Dues and Don’ts of Motorcycling

Noobies are the future!

A noob’s indoctrination can come at almost any age, but the young ones are easier to train in your image.
A noob’s indoctrination can come at almost any age, but the young ones are easier to train in your image.Shasta Willson

I'm as guilty as you are, and who could blame us? They're so cringingly uncool.

The chubby dude paddling around his cul-de-sac on a blubbering Vulcan? Yep, he flies Harley-Davidson Motor Company orange on his faded Dodge Caravan. That punk on his minty-for-now Yamaha R6, protected by Oakleys and butch wax? Yeah, he brought a switchblade comb to a gunfight.

There’s the polite girl on her Ninjette. Fresh out of her first rider course, she gets outsprinted by bagged Civics. Fearing that redline equals deadline and her world will explode if the needle touches “there,” her palms are sweaty, her chain is dry, and it’s hard not to wheelie past her like a stallion in the spring. You know—just to show her how it’s done.

Noob categories are numberless in their unfolding complexity: The IPO code monkey wearing a narrow strip down the center of his Corse tires. The dentist buying a CVO Glide for his endorsement test. The bareheaded kid flying a dirt bike's front wheel through Baltimore.

They ain't paid their dues. You can spot a noob by his blank look when you start talking tire compounds or recalling that one time (in band camp) when you patched a cracked fuel tank with nothing but Shoe Goo and a lightly seasoned slice of carne asada. Noobs haunt their dealer lounge, dissecting online reviews of titanium exhaust systems whilst awaiting OEM tire air. They brake-check semis, stain their shorts on gravel, and crash perfectly good bikes for no bloody reason at all.

You gotta earn your pass, right? My role models and ride partners have all the proper stickers on their toolboxes. They patch their riding gear with tiny arrow stitches, bore their own cylinders (and their guests), and limp with distinction. They know the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, how to order beer in Machu Picchu, and what to call that thing that goes skwap in a KLR650. They flew Sopwith Camels with Peter Egan's uncle.

Then, just when we think we’ve got this motorcycle thing down, here come the greenhorns, tenderfoots, and tyros, bumbling around in the wrong gear at the wrong speed in the wrong lane of our hallowed culture of cool. Anyone buying retail maintenance by the hour fails the test of greasy manhood. And can’t they quit all that crashing? Their activist mommies will put us all afoot.

Just one little problem: This sport slurps young blood by the quart. You, over there! Still riding your RF900R in scuffed BSA leathers (while chiding bike rags for wittering on about the New Hotness)? You aren’t buying enough bikes, bolting on enough triple-chromed farkles, or wearing out enough gear to keep this industry afloat.

We need beginners hiring our MSF and Team Oregon buddies to teach them how to ride. We need fresh victims daring their luck on racetracks, sprucing up ORV trails, and lobbying legislatures for lane-splitting and motorcycle parking—and buying more bikes so that bikes keep getting built. We need energy, excitement, and pop-eyed optimism. We need new ideas to laugh at.

We can either invite the public to join our funky fraternity or pay snobbery's price in engineering doldrums, law-enforcement bigotry, and driver hostility. We can stare down noobies over our folded arms or welcome them with solid advice, passed-down gear, and a helping wrench.

You see ’em rollin’ and you shake your head, but it won’t be noobs that kill this sport. Could be condescension and conceit though. The future is noob! Except for those peg-panted, pipe-wrappin’ punters on Firestone tractor tires. Screw those guys.