Silly Things I / We/ (You?) Do With Motorcycles
The article I wrote on inexpensive or free accessories for your motorcycle ride got some excellent additions in response (see the comments section). Perhaps this one will have the same happy result. Whatcha’ got?
Many of us spend time and money modifying our motorcycles for better performance or to look better (in our eyes). We also learn riding techniques and good maintenance practices to keep ourselves and our bikes in good working order. All to the good, but…
Some of the things we do are just silly.
Silly is not all bad, as sometimes a silly thing can have great meaning and be useful for a balanced life. For example:
Saying thanks: I know a motorcycle is an inanimate object, but even so, at the end of the ride when the motorcycle is put away, I often say “thank you.” This will not be a problem until the motorcycle talks back to me.
Naming: Some people give their motorcycle a name or refer to it as “he” or “she.” I’ve never done this, but I can see the appeal.
Coverage: At one time I owned a cover that I put over the bike, even though I’m fortunate enough to keep it in the garage. Eventually I removed it and gave it away, because with it on… I could not enjoy looking at the bike!
A simple touch: Sometimes when I walk by my motorcycle in the garage, I pause and lay a hand on it for a second or two, as you would any cherished object.
Key fob: Your motorcycle probably came with a fob from the dealer. Many of us go further. Best case was a fellow I knew who owned a Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic and a Kawasaki Ninja 12R – so he’s already a member of a very small demographic. He rode both of them with skill and vigor. It pleased him to have a Harley key fob for the Kawasaki key and a Kawasaki key fob for the Harley. He usually went further and wore an “opposite” t-shirt under his jacket. I thought that was great.
In my own case I was fortunate enough to lead some customers on a ride in 2010 from Seattle to Salt Lake City and back to spectate at a World Superbike Race. At the (then) Miller Motorsports Park the Christian Motorcyclists Association ran a gear check, where you could leave your riding gear and helmet with them and stroll around the massive facility with greater ease and comfort. The woman who waited on me had a name tag that was upside down. I mentioned this and she explained that she did this on purpose to force people to talk to her. I replied that her Australian accent would probably do that anyway. We had a nice chat and then she said she had a gift for me. It was a key fob that was a small leather string with colored beads attached. She explained the biblical meaning of each colored bead, and there was a small card with the explanation of each attached. I did not share her beliefs, but I was touched by her friendly manner and overwhelming sincerity. I used that key fob for several years to honor her. Eventually it came apart and the beads escaped for a new life, but I still have the small leather cord on my key.
Gremlin bell: (also known as a Guardian bell). The story behind this one is either inspiring or an example of brilliant marketing (if you are a cynic like me). The idea is a small bell attached to the lowest part of the frame of your motorcycle. The concept is that the subtle tinkling of the bell wards off evil spirits or gremlins that could cause a crash or mechanical issue. The marketing part is that the “instructions” that come with each one state that it only works if it is given to you. Thus, these were (and probably still are) impulse purchases at dealerships as gifts for friends. The irony is that most of them are put on Harleys. Most Harleys are sufficiently loud that the little bell has no chance of being heard.
Waxing: Have you ever waxed your bike when there was no real need?
Dirty: The corollary to this is people who brag that their bike has never been washed and never will be. I fail to see the upside of this.
Staring: Ever sat in a chair and just looked at your bike while your mind roamed?
Mohawks and others: These seem to have gone out of style, but you used to see them a lot. A fake Mohawk hair style attached to the helmet. In this state they are actually illegal, which is silly in itself. I think the State Patrol wanted that just for an excuse to pull people over to look for other potential sins. You can also get dog ears, bunny ears, etc. All of them are illegal!
Shield covers: You can get overlays for your visor that have a great many small holes you can see through, but the shield will be covered with a design. A flag, a face, all sorts of things. You can combine them with helmet wraps and become Spiderman or a Mutant Ninja Turtle or whatever. Silly, but fun.
Tinted face shield: There are sound reasons for this. On sunny days my sunglasses at times do not play well with a clear visor. But really – it’s because I think it looks cool.
Pause for two anecdotes.
I was returning to the dealership from somewhere on my gorgeous new Triumph Sprint in dark “British Racing Green.” I was wearing my custom-made Vanson suit – black leather pants and a blue and black Vanson leather jacket. Black leather boots and gloves, and an Arai Corsair helmet in bright yellow with a dark tinted shield. Looking as good as is possible for me, on a motorcycle or off. At a stoplight there was a car full of attractive young women in the next lane. I could see that they were talking about me. I had the thought that I could prop open the visor so they could see I was over 50, but decided not to lest the driver scream and drive into a telephone pole in her horror.
On another occasion I was doing a video shoot with some customers and with famed pro race car driver Dominic Dobson. We were being filmed by a TV crew from Australia shooting a program on the heads-up display product Dominic was heading.
All of the customers had the heads-up units on their helmets. Some of them were functional like mine, while the rest were empty units taped in place.
Dominic is a very nice guy, at least off the track, and I enjoyed working with him to test the product. He also appeared as a guest on my radio show. I was very proud that I’d helped the product development, at one point having an engineer in my garage talking by expensive phone with a colleague in China trying to find a glitch I’d discovered. The bike used in development was a Suzuki 650 and the unit had worked fine. Turns out there was a bug in the program at 7,000 rpm, which the Suzuki had never reached. I did on occasion.
Anyway, it was a cold and damp fall day, and at one point we pulled over on the road I’d selected so Dominic and I could ride ahead and scout locations for the shoot. Dominic was new to riding, and as we headed down the winding road it occurred to me that I could late- brake Dominic on the way into a corner and pass him up the inside on the wet road. How many times would I have the chance to pass a guy who had raced for the Porsche factory at LeMans and raced at the Indy 500 for 11 years? Fortunately, sanity intruded and I stayed back.
Later that day during a break (there are always tons of breaks for a video shoot) I was chatting with Dominic, and I mentioned that although it was a very dark day I was wearing the tinted shield because I thought it looked cooler. Dominic replied that he had worn a tinted visor for his entire racing career for the same reason. Well then!
At the end of the day the last shoot featured a tall Aussie cameraman sitting backwards (!) on my Sprint, with his legs behind the saddlebags and his spine pressed against mine – held on by nothing. I was to accelerate up to 50 mph or so and have the group ride as close as possible behind me. Gulp. As we were rolling along a corner loomed, and now I had to slow down fairly quickly, not get rammed from behind, and make the corner. The next morning I woke up in a cold sweat as it dawned on me how truly nuts that was. And of course, as is usually the case, that footage never made the final cut for the show.
Meanwhile, back at the topic, what silly things do you do on or with or for your motorcycle?
Copyright 2017 David Preston