Hello non-motorcycle riders. I want to take a minute to talk about motorcycle conversation etiquette. I'm talking about that awkward moment where you see someone carrying a helmet in the coffee line and you strike up a conversation. You don't really know what to say and perhaps you feel terrified of ever being on a motorcycle or you have a friend of a friend of friend who had a bad experience. Here are some commonly-said phrases which no one should really say because a rider doesn't want to hear it and they aren't helpful. Being that I'm a rider and I'm married to a rider and we have rider friends, I just thought I'd take a moment to explain what we hear a lot.
1. "I saw a really horrible motorcycle accident several years ago. I'm pretty sure the rider didn't survive."
Well, seeing an accident doesn't mean you have all the facts. In addition, there's no reason that accident relates to the rider you are speaking to in the coffee line. When I find out someone drives a car, I don't tell them about all the fatal automobile accidents I covered while working as a reporter for 15 years.
2. "My cousin had a terrible motorcycle crash and quit riding." Okay. How does this relate to me as the rider again? Was your cousin hotdogging? Were they drinking and riding? Were there extenuating circumstances?
3. "I rode for a long time but my partner/spouse made me give it up for safety reasons because we have kids now." Yes, I have kids now too. Is this a passive-aggressive way of saying all parents shouldn't ride? Or just a way of telling a perfect stranger that you don't have a say in what you really want to do? As a mommy rider, I'm still not sure why this is the first thing someone tells me when they see me on a bike or in riding gear.
4. "Ride safe," said with a very concerned look. Well, yes, until you said that just now I was going to ride against traffic in the wrong lane at high speeds. But now that you told me to ride safe, I've reversed my thinking.
5. "It's not you, the motorcycle rider that you have to worry about on the road, it's the other drivers. They don't see motorcycles." Well, that can be true. But if I spend my time worrying about it then I'm not really enjoying riding am I? Being an aware driver is a good thing, but being a worried one is not.
Riders ride because they enjoy it. When one rider speaks to another, they talk of the thrill of the wind on their faces, the agility of the bike, and the freedom one feels on two wheels. Most of us understand the inherent risks involved and we don't take them lightly. However, a light conversation about motorcycle riding is always welcome. Otherwise, please just let me hold my pink helmet in line and get my coffee in peace.