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indian chief vintage 2009

Loch Ness Rider

(from our Travels with Guido series)

by Guy 'Guido' Allen; pic by Ben Galli Photography

Are you a real motorcyclist? Let's hope not

It’s a weird phrase, “the real motorcyclist”, and I really thought it was done and dusted decades ago. But it popped up on one of my assorted anti-social media feeds the other day and, yet again, I was left puzzled. What the hell does it mean?

It’s usually used as a way to define what you should or not be doing as a rider. A ‘real motorcyclist’ rides every day, is courteous and kind to others. Maybe. They follow an unwritten code.

It’s as much a lifestyle as a creed and, I suspect, could be just this side of being a religion. They’re closely related to another breed, the average motorcyclist, but may be a little better. It’s difficult to tell.

When all else failed, I went hunting for definitions of either a ‘real motorcyclist’ or motorcycling types. So strap in, here goes, and I warn you there’s a hefty helping of clichés to follow...

From Drac Smith at quora.com:

“Biker: A biker upholds a certain lifestyle. They can handle their bike and themselves. There isn’t a dress code but if everything they are wearing is new and spiffy they are probably not a biker. Part of the lifestyle is riding rather than caging in all weather. A biker usually collects at least 10k miles a year on their bike.

“Enthusiast: A motorcycle enthusiast loves to ride. They don’t partake in the biker lifestyle, though some may in elements of it. Motorcycle enthusiasts ride in all sorts of weather and often ride long distances just for the pleasure of riding. Though they often tend more toward metric brands. Honda Goldwings in particular are very popular with motorcycle enthusiasts.

“Posers: Posers buy a ton of brand specific gear. They trailer their bike to events. Talk a lot, but ride little. Their bike might get 2k miles a year if that many. The bikes are often highly decorated and customised but low miles and sit in a garage.”

And so-on. You get the drift...

One of the online respondents to that lot, Sherry, said:
“Real riders are the men and women who ride a mechanically maintained bike but really don’t give a shit about the weeks, or months, of dirt and grime that blur their ride’s true colors.”

Here’s the thing: I’m not convinced any of that meets any test. And I’m not sure I meet any of those criteria. Over the years, I have used motorcycles as my main transport, and not so much, depending on the situation at the time. I’ve driven kids and family mad with the things. 

These days, because I have options, I’ll take a car or bike according to the circumstances. Some bikes are shiny collectibles, and I’m lucky enough to have a couple of others that can get beaten up and used up.

The mix is reasonably broad, from tourers, to sports tourers, to sports to a little 185 two-stroke trail bike. Happy days. A few are classics, while most of them are money-pits. So be it.

What got me started on this theme was a comment on Faceplant, where I put up a really nice period ad for the first Goldwing, aka the Honda GL1000. Most people went a little weak at the knees to see the lovely 1975 image. One correspondent, however, replied: “Too big, too heavy, with nothing to offer the real motorcyclist.”

In some respects he was right – it was big and heavy for the period. But times and our goal posts have changed.

Nevertheless, I decided to check out his profile to see what this (apparently) fan of light and sharp motorcycles actually rides. Big, heavy, V-twin cruisers. Now I own one myself - a 2009 Indian Chief Vintage - but, mate, give me a break!

After that experience, I’ve decided the ‘real motorcyclist’ or ‘real rider’ (take your pick) is like the Loch Ness monster. He or she doesn’t exist.


More Travels with Guido columns here


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