May Day Bikers crowd

I recently tweeted about the annual return of summer riders, because as we all know, they’ll wobble the bike out of the garage once more and wreck havoc on British roads round about now. Before I go on, I’m no angel, I do have fun from time to time when the conditions permit – but by riding through the worst weather this country can throw at us, I inevitably have the control and competence to deal with it. If I were able to speak to summer riders before they don their showroom condition leathers, I’d just ask them to give themselves time to warm up a bit, after many months in a cage performing their mundane slow speed commute to work. May be even take some sort of refresher course, there are plenty available – with some you only need to pay for someone elses’ petrol and surprisingly you WILL have fun.

All through the year, I try to be considerate to car drivers, waving when they move over, letting them know if they have a puncture, etc. Every time I do this, they link motorcycling to being a positive force. But any sort of biker experience is cancelled out when, for instance, a biker does 80mph+ through a busy shopping/pedestrian area. It sounds harsh, but putting aside connotations of injuring an innocent bystander, think of what that does to the reputation of biking. It’s the reason that every so often a speed limit is reduced, or getting a bike licence either becomes harder to get, or to provide. It’s inevitable that if this continues, getting a motorcycle licence will be so difficult, future would-be riders will give up and drive a Ford Focus instead,  without experience of the unique freedom and pleasures of two wheels. Gradually the few riders remaining will become too old to ride and slowly die out (hopefully by natural causes), the reminiscing will peter out and museums will be the only place to see a bike. May be I’m thinking too far ahead – may be I should act like everyone else and only consider the future in 2 year chunks? But eventually the future does happen, and the consequences of our actions today catch up.

Of course, anyone connected to the motorcycle industry isn’t going to support telling their most lucrative customers anything, as they smile all the way to the bank. Why would they? Who is going to damage their potential income by objecting to hobbie riders, we all have bills to pay after all. I may be wrong, but one of the reasons the CBT test was introduced, was because the motorcycle industry complained that they had no repeat business due to the death rate. So when a kid came in, instead of selling him a safer/slower bike, the dealer preferred to sell the more profitable/faster bike instead. There is no forethought into the future – the ‘big picture’ we hate any reference to. When a biker dies, he can’t buy that bike mag’, he can’t buy that shiny new white Gixer, and he leaves his family and friends with the worst attitude towards biking possible. Even if it was totally his (or her) fault, they will still refuse to blame the rider for his actions. Ride at 90mph in a 40 zone and other road users won’t be expecting a bike that genuinely  ‘appears from no-where’. I’m not denying at all that fault is never other road users, other people do make mistakes. But we are now at a point in human history where the existence of objects that cause harm to the innocent, are being questioned. For some reason those that are in control of them, are not. This happens in all areas of society, from food being the cause of obesity (instead of the actual hand, mouth and personal choices), to the biking culture as a collective being to blame, and not individual riders of varying levels of skill.

I’m not denying it, riding a bike is awesome, applying the original meaning of the word. I love the freedom it gives, the cheap acceleration it provides and the traffic efficiency you get as a bonus.

As a bare minimum, I just wish riders would adhere to these basic and common sense rules when riding:

  • Slow down when you’re going to pass a junction
  • Keep the speed down in built up areas (it won’t kill you)
  • Don’t ride really fast in rural areas that MP’s live
  • Ride slow at first (despite your testosterone), and gradually build up the speed.
  • Don’t be pier pressured into riding beyond your skill set.
  • Don’t surprise car drivers, they don’t like it
  • Buy a bike that YOU ride, not one that rides YOU
  • Remember what and who you leave behind by riding like a tit.

Other than that, I wish you another great summer, keep the rubber side down ya’ll 🙂