Culture club

Motorcyclists have a culture. A club, so to speak. We check out each others’ bikes. We go to rallies. We do poker runs. And it all revolves around the motorbike. Oh, yes. We wave to each other. Well, most of us do. I’ve been on and off motorcycles since I was 11, road machines since 18. When I pass another biker I give a little wave. Most of the time I get one back.

In all this time on motorcycles I’ve noticed two classes of riders who might not wave. The first are the Gold Card Bikers. These guys have their own club, with by-laws that forbid them from waving to non-members. They’re easily recognized by the Harley-Davidson they bought for $10,000 over sticker because the dealer had “customized” it long before they even considered buying the POS. Their boots, jeans, belt, t-shirt, vest, helmet, and even their socks and tighty-whities sport the H-D holy symbol. They drink H-D coffee and smoke H-D cigarettes because there’s nothing better on the market. (Right.) They’re middle-aged, middle-class or better, and have more disposable cash than they’re capable of managing intelligently. They don’t wave unless you look like them.

The second group is the crotch rocket morons who ride too close to each other and pop wheelies on the interstate at mid-night, trying to see just how high they can rev their 180hp four banger before becoming a skid mark on the median wall-of-death. These guys will wave during the day – if they’re by themselves and riding responsibly.

Most motorcyclists, however, understand the culture and are friendly and welcoming to just about anyone else insane enough to drive one.

Just after getting married my wife and I bought a Miata. I thought it was silly until I first drove it. Those things are fun! Come to find out, Miata drivers have a culture, too. I joined the club shortly after getting the car while I was turning into a shopping center parking lot. There she was waiting to turn out of said parking lot. Topless and wearing blue. She winked at me. Twice. Her driver was a gorgeous blond with a grin on her face and stick in her hand. Miata folks join clubs, go touring together, race together, winery hop together, and generally have fun. And we wave, too. Or wink if you’re capable.

But there are a few who don’t. They join the clubs, and go on the occasional road rally, but they’re not part of the culture. These people are just as easy to recognize as the Gold Card Bikers. They never, ever smile. Even when driving their beloved roadster, they’re cranky. They bought the car AFTER their mid-life crisis, keep it in the garage 11 months of the year, and only start it up if the weather’s nice enough to put the top down – but not so hot that they’d sweat. They don’t wave. Ever. They do bitch about how you parked your Miata too close to theirs even though they can fully open the door without touching.

We sold the Miata after we started having kids. We miss the car and the culture.

Back in 2003 we got ourselves an Xterra. I even got to pick the color – Atomic Orange. I tried to convince Christie that the color would make it easy to find in the parking lot at the mall, but I really just thought it was cool. Xterra owners kinda have a culture, too. It’s not as universal as motorcyclists or Miata lovers, but it does exist. There are a few of us who bought them because they really are capable of going off-road, can really pull a 5,000 lb load, and can haul the family semi-comfortably across the continent. Compared to the monstrous behemoths out there, they’re fuel efficient, more maneuverable, and probably more reliable. Compared to the unibody cars on steroids that pretend to be SUVs, the Xterra can actually play the “utility” part. Unfortunately, most Xterras are owned by wannabe soccer moms who can’t afford the X5 or who don’t yet have a family big enough to justify a mini-van, chicks who really wanted the Jeep Liberty but the dealer didn’t have one in Skittle Yellow, and other low-brow status seekers who wash it twice a week and only use it for grocery-getting. They don’t wave and I don’t either.

We lost our Protege to an ice incident last winter and I convinced Christie to not get another one for a while. I got a bike, instead. And a trailer for the girls. And if you’ve read any of my previous posts you know the rest of that story. So far so good. But over the last few months I’ve noticed a couple things about cyclists. They often don’t follow traffic laws, and they’re frequently seen doing completely idiotic shit just to avoid riding in traffic. The last few months have also been an education in “bike culture”, via the internet in general, and bike blogs specifically. Bicyclists like to think they have a club. Some of them like to gripe about cars and the “car culture”. WTF is a car culture? They’re not complaining about a specific club or car enthusiasts. They’re complaining about people who drive cars. Period. No car is fuel efficient enough, every car turns it’s driver into a drooling idiot with road rage, and one of the 666 layers of Hell is reserved for those balrogs of society who have the gall to drive an SUV. Oh, yes. They’re holier-than-thou, too. And some of them wave. I’ll try to explain, hoping my SUV-sized ego doesn’t get in the way of my pea-sized brain.

Let’s say you drive a Ford Ranger and you think it’s a really neat-o truck. Before you know it everyone with a Ford Ranger is waving at you as they pass, right? Well? Fuck no. They don’t care. Do GMC Pilgrimage drivers have a club? Nope. Explorer drivers have the roll-over club, but no one joins on purpose. When I go to the fair, they often have a car rally of some sort. Like hot rods. Or Corvettes. I’ve watched the Viper Club pretend (because they don’t want to scuff the paint) to race. These folks have a car culture. What you never see is a bunch of regular Joes in the parking lot at the super market drooling all over each others’ 4 year old Crown Victorias and Chevy Malibus. Why? Because they don’t care. They don’t have a fucking culture. They drive a car because they need one, or they want one, or because it’s practical to them and meets their needs. That’s not a culture, you idiots. It’s people with cars. Calling them a culture is like saying people with wallets have a wallet culture. Or people with microwave ovens are part of the TV dinner culture. Right now I’m part of the sit-on-your-fat-ass-and-blog-even-though-no-one’s-going-to-read-it culture. So wave to me the next time you see me. If I recognize your blog butt, I’ll wave back.

Let’s talk about bike culture. The idiot riding on the street, going the wrong way through an intersection with a red light. She’s not gonna wave. The old guy in small-small on the sidewalk who’s going slower than if he were walking. Nope. The roadies. I hate these guys the mostest. You know them. You’ve seen them. They have $2500 carbon fiber racing bikes. They shamelessly wear those super tight bike shorts that leave absolutely nothing to the imagination. They ride in groups of at least 3 and shoot their sideways glances and snotty looks to anyone and everyone. It’s because you’re not already in their club that you’re not eligible to join their club. Not that I’d want to. It really doesn’t look like fun. Not much of a culture.

So who waves? The same jerks who condemned me to a fiery eternity for my choice in automobile, that’s who. The counter culture guys with their tattoos, and spikey hair, and messenger jobs. The fakengers who show up at alley cat races because they want to pretend to be messengers. The morons who think “critical mass” is going to achieve anything other than a police beat down followed by long, drawn out trials. Go figure, they’re the ones with a culture.

Seriously, though, most cyclists, even the weirdos in the preceding paragraph, are pretty decent people. They have good motives, like cleaner air, better health, less road congestion, etc., etc. I certainly can’t bitch about that. The touring crowd is very friendly and amongst the least judgmental of any of the cycling “cultures” I’ve encountered. And the organized cycling clubs (Local and/or Regional Bicycle Club) sometimes offer a slightly more refined group of folks who just want to ride, but probably not much culture. Those groups also encourage things like safety, law abidance, and picnics. And who doesn’t like a picnic?

This entry was posted in Bicycle, Cult classic. Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to Culture club

  1. Gromit says:

    Motorcycle culture is… weird. I once read a friend’s BMW Motorcycle Owners Club newsletter. They endorsed a “raised hand” wave when responding to other BMW riders who wave, but suggested holding your hand out low when waved at by a non-BMW rider. What pretentious snobs!

    If you come to Grandfather Mountain next year, being your bicycle. Knarf and I are gonna go riding!

  2. admin says:

    Might be fun to get about 10 guys on bikes, 5 of them with Beamers, and make a point of waving to the snobs who actually take that crap seriously. I’ll bring the video camera.

  3. admin says:

    Bring my bicycle? Why? So you can both say you didn’t come in last? OK. I’ll bring it. You two can ride me into the ground on the parkway.