Are You a Good Motorcycling Community Ambassador?

Are You a Good Motorcycling Community Ambassador?

Early Friday morning while making small talk with a co-worker by the coffee pot, he slipped in a ‘did you ride your motorcycle to work today?’  There is nothing unusual about him asking me. Though he is not a rider himself, he always makes it a point to wish me safe travels and tells me to watch out for the crazies on the road.

Other co-workers, none of whom are riders also take the time to mention bikes they may have seen and liked. They’ll ask if I did any riding over the weekend. Sometimes they say things like, ‘I saw this bike and thought of you’ and they’ll whip out their phones to show me a picture they took.

Of course, there are also those times when people will mention a motorcyclist that they may have seen doing things that were… “dangerous.”

These people, my non-riding co-workers – seem to see and pay attention to motorcyclists of all flavors.

Motorcyclists, anonymous as they are – are often unwitting ambassadors to the sport, to the lifestyle. They serve as conversation starters, subjects of chit-chat, examples of good and bad behavior just by the simple act of going about their everyday lives on a motorcycle.

What do you think?

  • Does the behavior of other riders have an effect on you as a motorcyclist?
  • Are you a good ambassador for the motorcycling community?
  • Do you care one way or the other?

7 Replies to “Are You a Good Motorcycling Community Ambassador?”

  1. I’m torn on this issue. I try to be a good ambassador, at least in the regard of wearing All The Gear, All The Time… and whenever I’m walking around in my gear (helmet off), I do my best to be friendly and helpful and portray a positive image.

    On the road, however, it’s often a different story. I ride safely at all times. But many onlookers and motorists, particularly those who don’t ride, may not agree. Unfortunately, many motorists simply assume that motorcycles are dangerous, and if they happen to be doing anything that gets them noticed, it’s unsafe.

    I’ve learned over the past couple of years that I am safer if I am travelling FASTER than the flow of traffic. If I stay with traffic, it doesn’t take long for somebody not paying attention (e.g. texting) to unintentionally try to run me off the road. No amount of high-viz gear and lights is going to completely fix this. People just don’t notice us.

    Then there are the people who simply don’t like bikes to begin with. I NEVER ride directly behind a car. I ride towards the inside of the lane, near the line, so I can split between traffic if I need to — e.g. sudden stop, etc. Legal or not, I’m going to do it to avoid an accident. But this tends to piss people off. I dunno if it’s my lights in their mirror, or if they think I’m following too closely. But these people will sometimes brake-check me, or start swerving around, or who knows what. All it takes is for somebody to do stuff like that, and I twist the throttle and I’ll go past them, splitting traffic if necessary. I refuse to behind somebody driving like that. So there’s another “strike” against us being allegedly “unsafe” even though we didn’t start it.

    Motorists seems to think that when motorcycles accelerate, we’re hot-rodding. Point is, bikes accelerate faster than cars, even when we’re taking our time. So again, “unsafe.” Sigh.

    I think that most of the issues people have with motorcycles is due to ignorance and bad press. Of course, there are always the few that will ruin it for everybody else… usually kids on sport bikes riding recklessly, or the obnoxiously loud Harley that has to be sure he’s heard for miles around.

    What we need is a heavy PR campaign to educate people about motorcycles. It would also help a LOT to legalize lane splitting everywhere. Not only would it reduce traffic congestion, it would actually make motorcycles more visible, because people would start using their side mirrors and noticing us coming up between them. The studies done about lane splitting have all indicated that it’s safer than not (another major misconception). I learned to ride in Los Angeles and have had 1/10th as many issues with motorists there as I do when I’ve ridden in Nevada and Oregon.

    There will always be bad apples; hopefully more people will focus on portraying the sport positively and help combat the negative image we’re stuck with.

  2. I try very hard not to be an asshole on the road (or anywhere else for that matter) but sometimes I fail. I smile at people, I wave to kids, I take my helmet off or at least lift my modular facesheild when I get gas, I answer questions when asked. It’s just not that tough to be nice and friendly and considerate of others.

    Parades of bikes that block traffic, squids that do on the road what they should save for the track and obnoxiously loud pipes all diminish public opinion of motorcycles in general. When I was younger, the image that failed was dirty, unwashed bikers with no regard for the law. Now the image that fails is pretty much just stupidity on display. And then there’s Sons of Agony to set a stellar example of how to conduct yourself. Sigh.

  3. Interesting questions. I do hear from others, especially non-riders, about motorcycles/motorcyclists they’ve seen. Yesterday when hubby and I were out for a ride we were passed by a bad ambassador. We were on a four lane highway, when this guy rode up next to me on a crotch rocket, turned looked at me. Then sped ahead next to hubby, looked at him, then cranked the throttle popped a wheelie and took off like a bat out of hell. I’m guessing he was going over 90 and showed no signs of slowing. And the road was filled with other vehicles. Really?! Not impressed at all! He created a dangerous scenario for all around him. For the most part I’ve had great experiences out on the road with other motorcyclists.

    FYI – I did lay on the throttle yesterday, but the road was empty. Other than hubby behind me, not a soul around.

  4. I try to be a good ambassador on and off my bike. There are a lot of idiots out there and they don’t all ride bikes. As the old saying goes… “You can’t fix stupid.” John Wayne put it another way… “Life is hard but it’s even harder if you’re stupid.”

    Good post by the way. Great blog all around. Thanks…

  5. Yes, we try very hard to be a good ambassador..We do the usual waving at kids, and always take time to talk to people when they stop and look at the bikes when we are parked somewhere. Many times, get caught up in a conversation with a total stranger and almost miss dinner because of it. I think most of the biking community is very friendly. Great subject…Thanks!!!

  6. Awesome responses – thank you!

    I try not to be an a-hole or be an example of what onlookers might view as one of those “reckless motorcycle riders.”

    In my youth, not so much. I often did stupid shit on a motorcycle that was absolutely the type of stuff that drivers get in an uproar about ~ excessive speeding, cutting through traffic, passing on double yellows – typical hooliganism. Not proud of it but I can’t run from the truth. I was often a complete jackass.

    But at some point – I guess I just valued myself a bit more than that behavior and woke up. Now… i ride like a Gramma shaking my fist at kids doing that dumb stuff I used to.

    Was I always a good example? No. Am I now? I think so.

    There is always time to grow and change if you want to.

  7. I try very hard to be a good motorcycle ambassador. Its funny you hear very little about ‘good’ motorcyclists and the diversity of bikes out there. I only ever hear about the doofus who got into trouble speeding or driving wrecklessly. I belong to a group that lobbies for safer roadways and we do things for charity, you rarely hear about things like that.

    I do the wave at kids and chat with folks, advocate for gear and motorcycle safety. I have found some people are ignorant knobs no matter what you do because they see the helmet and gear and start assuming things about me, which at times makes me nuts, but I smile and go on my way.

    Usual first question I get asked is “How come you don’t ride a Harley?” Seriously – people there are a plethora of bikes out there and not everyone wants to ride one of those.

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