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May 26, 2009

Why They Hate Us

Nick Diaz

Well, okay, not all the non-motorcycle people hate us – it just seems that way some of the time, and has for the 40 years of my experience. So, why is that?


I had occasion to ruminate on the topic while driving a car home after dropping off a friend at Reagan National Airport for a late afternoon flight. Driving a car solo on I-495 and I-270 at 5 P.M. gives you pondering time – a lot of it. Moving slowly, or not at all, I tried to imagine the thoughts of a non-motorcycle person, as dozens and dozens of motorcycles streamed by me in the HOV lane.


I’m indebted to all the motorcyclists who came by for the examples to follow, and I want to stress that none of them did anything wrong, illegal or dumb, at least that I witnessed. With that, here are some reasons why non-motorcyclists hate us.




From a stationary car in crowded traffic, a motorcycle in the commuter lane going by at 45 mph looks terribly fast. It appears that an errant vehicle will lumber into the commuter lane at any second and the motorcycle will then “Spiderman” into the barrier. Those who do this regularly know it’s pretty rare for such an event to loom, and the driver’s shoulders and arms usually provide ample warning for corrective action. To the uninformed automobile driver, however, it looks dangerous.


When people perceive danger, they get scared. One of the natural responses to fear is… anger. So, there you are, toodling along in the commuter lane minding your own business, and at the same time (unbeknownst to you), frightening the cage drivers who are now (illogical, but true) angry because you frightened them!




I won’t use the hackneyed “media bias” charge. Print and video reporters are not that organized, nor are they willing to work as hard, as careful and consistent that bias would require.


In other words, media people are essentially lazy and would rather assign and allow someone else do their legwork for them. It is their focus, a product of such laziness, that is the problem.


An old adage for news states, “If it bleeds, it leads;” and it works out that way, if the media people can access the gore. Ski slopes in January resemble an emergency room, complete with triage procedures and Medevac flights, but are “way up there” in the mountains and hard to get a camera on. The motorcycle that just crashed into the viaduct? “Hey, we can be there in five and shoot great video!”


Then there is also the eager public that suffers from…




One of our relatively minor problems as a culture is the pervasive urge to, if we find someone having fun that we’re not, make them STOP! People revel in the misfortunes of those who’ve had accidents, especially if they are doing something different. Since only 2-to-3% of the population owns motorcycles, any accident is greeted by mass “I told you so’s” from know-nothing and know-it-alls all over the place.




Remember the yearning to be “cool” in high school? If you actually achieved a state of “cool,” remember how hard it was to maintain? If you were not cool, remember how you resented the people who were?


Picture a middle-aged person sitting in a typical car – such as a Chrysler minivan. First guy rides by on a 1200 Harley Sportster with mild pipes, wearing a leather jacket, helmet, and gloves. He’s cruisin’ up the commuter lane at 45 mph or so, while I sit immobile and listen to his “potato-potato-potato.” He is cool.


He is cool. I am not.


Next comes a guy on a Suzuki sport bike. Yellow bodywork and yellow wheels. A black and yellow fabric riding suit, black gloves, and a bright yellow helmet. The bike is spotless.


He is cool. I am not.


A guy on a big BMW adventure-trailie thing, with the Touratech boxes, an Aerostich suit, and a nice helmet. So chic and European.


He is cool. I am not.


This went on all the way home – my soccer-mom minivan was passed by five or six dozen motorcyclists.


They were all cool. I was not.


Parked in the garage is my Yamaha Venture touring motorcycle. Behind it hang a couple of jackets and the fancy helmet. Okay, now I can be cool (to me)!


What if I didn’t have the Venture at home? Would I resent those cool guys (and/or gals) on two wheels?


Yes. Bitterly.




At this time you say, “Anyone can ride a bike. Why can’t they?”


Not anyone.


A lifetime of media reports, abetted by parental harping, has convinced many that a motorcycle will cause their demise. They do not necessarily agree with this as a logical consequence, but it may not matter.


I once had an 86-year-old man detail for me the many classic motorcycles he’d wanted over the years and had not enjoyed because “they would kill me.” It was excruciating. I just barely refrained from blurting out “What’s stopping you now – you’re only 86!”


When you tell such people they can buy a bike, they feel worse – and resent you for it.


Some people lack the coordination. Don’t laugh. It can be really hard. Go back to high school when you probably wanted to be a star athlete. Were you? How did you feel about people who had the talent to succeed in sports? If you resented it, then you can identify with the feelings of some who feel “trapped” in a boring minivan or SUV with an automatic, while you go whizzing by.




…are obvious factors that have to be included. Even if people understand the logic of encouraging moto-commuting, as they sit in a stuffy car going nowhere and hear and feel bikes zooming by, they resent it – more than the other cars with passengers doing the same thing. It sounds great, and looks great, and seems to be so fast.


As to sound, none of the people who rode by me that day had bikes that were exceptionally loud, so how could the sound be resented?


Again, it’s the reality of sitting still while you listen to the mechanical symphony of a motorcycle disappearing ahead of you. The “potato-potato-potato” of the Harley, the melodious buzz of several different sport bikes, that wonderful imminent mechanical disaster of a Ducati clutch, the industrial thrum of the BMW – none were objectionable – but all could be resented by those stuck in line.




We motorcyclists can be polite and courteous and always try to represent the sport well. I do, most of the time at least. Just keep in mind that no matter how hard we motorcyclists try, many people are still going to not like us. When I put myself into their heads, I ended up feeling sorry for them.


Don’t hate them, the poor things!


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