Arrgghhh!!! Motorcyclists can't drive!

I just got back from a trip to the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. I wasn’t able to catch and yell at any of the idiot motorcyclists who almost killed me on my way up and down, so I thought I’d vent here instead.

I ride a motorcycle, as does the friend I went with. We drove the 400 miles there and back, and before I left I gave some thought to safety. I figured that my main problem would be cars going too fast on the little highways we would be taking. Cars tend not to see motorcycles, and it can get dangerous at times.

But NOOOOO… the big problem was IDIOTS on MOTORCYCLES. I can’t COUNT the number of times that I thought for sure either me or my man was going to end up dead on the side of the road.

Top problems:

  1. Idiots who think that it’s OK to split lanes while passing. Do you really think I can hear or see you when you come up behind me and share the lane with me? What happens if I decide I want to ride on the left side of the lane instead of the right, and YOU’RE in the left lane?

  2. Idiots who invite ME to pass them by splitting the lane. I come up behind you. You’re going slower than me. You get over on the right side of the lane and want me to pass on the left. No way, baby. If I can’t get over into the oncoming traffic lane and pass like a car, I’m not passing you. Sorry.

  3. People who think it’s OK to pass, and get in between me and my buddy who is slightly ahead of me. Don’t you GET IT!?! We’re travelling TOGETHER! If you can’t pass both of us at once, you don’t have enough room to pass. Just stay behind us until you do.

  4. People going just way too fast. I’m already going above the speed limit. I got passed by people doing 90+ mph on a regular basis. There was a high wind. Tell me this isn’t dangerous. And yeah, I saw your bikes parked outside every single bar on the way up and down. I’m all for stopping and having a cold one every couple of hours… but not every 20 minutes.

And just general observations…

Harley drivers who will do just about anything to protect themselves from the elements, but would NEVER consider wearing a helmet. I saw people with their entire heads covered with scarves, hats, etc. - right over their face, leaving slits for their eyes. Yeah, the wind was bad. I was comfy in my helmet. Maybe I didn’t look as cool as you, but come on…

People with children in dangerous positions on bikes. I saw one bike go by with a 10 year old hanging on for dear life. His butt was half on the passenger seat, and half on the back fender of the bike. I fully expected to see the kid splattered on the side of the road.

I also saw a man with an extremely small child - 2 or 3 years old - sitting on the passenger seat behind him. The child was strapped to the man with a wide velcro band, but was not old enough to firmly hold on to the man or the bike. Leave your kid off the bike until he/she is old enough to sit and hang on by his or herself.

I could go on and on and on… talk about a bunch of seriously dumb people. No wonder you hear about so many accidents.

Sorry you had the problems, Athena – when my husband and I went to Sturgis in 1996, we had a great time. Admittedly, we trailered there (from San Diego), but we put 1500 miles on the bike at and around the rally. As for your complaints – we see it too. My husband (who has been riding since age 15) blames it on the RUB (Rich Urban Biker) types who buy a Harley as their first bike and think that paying for it means that they know how to ride it. Most of the good riders we know didn’t start out on Harleys at all. Most of them (my husband included) learned to ride on a series of smaller foriegn bikes and graduated “up” to a Harley after years of riding. Kevin always says when you see a RUB on the road (recognizable by the brand new, totally stock Harley and the shiny new designer leathers with everything from the jock strap to the headband marked “Harley-Davidson”) you should either speed up or slow down (depending on the road conditions) and get the hell out of his/her way. He also recommends that anyone who’s thinking about buying a bike (even a die-hard Harley fan) should start out with a cheap, used Japanese bike – a little smaller than they think they can handle – and ride it for at least 18 months to 2 years before moving up to a bigger bike. Also, take at least one motorcycle safety course and repeat the course at intervals. Kevin takes a motorcycle safety course every 5 or 6 years, just to stay on top of things.


Full of 'satiable curtiosity

We did have a great time, but man-o-man was I sick of having my heart in my throat as I watched yet ANOTHER idiot biker almost kill my boyfriend.

I agree with you totally on the RUB thing. I was laughing out loud at your description - totally stock bike, and all pieces of clothing down to the underwear official Harley gear. Leather jacket and chaps even though it’s 90 degrees out. Don’t even bother to tell me they wear chaps for the “protection.” Wear a d%$#! helmet if you want “protection.” Don’t tell me your chaps are for anything but fashion.

I don’t quite agree with you on the “cheap used” thing - my ex tried for years to get me into motorcycling and said the same thing. It took being able to afford a nice pretty new bike to really get my interest up. But still, it was fairly small, I took a riding course, and I put 7K miles on it before I stepped up to a bigger bike.

There also seems to be a segment of youngish guys - low to mid 20’s - on either crappy old Harleys or newer Harleys that they obviously don’t take care of (ie, dents, scratches, not been washed in years). These guys wear dirty clothes, rags on the head, and usually need a bath. They spun around us like we were standing still.

Methinks it’s Darwinism at its best.

I haven’t ridden for years but used to tour with my lover on his Kawasaki Voyager. The bike was so damn big that when it fell over with the saddle bags filled we had to take them off to get it upright (it fell over when a moose decided it looked like competition for his females).

We also saw some amazingly stupid things but my lover would do stupid things too. That’s why I quit riding with him and eventually it ended our relationship. He was one of those people who would split lanes to pass, especially in LA traffic (totally horrifying being on the back of that bike when he did this). He would also drive it after smoking pot. I have nothing against pot but to be all lit up on a bike is just nuts!

The only thing we agreed on was wearing helmets. In fact it became a joke of ours to call helmet-less people “organ donors”.

Hopefully, the next ride you go on you won’t see such idiots (especially the kids hanging off, YIKES!) And I hope that my X wised up and started driving safe. Never could get him to take a safety class with me; he was a MAN and he knew what he was doing. Sigh. Sounds like your man doesn’t have that problem (lucky you!).

You can count the number of apples in one tree but never the number of trees in one apple.

Close enough, except for a few bucks. At least you were showed some restraint! I, myself, just can’t be talked into getting my own ride… I like sitting on the back and daydreaming too much, I guess!


Full of 'satiable curtiosity

My husband was recently hit on his bike (by a truck making a left into oncoming traffic) and I think we’re both traumatized for life from it. I was just in Chicago, and everytime I saw a biker with NO helmet, I just wanted to stop them and shake them. My husbands helmet had a big chip out of it, which would have been his skull. He had on good riding gear (good jeans, boots, new gloves, parka) and he made out pretty good, considering. Anyway, everytime I see someone in shorts, or with no helmet (out west) I could just cry, knowing how they could end up.

An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; A pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.

I am not a motorcyclist, but I used to be married to one. While I never owned my own bike, we discussed getting one for me. He also believed in the “cheap used” theory for newbies. I still remember his words…“People just learning to ride motorcycles should not own new ones, because they WILL lay them down.” I think fear of falling kept me from actually getting one myself. He also would hardly let me look at his bike unless I had a helmet on. I rode on the back of his bike alot, and I did like it. We did practice an awful lot, though, before he actually took me anywhere. He made me get on & off, on & off, on & off…we practiced which way to lean while he was turning, all of that stuff. It seemed so dull at the time, but now I understand why. He’s never had an accident, and I did feel quite safe riding with him.

Y’know, I think that this statement is somehow banged into guy’s heads at an early stage. Maybe some young guy who gets a motorcycle and is doing typical young guy stupid things will damage their bike, but I sure didn’t. My ex told me for YEARS that I had to get a POS bike to learn on because I would invariably lay it down. When I finally decided to take the riding course, I decided I wanted a new bike. He fought me tooth and nail. I won, because I was the one paying for the bike. Did I lay it down? Nope. A friend did once, and there was absolutely NO damage. Most bike nowadays are built so that if it goes over slowly (and that’s the most likely scenario - it gets out of balance during a slow turn in a driveway or parking lot) it lands on either the footpegs or the roll bar. Neither are damaged.

Don’t buy this line of crap. If you’re careful with the bike, and you take a safety class where they meticulously teach you how to handle a bike at low speeds, you don’t have much of a chance of dropping it.

I don’t ride anymore, but


If you don’t know to look ahead 13 seconds you won’t

If you aren’t keenly aware of the sun’s location, you can’t predict others preception of you.

If you live in South Florida, don’t ride!

What’s particular about South Florida?

Remember, I’m pulling for you; we’re all in this together.
—Red Green

Below is another reason not to ride motorcycles. The size of a beach ball? Ouch!

Brown Opts For Surgery - (8/6/99)
N.Y. Giants RB Gary Brown has decided to have surgery on his butt to remove a blood clot. Brown developed a hematoma after a motorcycle accident a month ago. The accumulation of blood, which was the size of a beach ball, has shrunk to about 5 inches long but by taking care of the problem now, there remains very little chance for an infection. Brown is hoping to play in at least two preseason games this year, but his status for the season opener is now in question. Leshon Johnson, Tiki Barber, and Sean bennett have taken most of the reps at RB due to Brown and Joe Montgomery (hamstring) being sidelined with injuries.

My grandmother killed a motorcyclist a couple years ago. He was going 90 mph, no helmet, but she has to live with it. Now I get SO nervous every time I see unhelmeted, shirtless riders whizzing past me on the highway.
To you safe bikers who wear helmets and pass like cars - thank you, thank you. You’ve renewed my faith.

I’ll try to be nice in my response to this. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying:

There are only two kinds of bikers - those that have been down, and those that are going down.

No amount of schooling is going to prevent the car from turning left in front of you, the gravel on the road, just a small amount of oil on the road, etc. It can prepare you somewhat, but motorcycling is inherently dangerous.

I have lost a few buddies – you never know for sure if it’s going to be your day to make it home or not. I try to remind myself of that whenever I get on my bike. But then I crank my Harley up, feel the rumbling, and listen to that exhaust, and I do realize that I’m not about to head down the road in a Buick. One of the reasons that I ride is because it’s fun, and sometimes part of that fun is pushing the envelope a bit. Get out of the way and get over it. I’m sure that you have much better things to worry about. I don’t know you, you don’t know me – I’m not intentionally trying to piss you off by my driving style. Give me the benefit of the doubt – maybe I had a bad day, maybe I’m thinking about what’s happening this weekend, maybe I’m having a hell of a lot of fun. If I’m going to piss off someone, why waste that on a perfect stranger.
(BTW, if you drop a bike, footpegs and engine guards don’t really do crap for you. Those parts themselves can be expensive. Your tail lights aren’t protected, nor are your handlebars,…)


The above quote was in reference to my ex telling me, before I got a bike, that there was no reason to buy a nice new bike because I would invariably drop it at a stop sign or in the driveway and mess it all up. It was NOT in reference to the inherent dangers of motorcycling. I’m with you all the way there - even the most careful driver has to watch out for cars and other hazards.

I do think that most bikers who either take a safety course or have a decent amount of experience don’t often drop their bikes when at a dead stop, while trying to park the bike, or wheeling it out of the garage. Yeah, it happens occasionally to even the best, but it’s rare and no reason to avoid purchasing a nice bike.

I’m not quite sure what you mean by your last paragraph. It seems to be saying that it’s OK to drive in a dangerous fashion because you’re out having fun, and everyone elss should “get out of my way.” Maybe I’m misreading it - please explain!

The bike dropping thing – the girl I’ve been seeing dropped her bike in her driveway last week. She’s been riding for a while, and she is a saleperson at a Harley dealership, so she has to / gets to move bikes around every so often (she likes to, apparently, since she’s always telling me about it). I was at a bar a couple of months ago, and one guy had just put his kickstand down, and another guy came by and accidently kicked it back up – not a pretty sight, since the bikes were in there pretty tight (which is why the second guy came by so close). Gravity wants your bike. I agree with the statement that a new rider should probably start out on an older, smaller bike. You drop a new bike and your insurance agent probably won’t be too happy. (A friend of mine is an agent, and he gets bonuses if his clients’ claims aren’t over a certain amount each year.) I will concede that the cost of a new bike and the pride of owning a new bike are good determents to dropping one if you are just starting to ride (or any other time, for that matter).

I was, in a round about way, addressing road rage. Athena, you sounded like you were raising a bit of hell about the way some bikers ride. I’ll have to admit that I’ve been on the receiving end of a middle finger once or twice, sometimes due to my negligence, sometimes due to me being an ass. I really don’t try to drive too recklessly, and it sometimes bothers me when my buddies do (it’s a very deep down sick feeling to watch a buddy go down, and that feeling comes back when you see someone being a bit foolish.) If you encounter someone who is rude, do what I do: put as much blacktop between you and them as you can, and don’t give them a second thought. You’re not going to slow them down, and you’ll be doing your blood pressure a favor (and the people around you that won’t have to hear you gripe).

  1. it’s hard to ignore people when you consistently see them doing dumb things that not only put their life in jeopardy, but also me or my boyfriend’s.


  1. I DID manage to ignore them, that’s why I’m venting here!

Part of the “older, smaller” bike thing is a money issue. For me, I wasn’t all that interested in learning how to ride until I got turned on to some of the neat bikes that were out there. By then, I could afford to fix a bike if anything happened to it, so I got a new bike. It was definitely smaller than the bike I ride now (Road King), though, and it was easy to manuever and I could pick it up myself if it dropped.

I guess I just see so many people saying “start out on an old, small bike” that I question it. Small, I understand. But why a POS? If you can afford a nice bike, and don’t mind taking a chance that you, as a beginner, might drop it, why not buy a nice one?

I’m glad (and impressed!), Athena, that you learned on your nice bike with no problems. Yours doesn’t seem to be the typical scenario, though. For instance, friends of ours bought a Road King for the wife 9 or 10 months ago. Liz had never had anything to do with bikes before they started dating and she wanted a ‘real bike’ – IE. a Harley! She took her initial motorcycle safety course at a school that supplied the bikes for students and was all licensed and ready to go when the picked up the Road King. They even had personalized plates waiting – “Road Queen!” Liz laid it down three times in the first month but didn’t damage it much (they were careful about where they went to practice). Soon, though she was so nervous that she was having a hard time learning. Keith was pretty rattled, too – he says there’s nothing worse than hearing $15,0000 worth of motorcycle sliding down the road! So, they dug Keith’s oldest bike out of the garage (a Honda 350, I think) got it running and she did her learning on that. Liz rode the Honda for 6 months, and then slowly switched back to her Road King.


Full of 'satiable curtiosity

Oh Jess, the Road King wasn’t my first bike. There’s no way I could have learned on it! Way too big for a first bike, and I’m not a tiny person (5’7", and muscle-y for a woman). I had a Kawasaki Vulcan 800 for my first bike. Not exactly tiny, but 200 pounds lighter and a few inches shorter than the Road King.

The RK was hard for me even though I had put 7K miles on my first bike. I finally got the thing lowered at Sturgis last weekend, and the extra 2" are a big deal for me. I should have done that when I got it. I’ve never laid it down, but I’ve been very very careful with it. It’s my baby! My nice shiny bike!

Just a quick “You just never know what’s going to happen to whom” note about bikes & their riders…

My mom got her motorcycle operator’s license two years ago. To my knowledge, she’s never fallen or dropped her bike. No accidents, either. Her SO, who has been riding & racing for years, just came back from a racing safety course…with a broken wrist, due to a fall from his bike. He had to have surgery yesterday, & has some pins in there now. Sigh.

Speaking of “you never know what’s going to happen to whom,” you guys say a little prayer for me. I’m heading up to Maryland today to watch some flat track racing on Sat. I’ll ride nicely, Athena.

I’ve got to get finished packing, but I did want to add that I have another way of rationalizing crappy driving behavior by anyone. When I was in college, there was a one-way road near my apt. that looked like it should be two-way. I didn’t realize that it was one-way until I went down it and saw the ‘do not enter’ sign just a little too far from the corner. I’m sure that I pissed some people off. After that one initial time, I realized that it was a one-way road, and I never did it again. I would often see other cars turning down that road, but relating back to my experience, I’m sure that that was going to be the one and only time that each of those drivers did that somewhat stupid driving maneuver. There are a lot of drivers out there, and if each of the drivers in the area did it just once, that would still give the impression that most people are driving like idiots, but instead it’s just a case of a lot of individuals learning a lesson only once. Instead of getting pissed or thinking that those drivers were stupid, I felt sorry for them, and I knew that they would probably never do that same thing again. Every time I see someone do something stupid when I’m driving, I try to give them credit for learning from their error and not doing it again. Granted, there are some real SOB’s out there, but I’ve found that a lot times, some of those ‘SOB’s’ are just nice people having a momentary lapse of reason.