I like motorcycles. After all, I learned how to ride a motorcycle before I learned how to ride a bicycle. I had a cooler-than-I-knew Indian (I was five and Indian wasn’t as cool yet, plus it was a really little one.) and a cooler-than-anyone-bothered-to-notice MV Augusta. (Mine was modeled after a real full-size bike and had a one into four exhaust pipe!) I had bikes at such a tender age because my brother raced and my father turned every hobby into a business so he even had a bike accessory shop.
We had real-live one percenters hanging around the shop all the time. They looked the part, alright, but they were still some of the gentlest, most trust worthy guys around. Still, there’s one question I wish I had the foresight to ask then (did I mention I was five?)
What’s with the pipes? Have you heard these? If some (note: not all) of these bikes roll up beside you, you can barely breath from the sonic impact shaking your chest. Still I ask if you’ve heard them because one of the explanations for this noise pollution is that “loud pipes save lives” and that’s just rubbish. I hear bikes all the time, but not when I am in my car, windows rolled up, iPod blasting.
The pipes are the only real complaint I can make about the bikers. Even the hundreds and hundreds that passed me while on some group ride. They passed me while I was on a still gentler form of two wheel transportation—my super-fast road bicycle. I wound up riding to a mutual destination…where they were gathered literally by the thousands…all dressed in jeans and leather jackets, and Harley t-shirts or some similar variation. I couldn’t help but think how silly and clichéd they looked. “Leather is safe, man” people tell me, but how does that explain that halter tops for the women and the lack of helmets for just about everyone. Really, I don’t think they’re a safety conscience lot.
But the fact is, while it’s more likely these folks we’re lawyers and doctors during the week and one percenters only on the weekend, it’s not like I didn’t look equally ridiculous in lycra bike shorts and stiff soled shoes. The very next week I went on an organized bicycle ride and there were some 7000 participants, all dressed just as similar to each other, all riding around some big loop and generally annoying to those who didn’t know there was a ride organized that day.
Except, all 7000 of us together wouldn’t like make as much noise as ten of these bikes. All that blaring, cracking pipe noise is plainly illegal. Laws vary from state to state, county to county, even city to city, but in virtually every one I could find, the 80dB level, that is so easily exceeded by these straight pipes, is against the law.
Except, the law is quite clearly not enforced, and that’s not OK. No doubt, we should have as few laws as possible; I have no desire for a state that outlines every facet of my life. What few laws we have however, must be strictly enforced. To fail in enforcement makes a mockery of our legal system and encourages people to flout them at will. Is it because the police ride bikes on the weekends as well? Are people afraid of the doctors and lawyers who pretend to be outlaws on the weekends? What’s up?
I can’t say why I felt some mix of humor and pity at all these middle aged men and women in their matching store bought costumes and pretend outlaw attitude. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to realize how hypocritical that feeling was,while I’m in my silly biking gear (the tenuous hold I have on my ego urges me to point out that the embarassing cycling clothes actually have a technical purpose, like comfort and efficiency while bicycling your super-fast road bike, but I digress) Meanwhile, I doubt a real one percenter would be caught dead on one of their rides. The ones I remember from my childhood may have had a checkered past, but they were much more considerate!