in seemingly record numbers this year, and that’s what’s got my drawers all bunched up.

I have some misgivings about calling out riders who aren’t a part of the “hardcore daily rider elite” (please note the wink of my eye with that title) because, after all, the last thing we need is some maladjusted, silverbacked curmudgeon scaring off new riders with his observations on the state of the Bay Area moto-commute environs. What we do need is more riders, to keep our method of transportation/recreation / whatever you do with your two wheels healthy, thriving and legal. Greybeard grousing about these damn kids and their white sneakers gets us nowhere.

Like that’s gonna stop me.

These fair weather riders fall into two groups. I might call the first group “conscientious new riders”—they’re wearing proper gear (or at least trying to, maybe short a piece or two), sometimes riding a bit timidly, wobbling in the low-speed split. While I worry about these riders, and occasionally wish they’d develop their skills a little more before wading into the unforgivingly brutal gauntlet of the Bay Area commute, they have my respect, and I welcome them to the road.

The second group—which I have many names for, but we’ll stick with assholes for now, to keep things simple—these are the guys that make me spit with disgust.

And yes, it’s guys. I have yet to see a single female rider behaving in such a way (at least on the commute) that I’m concerned about her effect on the public’s view of motorcycling. Nice work, ladies.

Anyway, back to the assholes. These riders (or maybe it’s ridahz or some other bullshit?) gear themselves up to varying levels, although they do seem especially susceptible to the “I got this” syndrome that Sam talks about this month in his column on page 22, which means these dudes have a predilection for cool over gear.

If they wear much gear, it’s flashy. Racer-rep helmets with mirrored shields, multi-colored jackets perfectly coordinated to their bikes, and most confusing: sneakers and those dumb short socks that make it look like you’re not wearing socks at all.

Look, I get that socks aren’t going to keep a rider’s ankles from being ground down flat like a piece of over-priced, brand name grass-fed beef at your local Conspicuous Consumption Foods, but the sheer audacity of completely uncovered ankles makes me shiver.

How very Victorian.

Anyway, I’m getting off track with all this steam about gear choices and naked ankles. What I’m most concerned about is how these clowns ride. Which is to say, like assholes.

Thus the name. Fitting, eh?

Constant weaving, way-too-fast delta when splitting, if you can call it that. No mirrors, or a complete inability to use them. Twisting the throttle to communicate your anger at the fact that the sea of cars doesn’t just part to make room. I know you love that screamin’ loud pipe, and maybe you even (foolishly) think it’s helping you somehow, but all you’re doing is pissing people off, motorcyclists included.

Is it your choice to ride like a broken tool? Sure. But when your stupid choices start affecting my ability to ride, because drivers (you know, the cagers that outnumber us ridahz a brazillion to one?) remember the bad apples so well, we have an issue.

I interviewed AMA board member Jim Viverito back in 2013, mostly about the AMA lane splitting position statement, but in that conversation he told me about how irresponsible stunting, and the resulting public perception had created such an issue in Illinois that the local MROs went on the offensive with the media, essentially disavowing the riders that were shutting down freeways with their antics: “That’s not us. That’s not representative of motorcyclists.”

That kind of logic applies here. Sorry bro, but we’re not bros just because you ride too.