Walked in to downtown yesterday to see the parade for "Bike Week." Because of this there has been an unusually large number of bikers (not the lycra kind) rolling around town, and traffic has been a pain in the ass. We bought some ice cream, sat down on the curb, and waited for the show.
I'm not sure what to think of these guys. Either they are kind of cool, or they're kind of morons. On the one hand, I like bikes, and I like bikes with motors. I like the wind in my hair, I like Gadsden flags. I sometimes like skull art. This lifestyle and community are important to the people who participate in it, and I can understand that. If I didn't like it, then I didn't necessarily have to come and watch it.
But alas, that's also where the problem lies. As my house is a scant two blocks from the town square, I was going to hear their parade whether or not I went to go see it. Living in a town that seems to be a destination for Harley afficiandos, every day, all summer long, I get to hear them rev their engines and roll down my street. Front porch conversations just stop, until the noisemaker rumbles out of sight. For each individual rider, this is not a big deal. But for me living here, it ends up being all summer long.
This is not a personal freedom issue as they sometimes claim it is. Their right to swing their fist ends before it hits my nose, as does their right to an annoying loud bike. There is no way for me not to hear them without actually moving away. They're swinging their pipes and hitting my ears all summer. There is no possibility of "don't like it? then don't listen."
And with that in my head, then the real annoyance starts. These guys are petty conformists just like grown up high school goth kids. They think they're cool because they're different. But in fact, they go out and drop untold thousands of dollars (the naked small sportster only starts at 6000 and the cool ones hit 20 real quick) to look and sound cool just like everyone else. Even the stuff they do to customize puts them more squarely into the "followers" camp. Custom paint? Skulls and Flames! Wow, that is rebellion. Chrome, I never woulda thought of that. Rev it up! Who knew it would sound just like every other Harley out there?
As a matter of fact, at least in the Harley crowd, it seems that every single thing they do to customize their bikes makes them more annoying and less actually useful. Big old monkey bars increasing drag and worsening rider position. Choppered out front ends that means you can't even turn the bike around in less space then is required by a Chevy Suburban.
So instead of being go-your-own way rebels, these guys and their bikes start to look like primping primadonnas. The whole point is to look cool, not actually go faster. A ballet of aural bullies. There's a certain costume. The bike gets trailered in and can't get dirty. This is ok because it's not really good for more than rolling around town blasting its exhaust at every other bike just like it.
And then a walk through town reveals to me the funniest part of all. I'm walking past them as they're stuck in traffic! Take the best part of riding a real bike (being able to shimmy through traffic and go essentially where you want) and throw it out the window. Replace it with the worst part of riding in cars, except remove the air conditioning and filtration so you actually have to breathe everyone else's exhaust. I love it.
From a critical perspective, these folks are spending many thousands of dollars to be different in exactly the same way. They real winners are the banks and the bike shop owners. All the freedom, all the rebellion, just another way to be a serf to the banks. A different flavor of commodotized consumer stuck in traffic.
And why are these guys allowed to run straight pipes anyway? Think it'd be a problem if I set up my truck that way? Vroom baby.