Dual Sport Anthropology

Indian policemen perform a stunt on a motorcycle during the Republic Day parade in Jammu

Someone smarter than me once pointed out that just because people are passionate about motorcycles, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have anything else in common. I always assumed that if someone is as passionate about motorcycles as I am, it was the basis of a great friendship. Turns out I was wrong. However, riding a Dual Sport can offer a safe environment to mingle with many different contrasting personalities. As the saying goes – motorcycles are a great way to hang out with people all day long and not have to talk to them.

Over the years I’ve ridden with quite a cast of characters and have learned from all of them, both in terms of riding skills and social sciences. While there are many different types of people who ride motorcycles, the following personality traits are the ones I’ve come across most frequently.

The Flake Constantly reads reviews on the latest bikes and gear. Follows professional racing religiously. Talks incessantly about motorcycles. Seldom rides. Is married with at least two kids and lives in a fixer-upper. Works long hours and is prone to bouts of depression. Talks all day Wednesday and Thursday about how he can’t wait for the weekend so he can ride. On Friday he’s pretty sure he can go. By Saturday morning ‘something has come up’. Frequently realizes the prudent thing to do is sell his rarely used bike but fears this would emasculate him and solidify his domestication. Has a hard time finding people to ride with who haven’t written him off completely.

The Procrastinator Waits until the morning of a ride to attempt to start his bike that’s been quietly rusting in the backyard over the previous winter. Is absolutely dumbfounded that it won’t fire up. Or, in a rare moment of consideration to preventative maintenance, decides to change his oil an hour before a Sunday morning ride. Can not find where he put the new oil. Or oil filter. Can not find any motorcycle shops open on Sunday morning. Which wouldn’t matter anyway because he can’t find his goggles, gloves, or left riding boot. Frequently refers to his bike as a piece of shit, particularly when it won’t start or breaks due to neglect.

The Trustfunder (AKA The Trustafarian) Bike snob and gear connoisseur. Owns the best and latest of everything. Consistently travels to ride more and more exotic locations when not sidetracked by participation in other elitist extreme sports like underwater geocaching. Prefers multiday rides in other hemispheres. Has no discernible means of income. May or may not come replete with fashionable scarf. Often ridiculed as a trendy hipster or poseur by people who would trade places with him in a heartbeat. Inspires bike envy and drooling.

The Tightwad  Has no problem buying a brand new bike, owning several bikes at one time, or accumulating an entire fleet of bikes. Yet somehow, inexplicably, refuses to pay more than $80 for a helmet or buy any riding gear that isn’t used. Consistently complains about how expensive gear is. Wears his tires down to road slicks. Tends to hoard large quantities of old, broken parts that may or may not be useful for something at some point.

The Mailman  Rides constantly. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night keeps this diehard from riding everywhere. Rides to the Emergency Room after breaking his leg. Rides to Home Depot to pick up lumber. Is constantly searching for reasonably priced gear that doesn’t deteriorate quickly from overexposure to the elements. Tends to buy the cheapest wear parts available, particularly tires. Changes his oil bimonthly. Odometer reads like the high score on an old pinball machine. Bike always appears as if it were just unearthed from an archeological dig. When asked if he’s ever going to wash his bike tends to answer, ‘What do you mean? I just did.’

ensembleRicky Racer Hauls ass – everywhere. Through dusty staging areas, through his quiet suburban neighborhood, through the grocery store parking lot. He is faster than you and dead set on proving it. Prone to injury. Can usually be found out in the duff beyond a 90 degree turn furiously trying to restart his bike and cursing loudly. Tends to outfit his bike with the loudest exhaust system available. Frequently accuses his bike of being a piece of shit because it won’t allow him to ride to his true potential. Often leaves his bike in the back of his truck for extended periods of time (even in the dead of winter with 2 feet of snow on the ground) so everyone knows he rides and is, in fact, a bad ass. Refuses to ride with The Sleeper.

The Sleeper A rider of enormous talent and natural ability. Makes conquering technical terrain appear effortless. Tends to be laid-back, humble, and soft spoken. Offers unprompted words of encouragement to riders with less skill. Happy to ride with anyone, anywhere and usually doesn’t want to ride out front. Has the ability to come off the couch after not riding for two years and rip one-handed wheelies. Exudes a Zen-like confidence.

The Eager Beaver Brand new to riding or off-road riding. Believes every bike, piece of gear, or riding spot is the best. Talks incessantly about motorcycles. Is prone to infecting others with his enthusiasm. Very exciting to ride behind; often continues to hold the throttle open while augering himself into the ground. Highly compatible with all groups except Ricky Racer or The Trustfunder.

The great thing about motorcycle people is even if you don’t have much in common with them, you do have something in common with them. While politics can make strange bedfellows, motorcycles can make unlikely friendships. Sometimes the greatest stories feature an ensemble cast!