How many people have walked right up to you to ask if that's your bike?

I bet you’ve all heard at least one of them. You know, that time you stopped in at the store on your way home from work and someone looks at you in your gear and asks if you rode a snowmobile here? Or maybe the little kid who, starry-eyed, says, “Are you a superhero?” (The answer to that question, unequivocally, is a solid and immediate “Yes. Yes, I am.”)

Those are the fun ones. Mid-trip, six or seven states away from home, an older woman walks up to your bike, studies the license plate, and gasps. “Does that say ‘Mass?’ Like in Massachusetts? Did you ride that all the way here??”

The stupidity comes in sometimes, like the guy in the pharmacy who looks at you, your gear, your boots, your helmet in your hand, and asks “so, you ride a motorcycle?”

There are the office coworkers who, upon learning you ride, will say things like (I swear, both of these actually happened), “What happens when it rains?”

“I get wet.”

She stormed off in a huff, apparently angered by that answer. I have no idea.

The other lovely woman who caught up with me at the coffee station: “I watched you ride in today! That is so cool! I would love to learn to ride!”

I said, “You can!” and started to describe my state’s MSF program, how it’s a weekend course… but she stopped me.

“No!” she exclaimed. “I can’t! My hair!!

Since I commute by motorcycle, I run errands on my way home a lot, and most of my interactions with strangers happen in these settings. The cashier who absolutely cannot believe that I can fit three bags of groceries onto my bike (and in fact watched me out the window in stunned surprise as my Givi e45 just swallowed it all). The older folks who approach me and want to tell me all about the motorcycle they used to have (in fact, I love that). The couple who stopped directly in front of my (moving) motorcycle in the parking lot to exclaim “Oh! How wonderful! It’s so quiet! Thank you!” That one was a bit of a head-scratcher.

Because this happens as often as it does, I can tell honest amazement and curiosity from smarm. But I make a lot of jokes these days, because 20+ years of these comments gets a little old. I try to mix it up.

“Did you ride that all the way here?” “Of course I did! It’s way too far to push it.”

“You ride that all by yourself?” “Heck no, there’s loads of other people on the road.”

Sometimes I can tell that guy who’s sidled up to me has motives I want no part of, and nine times out of 10 won’t recognize the model anyway, so when he looks me over and asks “What kind of motorcycle do you ride?” I will dig my toe into the dirt and twirl my hair and say “Oh, a little red one.” That generally breaks his brain for long enough that I can make my getaway.

At a local convention-hall motorcycle show I was admiring one of the new 300cc class sportbikes, threw my leg over it, and the salesguy walked up to me exclaiming loudly, “That could be your first bike!” My companion laughed, and I flatly said, “No. It couldn’t.”

My very favorite has to be, in the dead of summer, when someone looks at me and says “Aren’t you hot in all of that gear?”

I look them dead in the eye and say “Why, THANK you.” Bonus points for an eyebrow waggle.