Behind Bars - The Niemoller Principle

Up To Speed

"Ninety-nine percent of motorcyclists are law-abiding citizens, and the last one percent are nothing more than outlaws." Nobody knows who said that. Maybe it's apocryphal.

What did happen as a matter of record and history is that "One Percenter" became a badge of honor for "outlaw" clubs, its outlaw brand celebrated with delicious terror in a thousand pulp mags and a handful of Roger Corman B-flicks. Sonny Barger may (or may not) have been the first guy to get "1%er" inked onto his pelt, but surely he wasn't the last.

Herd nature drives us together against common threats, or what H.S. Thompson branded "The Menace." The same flocking instinct requires The Menace to provide for their common defense against, um ... "Us."

And who are Us? We're the good guys: conscientious, ATGATT ambassadors of the sport. We meet the nicest people on our Hondas. We put our best wheel forward. We sneer at the unwashed and the ign'ant. Our tire pressures are perfect.

That arrogant patch-holder with the tattooed arms, loose-meat pillion bitch and cherry-bomb drag pipes who won't so much as nod at our cheerful wave from our kickass Hyperbusa? When he gets lit up by the law, we snicker up our armored sleeve as we elegantly zip by, firmly wrapped in fail-safe technology.

Better him than me. He makes us all look bad.

When a Suzuki rider recently got popped clocking 122 mph on I-205 South in the small hours of the night, his harshest judgments came from fellow riders. The intertubes lit up with digital pitchforks and torches: He makes us all look bad!

That heinous crime allegedly occurred at three in the morning. What's 122 mph on a modern sportbike-top of third gear? On a long, wide, straight, well-lit, untrafficked expressway at 0300: no one to hurt but himself, unless a deer wandered out.

He lost his bike and license for that, if it makes anyone feel better.

Still think they're not coming for you? A few months back, a couple on a Gold Wing hit a mule deer on I-5, backing up traffic for miles. Wearing armored clothes and full-face helmets, herding a shop-tuned, late-model touring rig along the slab at the speed limit, they were nearly killed by a woods rat. Public comment consensus was that they deserved it for riding that damned donorcycle in the first place, how dare they hold up everyone's commute for a Life Flight... and was the deer okay?

Even Wing Dingers make us look bad!

Riding a bike brands you as the minority, and discrimination against minorities is automatic. It is instinctive, but we riders should be better than that. If we ostracize every rider who doesn't meet our personal purity test,_ e pluribus unum_ goes straight into the toilet.

When they came for the one-percenters, I didn't say anything because I wasn't a one-percenter (besides, colors are for clowns). When they came for the squids, I laughed at those brain-dead punks. When they came for the sport-tourers, I ... hey! Wait a minute! It wasn't me making us look bad!

Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?"

"I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen. 4:9, NIV)

If you refuse to wave to scooterists or three-patch bikers or squids or whomever, you're a dick. They face the same blind cagers, get hassled by the same LEOs and get frozen by the same sleet. Asphalt burns us all the same shade of red.

Think about this the next time you blare on about how young stuntahs ought to take their tricks to the track (and what track would that be, exactly?). When you were a kid, could you afford a newish sportbike, full leathers and track-day fees? Or did you get your kicks where you could? Be honest.

It was several years ago when Ex2 and I were passed on the right by Little Joey Rocket in the diamond lane of westbound SR 520. Doing about 80, he stood on the seat so he could see over the flying front wheel. As the lane ended and the floating bridge began, he set it down softly, slowed, signaled and merged seamlessly into the flow of traffic.

It was beautiful.

"My God," said Ex2. "That's crazy!"

Yeah, okay: crazy beautiful.

I hope that kid lives to be a cranky old fart, querulously wheezing on about "kids today." I hope someday he stops to help a brother on a busted old Harley. I hope he aces an expert riding course and raises a litter of bright, daring kids who understand that "outlaw" never was a synonym for "criminal."

You grown-ups are making too much noise! Go play outside for awhile.

Behind Bars - The Niemoller Principle

Photo by: Rafael Tassitano