Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Spotter's Guide to Motorcyclists

While visiting my folks in the DC area over Memorial Day weekend I saw a ton of motorcycles out for Rolling Thunder. It's nice to see so many people riding, but there were so few of them on the highway back to Chicago that I started to wonder how they all got there. Did they buy a bike in DC, suddenly grow beards (the women as well), and ride through the city only to sell it again?

It's becoming harder to tell the difference between a real motorcyclist and someone who has a $28k fashion accessory sitting in the garage. But this handy spotter's guide might help you determine who's who on two wheels.

Nutcase - Does not own a car and does not own anything that requires a car to move it. Usually single because the pillion is reserved for changing positions while riding and other riders tire of their impatience to "get back on the road."
Fashion Sense: High, though unintentional. Usually wears gear from the '70s--a look people now pay money for (Check this out on Amazon, and notice the choice of things customers also purchased.)
Rides: AMC-era Harley, Honda Interceptor/Sabmag, BMW R-anything less than 100, the bus
Tell tale: Newspapers stuck in front of jacket for warmth.
Look for them... In a one-man tent behind a gas station. Often with tools laid out around the bike.

Hardcore Rider - If they have a car and are not transporting anything larger than a couch, will take the motorcycle.
Fashion Sense: Low. Usually seen wearing the absolute dorkiest gear around. Have no conception of "looking cool."
Rides: Modern BMW, Kawasaki KLR
Tell tale: Never steps off the pegs, even while high-siding.
Look for them... in the middle of a snow storm drinking warm coffee prepared in the handlebar-mounted coffeemaker adjusting their GPS to the sun's declination.

Daily Rider - Commutes daily on their motorcycle, but will take the car if the weather gets iffy.Fashion sense: Low to Medium. Wears either turbo-bright neon hi-vis or dull but safe motorcycle jacket. Has a personal conception of what "cool" is and hopes others appreciate it. Is often wrong.
Fashion Sense: Medium, usually biz-cas.
Rides: BMW, Suzuki V-Strom, Triumph cruiser/standard, Suzuki Bandit, something old and lime green
Tell tale: Full-face flippy helmet with bluetooth connection, and backpack with Starbucks refillable coffee container.
Look for them... On the road between 7-9am and 4-6pm in the high occupancy vehicle lane singing to themself.

Street Biker - Often rides only at night because the roads are open enough to ride fast. No money left to go to the track because it was all spent on a carbon fiber muffler stay. Where legal, removes the helmet within two blocks of mom's sight.
Fashion Sense: Depending on your taste for anime, potentially very high.
Rides: Suzuki Hayabusa, anything with an "R" in it
Tell tale: Listen for quick bursts through the revs through all the gears followed by a very sudden stop.
Look for them... Going 170 mph down a major highway at 12:30am.

The Grand Tourer - Always seen as a couple with the husband up front and the wife riding pillion. For this type of motorcyclist, weekends are made for riding. Usually the farther the better. Has chosen adventure on a motorcycle rather than an RV because they haven't given up on life yet.
Fashion Sense: Exceedingly low. Hawaiian shirts, Jimmy Buffet t-shirts for men. Sweatshirts with applique for women.
Rides: Middle class - Honda Goldwing. Upper-middle class - BMW K1200LT.
Tell tale: Matching communicator helmets with their names stenciled in cursive.
Look for them... Taking yet another bathroom break.

The Harley Biker - Making up for a well-spent middle age, the Harley Biker is usually nearing retirement, has a beer or two before a ride, and has chosen a motorcycle as their sport of choice because golf requires too much walking. Spent nearly as much on Harley-branded gear as on the bike itself. Sees occasional weekend use if the weather's nice enough, which it usually isn't.
Fashion Sense: Compared to other quintagenarians, high.
Rides: Will never buy a "Jap bike," which also includes British, German, Italian, and non-Harley American brands.
Tell tale: Paddle-footing it through the parking lot.
Look for them... In front of you on a mountain road moving at a glacial pace.

The Self-Proclaimed "Biker" - Shares the same traits as the Harley Biker, but rarely if ever rides. Will attempt to impress you with their one or two stories from the one or two times they rode.
Fashion Sense: Low. Wears all Harley gear all the time.
Rides: "I just sold my panhead, and am looking for an XLHCRVGMP."
Tell tale: E-mailing motorcycle jokes to other people.
Look for them... In the accounting department.

Fashionista - Not a true motorcyclist, but has either ridden or posed on the back of one.
Fashion Sense: Very high in a tawdry sort of way.
Rides: Other people's bikes, possibly other people for money.
Tell tale: Deer in headlights look.
Look for them... Getting into nightclubs that would never let you in.

Like John Audubon, I am constantly seeking new classifications of bikers and so could use your help to refine and add classifications. Unlike Audubon, I did not shoot and then eat my subjects.

- Mike

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