Monday, January 21, 2008

Why Join a Club?

In 2004 I joined the Southern Cruisers Riding Club, after discovering there was a chapter close to my home town. I wanted to find friends to ride with, and I figured I would find them in the SCRC.

I didn't really know much about the SCRC, aside from looking at some of their chapter photos and web forum. But it looked like a place where I could find friends.

I stuck with it for a few months, and then learned that the SCRC was a very large organization, with the reputation of being an "all-embracing" club. People talked of it as the "bottom rung" of clubs, where anyone could become a member without having to demonstrate their riding skills, or proving their value to the club. Anyone could come in off the street and become a full-fledged member by submitting a web form, and buying their patch online. Membership didn't give me much sense of accomplishment.

Not long after, some former members of the SCRC formed a new riding club, one that was much more exclusive, and more difficult to become a member of. They invited me into it. So I joined them, and became a charter member.

I stayed with that club up until August of 2007. By that time, I was a founding member. A couple of us founders did our best to create a reputation of riding often, riding hard and fast, and always riding together. A couple other founders tried to create a reputation of being partiers and swingers. The club was struggling to define itself, and it started taking on a new reputation, that of being troubled and full of turmoil.

I quit the club, and about 3/4 of the club's membership either quit with me, or became inactive in the club, and now we ride together as friends.

And now we're talking about starting a new club.

What a club basically does, either as a riding club, or motorcycle club, is associate you with a reputation. In short, it helps define who you are. It's like being a Republican or Democrat; most of us have political and social philosophies, but it helps others to understand where you're coming from if you tell them you're a Republican.

That's what a club does for you.

In truth, no one needs to join a club to enjoy motorcycle riding, and you don't need a club to find friends to ride with. But you join a club because you like the idea of being part of an organization that stands for something special.

Ideally, you want your club to be known for good things. If you're in a riding club, you want to be known as skilled riders, who ride often, and ride hard and fast, and are part of something exclusive. That's the reputation we're now trying to build.

Imagine yourself being in a very exclusive riding club, where each of you are skilled riders, who ride everywhere, all the time. When you guys pull into a bar, you want the people to recognize your patch and say, "I've heard of those guys before, I hear they're really skilled riders, and you gotta be really good to get in." You want that reputation to precede you.

So think about some of the clubs you're familiar with, be it riding clubs or motorcycle clubs. What are the thoughts and feelings that first come to mind when you see one of these clubs pull into the same bar that you're at? That feeling you feel, whether it is good or bad, is exactly what these clubs are trying to create.

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Monday, January 7, 2008

A Crazy Motorcycle Purchase

Yamaha Road Star WarriorOne of my riding buddies had his daughter and her family visiting him for a couple of months since November. They came up from Brazil to spend some time between Thanksgiving and New Years. They do this every year.

While up here, his daughter's husband ended up buying a motorcycle. A 2003 Yamaha Road Star Warrior.

This came about because he fell in love with riding. Not just riding, mind you. But the romance of American-style motorcycle cruising. It was taking the bike out on the road through the miles and miles of untouched American landscape, to the beaches, the biker bars, and basking in the glory of monster-sized displacements and loud pipes.

It's something that I admit relishing as well.

What makes this motorcycle purchase crazy is that he bought it just a few days before preparing to return to Brazil. But he doesn't plan to ride it back to Brazil, or even ship it there. He's just going to leave it here in California, at his father-in-law's, and won't be riding it again until he returns next year.

So why in the Hell did he fork over $8,500 for a bike that he only got to ride for a few days?

It's the romance as I mentioned.

When it gets into your blood it becomes a disease that infects a certain portion of the brain, disabling the processes that produce the "good sense hormone".

I guess I can't really blame the guy.

He comes from a country that doesn't experience this style of motorcycle riding. The roads down there suck. In fact all you can really buy are little 125cc motorcycles and dirt bikes. He says Suzuki does sell the Boulevard C50 down there, but it's an import. And all imported bikes come with a 100% duty. In other words, if it costs $16,000 in the USA, it'll cost $32,000 in Brazil. So basically, it's a moot point.

As a result, motorcycling in Brazil is largely reduced to commuting, not recreation.

So when a foreigner comes to the USA, and experiences our way of motorcycling as a recreation, it's totally foreign to them. Now they understand why we have these big-bore v-twins and single-pin cranks. Now they understand why people here seek out the biker lifestyle.

Even the idea of getting some friends together and riding bikes for 200 miles just to grab a burger and a beer was foreign to the guy. As far as he was concerned, who'd ever thought that guys would do this just to eat lunch?

It goes to show that in many parts of the world, life is much more utilitarian, much more efficient, than in America. America definitely has its excesses, but not necessarily because we're pigs. It's because we won the right to be pigs.

This guy from Brazil proved that deep inside, he's a pig too. He just can't be one in Brazil.

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

What Is The Biker Lifestyle?

The biker lifestyleChristine, who blogs on "Christine's Corner", is thinking about selling her Harley, feeling as if she needs to find a greater calling in life.

She mentioned to her friends about quitting her riding hobby, and then one of them responded that it's not a hobby, but a lifestyle. And this is what Christine wrote in response...
Deciding to ride or not ride doesn't change me or my values or the way I will choose to live my life. Riding is not my life...I work in an industry--as like the majority of the folks that do motorcycle--that has nothing to do with motorcycling. The folks that do work in the motorcycling industry--well, they are the lucky ones--if they are indeed doing what they love.
I think Christine is correct.

Of all the riders that I personally know, not a single one of them live the "biker lifestyle". Some of them might think they do, but in fact they don't. And for the record, I don't live the lifestyle either.

A lot of people talk about the "lifestyle", but probably 1% of 1% of these people ever actually achieve the lifestyle. It's that hard to achieve.

You've heard the term, "Live to ride, ride to live". That pretty much sums up the biker lifestyle. But it's rare to find someone can who actually live up to that creed. There are some that exist, but very rare. Most of us live for other things as well, most of us have other things that depend on us, and most of us are governed by other things.

Whether its our spouses, our kids, our jobs, our businesses, or even Uncle Sam, most of us are tied down. Someone who lives the biker lifestyle doesn't get tied down. The biker lifestyle is about freedom, the freedom of the road, and being free to go whereever.

Living the biker lifestyle is like being a vagabond on two-wheels, travelling around the country, and never really staying in one place. It about making friends, and letting them go. It's about waking up one morning and not knowing where you'll be sleeping. There are some people that do this, but it's very rare.

Some people think that being a member of a 1%er club, or 3-piece patch club, means living the biker lifestyle. Wrong. That just makes you a club member. Others think that going to rallies and runs and partying with bikers means living the lifestyle. Wrong. That just makes you a partier.

The biker lifestyle is not about socializing. It's about being free. "Live to ride, ride to live": how many of us have the balls to let go of everything that chains us down, and live up to that creed?

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Contact Me

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About Me

Steve, California Highway 49I got my first motorcycle in 1985, a Kawasaki KZ400, as a high school graduation gift from my folks. It was a third-hand bike, and didn't run. My step-father showed me how take it apart, clean it out, and put it back together, and it was my only means of transportation throughout college.

After college, I got a full time job, and bought a pickup truck. I stopped riding at that time. It wasn't until 2004 that I finally bought another motorcycle and took up riding again.

What got me back into riding is my next-door neighbor. He showed me a Harley-Davidson brochure and pointed out the bike that he wanted, a Dyna Wide Glide. I told him that if he bought it, that I'll buy a motorcycle too, and that we'll go riding together. So he bought the bike, and I bought mine, a 2004 Yamaha Road Star.

We did a lot of riding together, and even talked about doing a cross-country road trip. But he ended up moving out due to a divorce, and I was left looking for new riding buddies.

I ended up joining a riding club, the Southern Cruisers Riding Club, but only stayed with them for a few months. Then I left and joined up with a smaller club, Iron Horses Riding Club. I stayed there for 2 1/2 years. Now, some friends and I have launched a new riding club.

I now ride about 30,000 miles each year, having ridden all over the western USA, attending several rallies, runs, and shows. I've done a couple of Iron Butt rides, but never submitted any completed forms.

Motorcycling works out pretty well with my job. I work out of my home publishing and operating websites, just like this one. I can ride during the day, and work at night. I can pack my laptop into my motorcycle, and head out on a road trip. As long as I can find an Internet connection, I'm good to go.

Now days, I don't really care to go to rallies and runs anymore. They're all the same. A lot of people like to go there for the social aspects, and the gratuitous displays of bare skin. I just want to ride my motorcycle. I don't mind hanging out with friends, having some drinks, and chatting away for an afternoon or evening, but I don't want to hangout at a rally for several days.

Most people know me as a quiet guy, a thinker, and listener.

My professional skill lies in business analysis. I'm pretty good at figuring out why business ideas and business practices succeed and fail, and then using that analysis to come up with solutions. Prior to starting my website publishing business, I spent 12 years managing Research & Development departments for software companies.

--Steve Johnson,
Southern California

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Motorcycle Philosophy

Motorcycle Philosophy is about the things I think about when I ride.

I'm a full time rider, in that riding a motorcycle is the only vehicle I get around on. I'm also a vagabond in that I don't have a permanent residence. My wife and I travel across the country (she rides her own, and writes her own) and we stay with family and friends, or in hotels, or vacation rentals. We own a marketing business called, "Too Much Tina" which we manage from the road.

Motorcycle Philosophy is a journal of my travels, but with more emphasis on thought, analysis, life, and other things that influence my perspective of the Universe, including mushy emotional shit too.

FYI: I still actually own a pickup truck, but I keep it in storage thinking that someday, if I should settle down and get a permanent residence, I'm going to want it.

About Me

I grew up in San Diego, CA, but have lived throughout California, including Orange County, Riverside County, and Solano County. I started riding in 1985, on a 1979 Kawasaki KZ400. I've owned Harleys, Yamahas, and Hondas.

I've ridden all over the Western USA, Canada, and Alaska.

Throughout high school I was a loner. I was depressed for a variety of reasons. I would ride my bicycle for miles and miles trying to get away from problems that plagued me. In college, I struggled to figure out who I was and what direction I wanted to go.  I ended up riding used KZ400, and continued riding alone, finding myself, and solidifying a spirit of independence.  I love to read and write deep material on our existence, perceptions, how things parallel and conflict each other, in search of some kind of enlightenment.

I'm not religious in the traditional sense, but I do have my personal beliefs about the Universe around us.

Politically and socially, I'm a libertarian: do whatever you want, but just own up to it, don't get in my way, don't ask me for anything, and keep the government off of me.

Follow my Facebook Page or my Twitter Feed.

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About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)