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  • Robert Farago

3 Things Only Motorcyclists Understand

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

People who don’t ride motorcycles ask bikers a simple question: are you nucking futs?

The danger of navigating traffic atop a self-powered bicycle at any speed above 12 mph is blatantly, inescapably, inarguably obvious.

Just so we’re clear…

  1. Motorcyclists are 24 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than passenger vehicle occupants

  2. Motorcycle accidents have an 80 percent injury or death rate; car accidents have a 20 percent rate

  3. In 2021, 5,932 motorcyclists died in crashes

  4. In 2022, Texas recorded 562 motorcyclist fatalities

Confronted with the horror, the horror, motorcyclists either put their hands on their handlebars like they just don’t care, or minimize their personal situation. I wear a full-face helmet! Never drink and ride! Never ride at night!

Self-delusion. It’s a lifestyle!

OK, sure. But it still begs the question: what do motorcyclists know - that non-motorcylists don’t - that inspires them to ignore/accept the fact that the Grim Reaper rides pillion?

1. Motorcycling’s Worth It

There may be more exhilarating ways to go down a road, but I can’t think of any. Motorcycling is like flying, even at sane speeds.

Hang on (literally). Sports cars are also exciting, but they’re not as much fun. Because they’re safer? Yup.

As my friend Jon Wayne Taylor says, anything involving the threat of death is more fun that anything that doesn’t.

The possibility of buying the farm focuses your mind. It makes you glad to be alive – right until you’re killed or seriously injured. Ahem.

2. Motorcycles Connect You To The World

Non-motorcyclists don’t know the pleasures of traveling down the road outside a cage (the biker’s nickname for cars).

Noise suppression, entertainment, phone calls, conversations with passengers, climate control, complete protection from the elements – cars “trap” you in comfort and community.

On a bike, there’s nothing between you and, for lack of a better term, nature.

If nothing else, motorcycling engages your sense of smell, our oldest and most powerful sense. Grass, trees, the ocean, food, cow manure, rain – every ride is an olfactory adventure.

Motorcycles also offer the ease of stopping and stepping out into the world.

You’re far more likely to pull over on a bike than in a car. To hydrate, take a break from the wind and/or rain, schmooze or collapse in an exhausted heap.

3. Motorcycles Are Music

At a standstill, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is a two-wheeled vibrator that sounds like it’s about to die. Or a galloping horse.

At speed, a Harley’s a musical instrument that the rider controls with his/her/their right hand.

Hence the brand’s continued existence in the face of vastly superior engine, handling and braking technology.

All motorcycle engines have their own distinctive sound (even whiney electric bikes).

The mechanical symphony connects you to a machine that’s alive, with its own unique sonic signature.

You could say riding a bike is like listening to the sounds your lover makes during the act, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

Except to say this: to a motorcyclist, the bike’s engine is the sound of freedom, luring them away from humdrum reality. Towards….?


I know that none of the three excuses reasons why people ride motorcycles listed above will do anything to change the average person’s assessment of the motorcycle’s risk/reward calculus: fuck that shit!

Fair enough. And now a public service announcement from the man behind the Wandering Jew Ridiculous Random Motorcycle Tour

When you see bikers – and I pray to God you do see them – understand that yes, they’re crazy. But it’s a special kind of crazy that deserves special care, if not your respect. Amen.

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