Sportbike Riding - Sportbiking Is Not A Crime - Up To Speed

Balance Point

Back in our July issue, Mitch Boehm penned a prescient piece about the likelihood of oncoming anti-sportbike legislation, driven by what he termed "a swell of bone-headed riding, fueled by a new generation of riders who don't give a rat's ass." Apparently the old grump's doom-o-meter is well calibrated, because at literally the same time that column hit newsstands there was a rash of pointedly anti-sportbike measures being raised across the nation.

Exhibit A: The Tennessee Senate unanimously passed a bill making it illegal to wheelie, specifically stating that any rider who cranks one up can be charged with reckless driving.

Exhibit B: A New York lawmaker introduced a bill to prohibit so-called "exhibition driving" (including motorcycle stunts), punishable as a misdemeanor.

Exhibit C: A measure proposed in Missouri would make a second instance of "motor-cycle stunt driving" without a license plate a felony. Definition of a "motorcycle stunt" in this bill is disturbingly broad, and includes "removing both hands from the handlebars while operating the motorcycle."

Lawmakers say these new and specifically anti-motorcycle laws are needed to give police the necessary tools to target such "bone-headed" riders. Let me suggest that the last thing law enforcement officers need is more reason to harass sportbikers at large. I'm not sure what it's like in your neighborhood, but where I live and ride in the upper Midwest sportbike profiling has become alarmingly commonplace. Twice in the last year I've been detained under specious circumstances while riding a sportbike. The first time was on my Suzuki GSX-R750, and I was given a verbal warning after a "concerned motorist" allegedly phoned 911 over a perceived breach of passing etiquette. The second time was after an off-duty police officer traveling in the opposite direction on a crowded interstate issued an all-points bulletin for a blue sportbike (my NOS-injected Kawasaki ZX-14) that he "visually identified" (without benefit of radar or laser) as going 75 in a 65-mph zone. I was actually issued a 10-over citation in that last instance and yes, the less-hysterical judge threw the ticket out based on lack of evidence. Monitoring various online sportbike message boards, I know I'm not the only one feeling this heat.

Riding a sportbike on the street has become such an anxiety-ridden proposition that I've practically stopped altogether. I didn't even bother registering or licensing my GSX-R this year, reserving it exclusively for track days, and I only rarely venture out on my cop-magnet ZX-14. Instead I ride my vintage Moto Guzzi or saddlebag-equipped Buell Ulysses long-term testbike, neither of which inspires nearly as much interest on the part of my local LEOs. Even better is when I'm granted access to a Harley-Davidson tester-the other day I unwittingly blew through a speed trap at a few mph over on a Nightster and, unbelievably, all Barney Fife issued was a smile and a wave.

Despite my well-known affinity for stunting, I've got no inclination to stick up for the street "stuntahs" (purposefully misspelled to make a distinction between them and legitimate stunt competitors who operate under controlled circumstances) who are driving this legislative crackdown. I've read enough idiotic message board chatter about "killing the streets," and seen enough YouTube clips of sense-deprived squids wheelying (and, just as often, crashing) their way down traffic-clogged highways to disqualify any respect for those douche bags.

Instead, I'm going to take The Butcher's advice and sling some public shame the stuntahs' way. Thanks to you idiots (and to the relief of Hell's Angels everywhere), it's now easier to spend an afternoon weaving a chopper from bar to bar than it is to suit up in full protective gear, fueled by nothing stronger than 91-octane, and tackle the nearest twisty backroads. Is this the sort of "freedom" those chopperheads are always blathering on about? Do us all a favor, please, and knock off the jackassing around in traffic-save it for the secret stunt spot instead. I don't want your idiot antics to force me to retire my ZX-14, or worse, trade it in on a chopper so I can ride free without being hassled by The Man.