Saturday, October 24, 2009

Six Things That Annoy Me

1. Celebrities Who Ride Motorcycles

I don’t have a problem with the celebrities themselves. Well, not with most of them. What I have a problem with is news stories about celebrities who ride motorcycles. They appear to be based on two false premises: (a) it’s news that celebrities ride motorcycles (news to me being defined as an important or significant piece of information), and (b) I care. It's my guess that most of these stories are generated by the celebrities' publicists and aimed directly at motorcyclists, because I almost never see one in a mainstream magazine or newspaper, and yet they infest motorcycle publications like termites in the attic. I'm not sure what the takeaway is supposed to be; if I ride, and so does Brad Pitt, then I...what? Feel validated because a movie star has the same hobby as me? Feel like he's a kindred spirit whose next movie (probably a remake of an infinitely better original) I'll want to see? Sorry, no sale. I’m not 14 years old, and I don’t need someone to tell me I’m cool every minute of the day. I ride because I like to, not because Brad does. If he quit riding, I wouldn’t. In fact, I’d almost prefer it if he did quit riding, because then I wouldn’t have to wake up one morning to read that he’d gone out on a bike in an open-face helmet and a T-shirt and jeans and gotten his ticket punched by a soccer mom in a Hummer talking on her cell phone, and I’d be spared the inevitable shitstorm of righteous editorial outrage against motorcycles that flares up only when something bad happens to someone famous while he was riding one.*

(A special note about Jay Leno: I met him once at a photo shoot for Cycle Guide. He invited me and a few others to his house to look at his bikes. He was a really nice guy, knowledgeable and full of genuine enthusiasm for all things internally combustible. But by now even the most solitary bushman in the remotest corner of the Australian outback knows Leno is a major gearhead with enough cars and bikes to take everyone in L.A. for a ride on the same afternoon. This is no longer news in any sense of the word. So please, enough with the Leno already.)

2. Formation Riding

Where the whole idea of a group of motorcyclists riding in a staggered formation came from, I have no idea. But I do know it’s a crappy idea. It’s dangerous for them and annoying for everyone else. If something happens—a deer, a left-turning car—the bikes are too close together to react without taking out every other bike nearby. It’s impossible to pass them when they’re strung out for a hundred yards, weaving back and forth trying to maintain their position while traveling at a speed dictated by the slowest, least experienced rider in the pack. If you and a dozen friends were all driving your cars to the same place, would you line up nose to tail, bumper to bumper, and drive all the way there like that? Of course not. So why do it on bikes?

3. Loud Pipes

See here. ‘Nuff said.

4. Anti-Helmet Groups

If you don’t want to wear a helmet on the grounds that you feel your personal safety is your own affair, not the government’s, that's fine, I suppose, although I’d be interested to hear what your spouse and your kids have to say about the increased likelihood of you dying or becoming a vegetable if you fall off and try to punch a hole in the asphalt with your head. But where some anti-helmet groups forfeit their credibility is their insistence that helmets don’t work. That’s bullshit, and there’s abundant data to prove it. Stick with the libertarian argument and stop spreading lies about the effectiveness of helmets, lies that could convince someone not to wear one who might otherwise choose to if he knew all the facts. Consent is one thing; informed consent is another.

5. Bluetooth-Enabled Helmets

They let you listen to music and make and receive calls on your cell phone while you’re riding. They’re operated by taking your left hand off the handlebar and groping for tiny buttons you can’t see on the side of the helmet. Mark my words, the day will come when this will be seen to have been a very bad idea.

6. Motorcycle Poetry

Read some. You’ll see what I mean.

*UPDATE: Did I call it or did I call it?! (Okay, a photographer and not a soccer mom, but still, I'm buyin' a lottery ticket.)

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