~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Friday, July 27, 2012


If you ride a motorcycle on the street you have dangerous encounters with cars.  If you started riding yesterday you can expect it to happen soon. If you’ve been riding a while you know that surviving distracted or just plain dangerous drivers is part of the game. We have to deal with it or stay off the bike.

For me, having some one pull out or cut me off barely raises my heart rate after so long in the saddle, a well developed set of instinctive reactions are my friend when surprises come along.
To seek retribution against errant drivers some riders carry stuff to toss at offending cars; that is an ancient motorcycle thing.  When I got my first bike over forty years ago old riders told me to "carry lug nuts to toss at tailgaters because lug nuts are common things on the highway and they can't be tied back to you." Ball bearings where also recommended. In these modern times I suspect tossing a lug nut or ball bearing at a brain dead driver would constitute some sort of assault and is probably a bad idea. As a kid I didn't carry anything, it seemed like a way to escalate situations I wasn't prepared to defend with my skinny 16 year old fists.

(image source unknown)
Here in Arizona where the open carry of a firearm is legal, a rider I used to know who got cut off and tailgated enough during his daily commute to work began strapping a pistol on his belt.  He claimed there were  fewer problems after that, seemingly people notice a gun where they don't see the whole motorcycle.  I'm not recommending open carry though. These days, even where legal, I believe it just invites trouble or unwanted attention from law enforcement if you get nicked for speeding.

My solution, developed long ago when I was a news film courier on a motorcycle in Los Angeles, was to give as few opportunities to car drivers as possible to shorten my life. I move around a lot on in a lane, choose my lane positions respective to the changing positions of cars around me, and always have an escape route.  I have shaken my fist at idiot car drivers, and when I was younger and less charitable given them the 1 finger salute on very rare occasions.  Generally I made sure they knew I was mad at them, but in truth, there's not much you can do against an idiot behind the wheel of a 4000 lb car or truck. If someone cuts you off, even hits you, and you strike back, you've escalated the situation and become partly at fault.

I was on a group ride a few years ago with 18 other large bikes and some clown in a car tried to do a slow lane change right into the middle of our group. A few of the guys pulled up along side and with their fists "waved" him back into his lane and the idiot backed off. 18 against one is one it took to get his attention and remind him that he didn't own the whole road.

If you ride a scooter or a bike you've chosen to put yourself lower on the "food chain" of the highway, you can try to work around it, develop survival strategies, but you should never, ever be expected to be treated as an equal.

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"When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour." - T.E. Lawrence

An Important reminder from the past:
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison