I have an ill-defined aversion to group rides, and an equally vehement hostility for being told what to do, at least without material reason. I’m also strongly inclined toward serving a more noble purpose whenever possible, a rebel with cause, if you will, which means that now and again I’m forced to put a sleeper hold on my demons and take to the streets with my fellow two-wheeled humans, in the name of the greater good.
Such was the case on September 24th, when I saddled up for the 2017 edition of the Undistinguished Everyman Ride. In case you’re not familiar, here are the requirements for participation in the UER, taken from UndistinguishedEverymanRide.com.
The Undistinguished Everyman Ride is a celebration of the art of being a motorcyclist, of actually riding motorcycles.
Think: Riding gear with armor and a proper full-face or modular helmet. Non-specific facial hair or total lack thereof is ok, and whether you choose to keep it nicely trimmed or accented with the particulate remains of your breakfast is up to you.
Ride: A motorcycle. There’s no style guide. Are you serious?
Do: Bring your sense of self-preservation. Ride well. If and when you must engage in the celebration of life that is overt hooliganism, do it away from the public eye.
Pay: Your dues, your registration and insurance, and your outstanding tickets. We urge you to donate as often and generously as you can to the causes that matter to you, even if only your hands and feet or brain when money is tight. It is our hope that the lack of preposterous dress code and associated dry cleaning bill required for participation in the UER will free up more money for your chosen causes.
Register: Not required. The UER is an everyday, ongoing affair. We count on our riders, as independent, thoughtful human beings, to act in autonomous capacity in the balanced interest of both self and humankind, without regard for image or conspicuous display of virtue.
I prepared for the ride with the utmost respect for the stated rules. I donned my ‘Stich, unconcerned with whether its function was equaled or eclipsed by its aesthetic appeal, or whether the t-shirt and shorts underneath my sensible suit were well-pressed or color-matched. I was not self-conscious about the somewhat unruly state of my beard that morning. My boots were neither shined nor particularly swank, but provided excellent protection for my feet and ankles.
I wore a modern helmet, bright yellow, that while not as dashing and retro-chic as the new-again designs of yesteryear, abandoned long ago for their lack of utility, offered good airflow, eye protection, and inarguably most importantly, superior protection for my brain—a critical component for fulfilling the mission of the UER.
I did not loaf about, admiring my fellow nouveau-classy riders’ fashion sensibilities and acknowledging their magnificent efforts in achieving a particular, compulsory impersonation of a look, but instead headed out on the route directly, without delay, astride a modern, fully-functional and utilitarian motorcycle, a bike that, like me, unfortunately possesses a rather dubious “style.”
No matter: it ran smoothly, it did not overheat, and the brakes worked flawlessly. The motorcycle’s uncompromising reliability and dedication to function over form rendered preconceived notions of Euro-centric cool, old school Americana and any fabricated association with a photographed fictional character obviously, totally meaningless with regard for the value of good works.
The UER is not anti-social, but unmistakably not social. I was not preoccupied with presentation or perception of my activities. There was no leaderboard, no prominent and smug self-congratulation by any of the participants in the UER. My heart didn’t swell with fabricated notions of camaraderie and common good. No one was impressed by the patina nor the quality of restoration of my event-specific motorcycle. There were no social media proclamations about the proceedings and virtuous accomplishments of the UER, no predefined hashtags to impress on the world how #woke the riders of the #UER are, no deluge of #RideUtilitarian staged, smiling selfies showing off unimaginatively homogenous and repetitively-styled gear and motorcycles.
In fact, there were few knowing witnesses to the money, time and thought given that day, but the lack of pride and boastful conspicuity did nothing to diminish the value of my contribution or the contributions of my fellow UER riders, on this or any day.