Building a new definition

From my last post, and the title of the domain that hosts this blog, I hope it is obvious that I don't view scooter riders as anything but riders.  

Riding, regardless of what, is an adventure that should bring everyone that rides on two or three wheels together.  It is not something that should be so divisive within the communities.  Little has brought this quite as vividly to the forefront than the last couple of weeks in the ride to work blog-o-sphere.  Dan's three and a half (one, two, three, and a half) part postings about the uptick in economy riders sparked some interesting debate.  It also exposed some of the raw edges that seem to always be lurking within the rider community.

Even before I started riding, I was aware of the latent hostility that existed between the sport and cruiser crowds.  What I didn't know was how much the choice of bike almost becomes religion for many.  Being in the technology industry for 20+ years, I should have expected it, but I did not.   

In the technology world, we refer to the arguments of platforms and tools as religious flame wars.  Where millions of words of invective have been directed at other solutions from the the 'chosen' solutions.   The one that most casual people are the most familiar with is generally the Mac versus Windows arguments.  

It is an argument that no one 'wins'.  

That is how I view much of the argument between riders over what is a 'real' bike and the disparaging comments against bike that are not like theirs.    

When I started Two Wheel Junction a couple of years ago, it was with the intent of building a community focused on the simple fact that regardless of what we ride, we all share the same risks and reap the same rewards.  Even the 'economy rider' can understand the rewards.  Unfortunately, I have never had the time to make it into what I want it to be, a resource for all riders, regardless of type of bike.  

Little did I know at the time, that the Junction part of the name would come to play such a big part in my view of riders.  A couple of years ago, Steve Williams wrote a great piece about riders versus owners.  In it Steve makes the point that there are people that buy an item to use, while other buy it almost as a trophy.  What I find, is the mentally, I find myself taking the analogy a step further.  

People either define themselves by the way they live, or they define themselves by what they possess.

In my own casual observations, I have come to the unwelcome conclusion that the former are greatly outnumbered by the later in terms of the volume of what is said in the world, with a vocal minority of people that feel the need to defend their choices when in later category.  

I like to think that I fall into the former category.  I am not a person to buy or own 'status symbol' things, though I have been known to buy things purely on a want basis.  I think my SMART car falls firmly into that category.  I didn't need it, I had a car that ran, though it got crappy gas mileage and I did not enjoy driving it.  I bought the SMART because I wanted it, more than it made sense.  I may have justified it as saving gas and being able to park it in the sam garage spot as my scooter(s), but the truth is, I wanted it.  I've been told a couple of times by a neighbor that he doesn't understand me.  Between the scooters and the car, I could obviously afford a nice car, so why do I choose a scooter and microcar.  I do not have a ready explanation for him that he can understand.

To understand the relationship, you need a little background.   We both work in the same industry, computers.   We are both programmer's (Systems Analysts).  He writes code for Windows, using Windows.  He works for someone else.  I write code for Windows (and the Mac), using a Mac.  I work for myself.  Though I don't know for sure, I would guess that our income is pretty close.  He is a guy that drives a new Mercedes that he trades every 2 years, dresses almost exclusively in designer names, wears Armani sunglasses and a Rolex watch.  If he owns it, it's the best he can buy, and image is very important to him.  I on the other hand am at the other end of the spectrum.  I ride a scooter or drive the SMART (my wife drives a 5 year old Dodge Durango).  If I own a designer name, it was a gift.  I live in jeans (primarily Levi's 501's from Kohl's or Sears whenever they run a good sale), and t-shirts.  I think I've got a couple of cheap Fossil watches, I don't wear them.  

We both own bikes.  Obviously, I have my BV500.   He has a restored (by someone else) Harley Davidson Panhead that he rides occasionally, on the weekends, before he wipes it down with a cloth and parks it.  I don't think it's ever been wet.  It *is* gorgeous.  To him, it is a trophy to show off to friends.  To me, it is a tool, like a camera, or a computer.  It exists to be used, and abused.

And that, is the distinction.  People that buy bikes to ride them are the riders, they chose to define themselves by the act of riding.  In some cases they are also fiercely loyal to the type of ride, but it is done in a different way.  

To a degree, this means that the so called 'economy riders' that sparked so much of this thought process are without question riders.  That places even more burden upon the rest of the riders to work with them to learn safety as a part of the riding experience.  Unfortunately, there are many more owner than riders.  That means that it is even more important to emphasize safety and awareness.

With that in mind, it would seem that the riders need to regroup and plan to use this summers riding season to help spread the word.  Organizations like Ride to Work and their annual Ride to Work Day (June 15), need our non-partisan support and participation.  This means actively engaging not only the other riders we know, but the cage drivers and the owners to spread the word, not only that we are out there but also about the rewards we reap, and the risks we take and mitigate.

Because, no one is going to do this for us.  It is on our shoulders to make the roads a better and safer place for all of us, the riders.

Content by dru_satori, edited on a Mac using SandVox (because I'm lazy)