Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Road to Dorkdom

On a recent Peak Rider tour one of the participants briefly lamented looking like a dork.  Dorkdom; it’s a funny old thing that.  One rider’s hi-viz jacket is another’s eyesore.  A chap’s chaps are someone else’s laugh.

What defines cool or dorky is seldom much more than a fashion judgement.  Ambrose Bierce described fashion as, “A despot whom the wise ridicule and obey”.  The tension between fashion and function is exhibited in the bikes we ride, the accessories we install and the clothing we wear.  Cool or dorky?  It depends on which rickety soapbox a person chooses to stand on and the tint of the lens they peer through.

However, there is one thing which stands out as truly dorky.  It respects no brand or type of bike.  It has nothing to do with engine size or the perceived value of the equipment.  It might sometimes feature handlebar tassels or a paste-on pink Mohawk but could just as easily sport an expensive Rukka suit.  Whilst there can be plenty of farkle, there’s never sparkle.  It’s most often displayed by those who ride for recreational purposes.

Dorky riding is what we’re talking about.  Our ability to operate our machines, for better or worse, is on display every time we ride.  Even those who will never ever get on a motorcycle can recognize cack-handed riding when they see it. 

Dorky riding is easy to spot; it’s hazard in motion, manifested by a lack of planning & anticipation, poor lane positioning, inappropriate speed for circumstances, dangling legs as ‘outriggers’ during slow-speed maneuvers, and in dozens of other highly visible ways.  It can sometimes be accompanied by a cacophony of anti-social noise as riders attempt to ‘save lives’ or emulate racing bikes.

As a group, we are suckers for the aftermarket. It’s amazing how much money we’ll spent to make our bikes, and by extension ourselves, look cool.  As far back as 2004 the US motorcycle accessory market was estimated at $3.8 billion. In more recent times Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffet), agreed in 2015 to buy Detlev Louis Motorradvertriebs GmbH, a German motorcycle apparel and accessories retailer, for 400 million euros ($452 million). They know where the money is.

Go to any bike meet and what you’ll mostly find are people going from bike to bike admiring the ‘farkle’.  Wow, look at this, look at that!  Does any of it make a rider more proficient, safer and someone whose riding we might wish to imitate?  Nope.  All it does is burnish the ego, the sense of self-importance or self-image.  If sufficient riding skills are not evident then the façade disappears as soon as the bike begins to roll.  Dorkdom.

Ultimately, we are judged more for our actions than our appearance.  When a car or bike is poorly operated we soon stop valuing the machine. We rapidly switch to making judgements about the driver’s or rider’s behaviour.  Road rage anyone?  “That guy is an a**hole!”  A dork.

Wouldn’t it be better to work on enhancing riding skills and set a positive example which others might wish to follow?   There are some substantial payoffs.  Riding becomes mutually much safer and a lot more fun.  It’s much more meaningful, and sincere, to earn compliments for demonstrably well-developed skills rather than the power of your pocketbook.  One of the sweetest things heard is when a rider says, after witnessing advanced riding, “I want to ride like that!”

Advanced motorcycling is described as the ability to control the position and speed of the machine safely, systematically and smoothly, using road and traffic conditions to progress unobtrusively with skill and responsibility.  There’s nothing dorky about that.

Help is never far away.  All you have to do is ask. 

Mike Moloney ©2015

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