A VULCAN BIKER
If you are interested in my opinion, here it is starting with a look at a couple of myths.
Myth number one - Bikes are dangerous.
Bikes are not dangerous but the chances of getting injured if you do have an accident is of course greater. Surveys done all over the world prove that motorcycles have far less accidents than any other vehicles on the road. I believe there are a number of reasons for this.
Motorcyclists are very much more aware of the dangers involved in an accident and are not lulled into a false sense of security by having a protective cage around them. Riding a motorcycle takes far more concentration and skill than driving a car so the rider is concentrating on what he is doing much more than drivers of vehicles with 4 wheels or more. In many potentially dangerous situations motorcycles can avoid an accident by accelerating quickly out of danger or zipping through a small gap. The motorcycle is also a much smaller "target" to hit.
Myth number two - Bikers are crooks and drug addicts who terrorise others.
I am 41 and have been riding bikes on and off since I was 17. As far as I know I have never met a biker that is on drugs or is a crook. Yes we all know about the Hell's Angels and similar groups but these account for less than 1% of bikers and even they do not go looking for trouble. I've chat with fellow American bikers in the net and through the chance encounters with them very few have had any trouble. I don't have any figures to back it up but I'd say it is almost a certainty that bikers as a whole are far more law abiding than the everage group of people.
In the Malaysia most of the bikers I meet are executives, senior management, company directors, company owners, lawyers, senior police officers, expats, etc. Riding a bike is a great way to relax and relieve stress for these people. I am happy to say the "biker community spirit" is alive and well in most countries. If your bike breaks down you can be pretty sure the next biker to come along with stop and offer help. Driving a car in Indonesia, Philipines, Thailand and Malaysia (not as bad) is almost like going to war with every driver fighting every other driver. Watch the big bike riders and you will see the opposite. Friendly waves and greetings are the norm.
People who think bikers are not law abiding citizens should stop watching so many Hollywood movies and instead take note of the dozens of charity rides that occur each year around the world where bikers ride to help the less fortunate.
So how should bikers be looked upon by government of the day and the public? Bikes should be encouraged to reduce traffic congestion and pollution. Big four strokes motorcycles should not be taxed. The smoky two strokes should be imposed with higher tax as these machines are noisy and polluting. In cities where there are bus lanes, bikes should be allowed to use them. In some more enlightened cities there are bike parking areas complete with chains where you can safely leave your bike and recently. Promoting bikes (not tricycles) in any country could go a long way towards reducing traffic and pollution.
I had just ordered a cup of steaming coffee at the counter inside the old
roadhouse, a relic from the stagecoach days, and had sauntered up to pair of
riders conversing near two machines parked not far from my own. The two
bikes couldn't have been more different. One was a brand new sports-bike,
gleaming lazily in the pale early morning sun. The machine was fairly dazzling,
its sleek, rakish lines and arresting colors clearly betraying its purpose. The
other was patently nondescript.
It may have been black - I can't clearly recall now. It was certainly European:
BMW and Moto Guzzi come to mind. It might have been an early
Harley-Davidson or Indian, though, now that I think back; or perhaps an
Excelsior, or Brough-Superior. The actual brand was of no consequence -
regardless of the marque, it exuded the classic and unmistakable aura of the
quintessential motor-cycle. I regarded the newer machine for only a fleeting
instant before fixing my gaze on the elder of the two. There was something
about it, something indefinable, yet tangible to a fault - and then I noticed its
He was much older than his mount; that was certain. He was not particularly
tall, nor stout, but as I recall now, seemed inordinately substantial. There was
something about him that was singular and rare, much like the motorcycle he
had ridden there. His face was an unusual blend of features: symmetrical, yet
wrought with character; indistinct, yet unforgettable. It was a countenance at
once confident and curious, sagacious and naive, courageous and
circumspect, placid and mettlesome. His eyes, set wide under a deep and
craggy brow, sparkled as he talked. One moment they would glitter with the
wonder of a babe, and the next glint with flames of passion and certitude. I
stood quietly by and listened to his disquisition unfold. I recount it here in the
way I remember it: august, wise, and eminently powerful, couched in words
and phrases rarely heard and far from fashionable, yet fraught with a power
and substance that is timeless.
"I see you want to be a motorcyclist," the old man instanced to the
younger. "Are you prepared to suffer through all which that entails?"
The younger man looked askance at this question, which was clearly
misdirected, as far as he could see.
"You scoff," - the old one smiled as a Cheshire Cat - "and the
unmistakable curl of your lips and shallow sea of words that seeks to
issue from them reveals as much. After all," he continued expansively,
eyes a-twinkle, "you do appear the part. Clad in a skillfully-crafted suit
fashioned of the finest materials, cut in the latest style, and bursting
with color, you stand athwart a mighty machine, sleek in form, replete
with power. It is the latest thing. The technology and features found in
this machine no doubt surpass all others."
"It's the fastest bike made," the young fellow affirmed. "I can take
anyone on the hill with this bike."
The old man gave a barely perceptible nod and continued. "Certainly," he
offered, "you have attended all the important schools: this one, that
one, the other one. 'See,' you point out; 'I've worn away the footrests,
the exhaust pipes, and worn the tires to their very edges. Isn't that
proof of my prowess?' Still concerned that we may not be convinced, you
name several illustrious "motorcyclists" with whom you keep company,
and who are regarded as "fast." You convey no equivocation when
asserting you are faster than Tom, quicker than Dick, and more skillful
than Harry. 'So you see,' you proclaim - in deed if not in word - , 'I am
most certainly a motorcyclist, because I have reached the pinnacle of that
which defines "motorcyclist." That is to say, I am the fastest; or at least,
I am as fast as the fastest.'
" The young man appeared defiant, yet confused, not knowing how to
respond to this unusual characterization.
"You have, mayhap, acquired great skill," the old man acknowledged,
"and have impressive accoutrements. But skill alone is merely the
beginning. Skill and equipment, by themselves, are ephemeral and
contribute nothing of value to becoming a motorcyclist. These can be
had, in varying measure, by anyone with a modicum of physical ability
and modest financial means. But a true motorcyclist is a philosopher of
the highest order - he seeks to understand the substance of life itself.
The motorcycle is but a means to that end."
"Understanding life?" the young man retorted, summarily rejecting this
new-age discourse. "Motorcycles are about having fun, and camaraderie,
and skirting the law. What could motorcycling possibly have to do with
"Just this," the old one replied. And when he spoke thus, his voice
changed in timbre and hue, taking on a depth and power that was utterly
When you have crossed the most rugged and daunting peaks
in utter darkness, while the heavens pour out their fury upon
you and you grapple for control, the feeble ray of light before
you barely visible;
When you have traversed the endless tracks of blistering
deserts, the sands a roaring furnace all around, and the sun
a burning torch above;
When you have prevailed upon the tortuous traces left by
those who came before you, seeking to tame a wild land and
forge a better life;
When you have stood alone in the vast and terrible chasms
hewn and rent from living rock by the immutable forces of
nature, and felt yourself so small as to disappear;
When you have merged in perfect union with a stunning,
cloudless sky fueled by the fragrant wind alone, to follow the
sinuous course of a thundering river to the mighty cataracts
that form its source;
When you have felt the sublime and awesome hand of God in
your every move, and in your soul a communion with the
When you have clasped in desperation the hand of a comrade
who has fallen, his machine a twisted, steaming wreck, as the
very life flows from his bosom and he becomes still in your
arms, never again to draw breath;
When you have done all this, not once but again, and still
again, and can yet gaze with wonder in the quiescence of
deepest night upon the machine that was your accomplice,
partner, and associate in all this;
When you have come to regard it in your inmost reflections
as sinister and seductive, soulless and transcendent, ordinary
When you have done this, and yet thrill to the promise of the
unrisen sun that will soon shine upon the hook and crook of
a gnarled mountain trace, fully apprehending the machine's
propensity to deal death or exalt life -- then will you have
become a motorcyclist.
I was stunned and near-breathless. I had never before conceived of
motorcycling to be such, and yet could not deny the truth of his words.
"There is one more thing," the man said, his eyes alight with an inner flame.
"When you have done all these things, and can yet stand unmoved in the
shallow, weltering storm of words which issue from small minds, with the quiet
humility and certitude borne of hard-won experience, while those about you
crow and caw of their accomplishments and credentials, then you will not only
have become a motorcyclist - you will have become a man."
There was no single thought in my mind. The utter truth of his words had
prevailed upon me like the blow of a mighty hammer. I felt as though a
boundless vista of experience had been laid before me, and I would never
again look at motorcycling in the same way. I finished the last swallow of the
now-cold coffee, fired the engine in my own nondescript machine, and rode
away, all the while pondering the old man's words and knowing I could scarce
live up to his exhortations; and in that moment I resolved to spend the
remainder of my days in a sincere quest to become not just a motorcyclist, but
also a man.