So, after months of nothing but Ramen Noodles, you’ve saved up enough loose change to put down a deposit on your first motorcycle. An exciting new world with leather jackets and without traffic, right? Sure, but there some other…stuff, too. Stuff no one else has told you about becoming a biker.
Photo: Kynan Tait
1. Bees & Animals
Bees are a pretty innocuous creature, so long as they’re in the backyard. Sure, if you hassle them, you might get stung, but in general, they leave you alone if you leave them alone. Get on a motorcycle, though, and the humble bee is transformed into a weapon of mass destruction.
At anything over 10mph, a bee in the face/neck/any exposed body part will feel — and this isn’t an exaggeration at all — like you’ve just been shot with a rubber bullet. And, in its final throes, the bee will sting you. Probably in the face, because it’s trapped inside your helmet.
All of that takes place while you’re attempting to operate a relatively complex machine in busy traffic with absolutely nowhere to pull over safely.
Bees have also evolved the extraordinary ability to find gaps in your waterproof, hermetically sealed riding suit that nothing else, not even a drop of water, can penetrate. The bee will always find a way. Normally, it’s around your neck, plunging down your chest and stinging you as many times as possible before your frantic self flagellation manages to squash it. But sometimes, it’ll find its way in around your waistband, then proceed to sting you on the genitalia. Really, this does happen and likely will happen at some point in your riding career. Car drivers will pass by flummoxed by the odd, leather-clad man frantically stripping on the roadside while hopping around with a swollen face.
Animals, too, have been put on this planet for the specific purpose of performing Kamikaze missions on passing motorcyclists. In rural areas, deer will wait in the roadside undergrowth, listening for the approach of a bike. At the very last second, when it’s far too late for you to take evasive action, they’ll fling themselves into your path, or maybe just leap straight for your head.
Even domestic animals like to get in on the act. Cats will test your reflexes by bolting from underneath cars to underneath your wheels. Dogs will feel it’s their duty to hunt you down.
2. You’re Now An Expert Meteorologist
Forget the TV weatherman, you’re going to develop a better ability to read weather radar maps, cloud formations and wind patterns than anyone with an actual degree in the field. And that’s because the weather is now absolutely critical to your day-to-day life.
Can you make it home from work before the storm hits? If so, what’s your latest time of departure, chosen route and necessary average speed to make that possible?
Will it dip below freezing on your commute tonight? If so, should you pack your heated gloves or is the ride short enough for simply your heavy duty winter ones?
Is the rain today going to be light, meaning you can get away with leather or heavy, meaning you need that Bibendum suit?
Slicks, road tires, intermediates or full wets at the track day next week? You’d better know for sure, because that deposit is non refundable and it takes four days for tires to arrive.
3. Say Goodbye To A and B
Before you had a motorcycle, you always tried to find the quickest and most direct way to get around. In a car or truck, it was efficient and practical to do so. Now that you have a bike, you’ll be willing to go 100 miles out of your way to visit a store or restaurant that has the same stuff as the one in your neighborhood. You’ll find yourself with entire States between you and home, amongst strangers and in strange places that you never knew existed, just because. You’ll tell your family you’re just going out for a quick ride, then return hours, sometimes days later, not entirely sure where you have been. And it won’t matter, because you were riding.
4. Manholes, Paint and Tar Snakes
Utility companies go around placing large, slick metal plates in the road, precisely where motorcyclists need to ride or, in intersections, put their foot down. In the dry, that’s no big deal. But, in the rain? A wet manhole (no sniggering, please) becomes a deadly skating rink. Put a foot on one and your boot instantly slips, meaning you’ll drop your bike. Hit one while turning and you’ll be laying on the ground.
Road markings take on a new life in the wet, too. Nearly as slippery as manhole covers, they can make the back end of your bike weave around as the tire hunts for traction. Even under the gentlest of acceleration.
And then there are tar snakes: cracks in the road filled with liquid tar. In the winter, that tar freezes and becomes strips of black ice. In the summer, it melts and feels pretty much the same. The cracks they’re installed to patch tend to be in the heaviest sections of wear on the road. You know, like the apex of a corner or downhill, approaching a corner, where you want to be braking. They couldn’t have been designed to catch you by surprise any better.
5. Friends & Strangers
So scrimped and saved to buy your first bike, and now your friends are going to want in on the action too. No, not by going out and buying their own, but using your new pride and joy. Most are just going to want to pose for a new Facebook profile picture on it, but some are going to swear riding competency and want to take it around the block. Don’t let them, they’ll inevitably return holding only a par of (now detached) handlebars and a story about how it’s not their fault.
Complete strangers will start approaching you, too. Normally old men, who will want to recount stories of the old Triumph or Norton they once rode. They’ll tell how your bike reminds them of it. Well, until they realize your bike is Japanese, at which point they’ll look shocked and walk away. Continue Reading: Things They Never Told You About Becoming a Biker >>
6. You Become A Better Car Driver
Before you bought your bike, you were content to be a sheep. You’d complain, of course, other people’s driving was never as good as your own, but you were seemingly powerless to do anything about it. You just say stuck in the flow, merrily texting and tailgating away.
But now that you’ve ridden a bike? You’re suddenly hyper aware. Not just of the risks and the bad driving and that nasty pothole six corners ahead, requiring a specific line begun now to avoid, but of the utter ridiculousness of it all. That guy in the $100,000 Porsche? What a poseur, that thing is slow. That guy driving the eight-passenger SUV all by himself? How unnecessary. All these thousands of people sitting in a traffic jam? That’s it, this car’s going on Craigslist.
7. Waving Etiquette
Visit any forum and you’ll find novel-length screeds on the rights and wrongs of whome you should acknowledge while out on your motorcycle, and how. Should you wave at people on scooters? Will that thug on the sportsbike come chasing after you should you fail to salute? Do cruiser riders count?
You could spend every moment of your ride waving at anyone and everything, which is just mental. It’s probably best just to get on with the task in hand and ride your bike. Unless you see another riding unwittingly approaching a speeding trap, in which case it’s your sacred duty to tap the top of your helmet. Got that?
8. Working On Your Bike
Your new motorcycle likely came with an owner’s manual, full of specifications, technical drawing and suggestions on how to not end up with a worthless pile of parts stacked up in your driveway. You can see engine and all of the important bits and how hard can changing your oil be, anyways?
Take the time to read up about any work you want to do online, talk to knowledgeable friends and spend some money on acquiring the correct tools. And yeah, it’s not that hard.
There’s no obligation to take your bike to an authorized dealer and working on it yourself won’t invalidate your warranty, provided you don’t screw it up. If you don’t, you’ll end up with an enormous sense of accomplishment, along with fresh oil.
9. Your Bike Is Stronger Than You Think
Oh my god, you hit the rev limiter! Forgot to adjust the chain! Your tires are 2psi off! Relax. Your motorcycle is a lot tougher than you would think. It’s a highly capable feat of modern engineering and, part of its design process is devoted to making it stand up to your ham fisted abuses. Yes, you can take your bike on a trackday. Yes, you can take it on that weekend road trip. Yes, you can ride it fast and hard and put it away dirty. Your bike’s not going to melt in the rain.
10. The Boogers
Probably the least glamorous part of riding a motorcycle is the stuff that’s going to start coming out of your face. Live in a city? You’ll be inhaling so many carbon particulates that your nose will quickly clog up with black goo, then start leaking it down your face. Ride in the cold? Your nose will run the entire time. Kicking the snot off your upper lip will keep it from spreading across the rest of your face, then drying into a crusty mess. After every ride, you’ll blow your nose and it will come out black, brown, yellow and, if you’ve been riding anywhere dusty or around a nasty chemical plant, likely red too. You need to carry a hanky and you’ll need to wash that hanky every couple of days, because you will be using it, heavily.