Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Motorcycle Superstitions

Blessing of the BikesBikers like any other facet of society, have their superstitions. I'd thought I talk about some of them.

Blessing of the Bikes

Now that Easter is just around the corner, and Spring is just about here, we'll start hearing more about "Blessing of the Bikes". It's fast growing into one of the biggest biker superstitions.

A Blessing of the Bikes is actually religious, and if you're religious it's not hard to understand why you'd want to do it. But there are many non-religious people, who for some reason, make a point to get their motorcycles blessed. And that's when it becomes superstition.

I remember attending a poker run in my local area called, "Bikers for Education" or the "BFE Ride". It's held in the Spring, and starts from a Catholic school. A priest comes out and douses each of the motorcycles with holy water. I can remember hearing some people say, "Oh yes! my bike has some water on it!".

In theory, the water is supposed to summon the power of God to protect you and your motorcycle from bad luck. I don't think the blessing worked, because when it came to time to announce the winners of the raffle, all I had was bad luck.

Ride Bells

The little iron bell that hangs from a biker's motorcycle is supposed to ward off evil spirits. As the story suggests, these demons exist on all roadways, and when a motorcycle passes by, they grab on to it and begin chipping away at your good luck until finally you have a crash.

The tingling of the bell is said to irritate these demons and prevent them from hitching a ride on your motorcycle.

BTW, the bell only has its power when someone else buys it for you, otherwise it doesn't work at all. Some vendors argue that it actually has half-power if you buy your own, but this is just marketing baloney to get people to buy two.

Green Motorcycles

Supposedly, a green painted motorcycle is bad luck. The legend has it that the Harleys used in World War II were often sitting duck targets, and many military riders got their butts blasted off them. And since they were painted Army green, it eventually translated into modern folklore.

This one might actually be true. I know a guy who had a green Road Glide, and dropped it several times, one time injuring his leg. Then he got the bike repainted, with a different shade of green, and wiped out on it again. From what I could recall, when his bike still had the factory black, he never crashed it.

A Dead Man's Motorcycle

There's a saying that riding a motorcycle that belonged to someone who is now dead is bad luck.

It's not necessarily that that person was killed on the motorcycle, just that he's now dead. Supposedly, his spirit is still riding that motorcycle along the great highway in the sky, and if he sees you riding his bike in the physical world, he'll knock you off of it.

You don't even want to use parts from that bike.

42 comments:

  1. Not me....when I'm gone, I hope someone enjoys the crap out of my bike!!!!

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  2. The bell was originally a mark of shame, give to the rider in the group with the most recent crash. I can only assume some yuppie saw one on an actual biker's bike and asked about it and the biker laid a bunch of crap about "road gremlins" on him and he bought it hook, line and sinker. Now everyone has one.

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    1. Yeah, and you forgot to mention that the "yuppie" is now a millionaire.

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  3. Actually, the bell is to remember the fallen riders. When you ride, the bell gets dirty and oily, then when you clean your bike, and get down on your knees to clean it, you're paying respects to fallen riders, and respecting the road which they are no longer with us to ride on.

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    1. That is a brass bell hanging from your left swing arm

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  4. We always made the last person to drop their bike carry an eightball (the round black one) until someone else dropped their's when they could hand it off.
    Bot a bell.

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  5. I must agree, a bell is given to a rider who has had an accident.Watch out for bikes that ring too much, they might have lots of bells

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  6. I have a green bike and so far so good, its an 06', maybe since my 1st one was purple and I am female it makes a difference....even went over Monarch Pass in the snow..

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    1. My wife replaced her blue tins with green and white a few years ago. Just had her first accident this weekend. A near head on, handle bar locking, collision with another bike that would have killed either of them had the other been a car instead. She came away with little more than a knee injury. Other rider had a broken leg. So.... Good luck, or bad luck?

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  7. I have a green bike, 3 years now, and it's all good. I'll keep the green.

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  8. Monarch Pass is scary enough in a car let alone a bike in the snow!!! The bells are popular around Illinois.

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  9. I just bought a green bike and crashed it the first day riding! Someone pulled out of a parking spot without looking I had to swerve so hard I dumped the bike. Then a friend told me you have to strip all that green off there its bad luck. Never crashed before so I believe it!

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  10. How about there are more and more idiots on the road that don't pay attention as they drive. They don't look for motorcycles at all. I don't care what color your bike is anything can happen to anyone. Your experience can help but doesn't always matter. But, if your superstitious you can blame anything in life on your superstitions. I'm 37 been riding since I was 14, rode all colors of bikes ,and nothing. I'm not buying this story.

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  11. I don,t get why non-religious riders would have their bikes blessed. I've never had an accident, I'm not religious, and never had my bike blessed. But then again it's not a green bike.
    I better go get a bell and knock on some wood. haha

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  12. The bell began because the only "approved" eight-ball was a stolen one. Bells "could" be had without theft - and yeah, you could sneak it onto the last-guy-to-crash's bike. When (If) he washed it, he found it, usually on his knees. I never figured out how it became a "good thing" to have a bell. Beale Gibson, Google me for Blues.

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  13. I don't have a superstition. I have a statistical study. You have an 8 in 10 chance of NOT being rained on if you have good rain gear.

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  14. I bought my bike from my son-in-law when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he wanted someone close to have his pride and joy...I believe if anything his spirit protects me and yes...it has a bell, given to him, no he didn't drop it.

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  15. Same as the guy above me. My bike was my dads, and he's gone now. I don't think hell knock me off, besides its been in mine and my dads name since I was 4

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  16. Well my dad bought a motorcycle which had been fixed up after the previous owner died on it after hitting a deer. Told my dad it was bad luck, never thought a few weeks later my dad would also die on the same motorcycle after an accident.

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  17. A dead man's bike sounds like something a motorcycle dealer made up,to sell new parts and bikes !!!#%@#&@$

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  18. I don't believe in the bells!!!! I've ridden both Beemers and Harleys, and they both had Pabst church keys hanging from them. For you young folks out there a church keys is the old style can opener because we didn't have pop tops back then!!!!

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  19. Thanks for the good article. Interesting "folklore" concerning bells. I chuckled as I read it. I've ridden since I was 15, and am now 72. I've ridden on-road, off-road, competition, through snow and ice, winter, summer, night and day, and break-neck fast and slow, in the US, Canada, and Asia... (even had a couple "green" bikes) and I never had a "bell" to protect me or my wheels. Take the first and last letters of BellS, discard the rest, and this is what I believe about bells, with all due respect to the adherents. Common sense and the good Lord above is my "bell."

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  20. Well i think the bells r cool and im buy n my husband one for christmas

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    1. Best answer on this whole page!!

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  21. The bell is an old school alarm.

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    1. My wife first bike was green and she had a bell and she never crashed. IJS...

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  22. Y'all are just so full of it!! You got to believe what you believe!! It ain't got nothin to do with color or bells or any other such nonsense!! Live to ride! Ride to live! Just enjoy your bikes!!

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  23. Been on two wheels since I built my first ride , a sidewinder briggs with a dryer drum pulley hosed clamped to the spokes and a idler with a hammer handle for my clutch. That was when I was 9 and am now 60. Quickly got to know some local cops and how to avoid them. Didn't ever figured I needed a bell but the wife bought me three today at a flee market , She said one was for my scooter and two were for the garage and that a day would come when I would know who to give them to. Legends' never have one origin that's what makes them legends'. The part about being blessed by having a well seasoned friend and brother / sister who enjoys the open rode who cares for your safety is what I personally am going with. Note: a Harley is a piece of rolling art , a machine not to be idolized but for our service and enjoyment. I am the co-pilot the good Lord watches over.

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  24. Im the loud and proud rider of a 2013 lucky green harley deluxe..im always getting people that stop to take pics of my bike or they ALL comment "never seen one that color"..please believe i am ecstatic about uniqueness away from the sea of commoner colors...my bike fits me to a tee...yes i have bells on mine too (not "earned") my bike's name is joanne..i keep the rubber clean and the chrome shiny...green is always waxed...im proud that she stands out

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  25. My needy friend just died tragically when a large trick pulled out in front of him...he died instantly.odds there somethig I should do with this bell that failed.....burn it anything?

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  26. has anyone else heard of riding on January 1st bringing good luck for the rest of the year?

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  27. It not how green the bike is. But how much green the rider smoked before riding

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  28. I love these superstitions that the bike community has, it's like "the glue that holds us together". About 25 years ago when I first started riding a friend of mine bought me my bell and I've had it ever since ... when I buy a new bike it's the first thing that goes on. I never put much stock in the whole "green bike" thing but the Blessing of the Bikes" is something I always take part in ... I'm not religious but my bike is :)

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  29. If you need bells, mascots, the "right" color and God knows whatever else on your ride for you to feel safe, you need more practice and road experience.

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  30. As the story goes, an old gray-beard was riding home from Mexico, with saddlebags loaded full of toys and trinkets for some kids in an orphanage near where he lived. It was a cold night in the high deserts just north of the border. As he rode he thought of rides past, epic journeys with long lost friends and the many nights just like this spent in the saddle.
    Ahead in the small beam of his old headlamp he thought he saw something. As he rode on it appeared again, this time there were more of them. Tiny little creatures that seemed to dart in and out of the beam as fast as the wind. They were dark little dodgy spirits, quick, and all but translucent in the moonlight—they were road gremlins. Before he could react they were on the bike. As he mashed on the brakes the front tire blew, and the old rear drum brake that had served him well for years locked up.

    When he came to he was nearly ten yards from his bike. One saddle bag had been torn loose and was lying next to him in the cold, hard packed dirt. In the light of the moon he could see his bike, the little spirit like road gremlins dancing on top. He raised himself up to his elbows, where he could see them more clearly, and they caught a glimpse of him too. That’s when they began to approach. Slowly, almost curiously, they stalked towards him. As they advanced he picked up the only thing that was within reach, the saddle bag, and began to wave it at them trying to keep them at bay. From inside the bag came a ringing noise.
    He noticed that if he shook the bag the little gremlins would fall back, plugging their ears in retreat. He quickly unstrapped the bag and dug out two sleigh bells from a set of toy reindeer buried in the bag. As he knelt there shaking the bells the gremlins retreated off into the darkness.

    As if attracted like a moth to a flame, two staggered lights approached from the distance, and came upon the lone rider in the darkness. To the lone rider they seemed like angels coming upon him with wings, guided by the sound of the bells. The two riders helped the old gray-beard brush himself off and gather his belongings. They set up camp and talked long into the night, about the old man’s brush with the road gremlins, and of many rides past. The old man offered to pay, but as-is biker tradition, the two men would not accept any form of repayment.

    In the morning the men helped the gray-beard patch his tire and limp to a little service station in the next town. Again, as they prepared to go their separate ways, the men refused payment. The old man had suspected this, so in the early morning hours just before dawn, he had awakened and attached two bells, one to each of his angel rider’s bikes. As the old man watched his new friends roll out of the dusty service station driveway, he thought he could hear the ringing of bells over the low rumble of the bikes.

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  31. I just started to ride and Im 62 need all the luck i can get and my daughters boyfriend just gave me a bell and he believes that it wards off bad mojo and someone has to buy it for you ..I already bumped the bike 2 times before i got it and not since so im going with what he believes either way it was a nice jesture

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  32. We should start a support group to send all people that own green bikes bells. maybe air horns too. And don't change your underwear ( which most probably don't anyway).

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  33. I have a superstition that I will not ride with a white lighter in my pockets, almost everyone I have known that has been is some kind of accident has had one on them, will not ride with a white lighter on me....lol

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  34. My superstition is never riding without AAA. All the bells and bike colors in the world cant save your like AAA!

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  35. What will protect me from the chupa cabra?

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  36. I was told that the US military in WWII would use small bells to keep from getting blasted off ther bikes- The Germans also used motorcycles for Couriers and even the French resistance would blast a motorcycle if they did not hear that bell.

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  37. The bell can't hurt and might help if the tinkling reminds you to keep scanning the road ahead and behind. Another thing, don't ever worry about wearing full gear, boots, helmet, chaps and jacket. The only time you must wear full gear is the day you are going to crash.

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About Steve

San Diego, CA-based motorcycle rider who likes long road trips, old rustic bars, craft beer, and tough women. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, writing about the mysteries of life. (Read more...)