Sunday, November 29, 2009

How to Deal With a Harley Basher

Went out riding today with another riding club based in San Diego. These guys ride mostly sport bikes, but there's a cruiser or two that show up now and then, and today I was one of them with my Electra Glide.

They're a cool group of guys and gals who appreciate twisties and carving up canyons. And they seem to run things quite like our club, mostly shoot from the hip, everyone ride at their own speed, and don't really care where they're going, as long as they're riding all the good roads.

A few days ago, when I noticed this ride posted on their website, I signed in and said that I would be joining in. I also noticed one other guy on the site talking trash on Harley riders, though he worded things in such way that it sounded like he was being humorous.

But this club is far from being Harley-bashers. I've ridden with them many times before and never found them to be that way. In fact, some of their guys have come up to ride with us, knowing they'd be riding with a bunch of Harleys. I think it was just this one guy, who is not even a member of their club, who was doing the trash-talking.

So I left home around 8:30am, determined to get to their staging area by about 9:30am. It was very chilly when I left; it had just rained the day before. But once on the road, it really wasn't all that bad.

When I got to the staging point I met them all, said my hello's, and introduced myself to the guys I hadn't met before.

The guy who was talking trash on Harley riders was there, and I shook his hand. But while waiting for the ride to get underway, this guy continued to laugh and joke about Harley riders. He'd make these loud grumbling noises trying to emulate the sound of a Twin-Cam, suggesting that Harley riders are all about loud pipes and little else. Then he'd belt out a loud laugh, though no one else was laughing. It was mainly because my Harley and I were standing right there in plain view of him and everyone else.

I kept thinking to myself that this guy's a goon.

The guy leading the group defended Harley riders and cruiser riders by saying that he still owns a cruiser, and that he spent many years riding with Harley riders. And I could sense he was stepping up to say something out of politeness to me.

And then midway during the ride we were stopped at a gas station. A group of about 20 Harleys passed by while we were standing by our bikes. That same guy pointed them out and made the same loud grumbling noise, but this time raising his hands up in the air like he was holding on to some 18" apes, and making this monkey-looking face, and then belted out a big laugh. But no else laughed.

"What an idiot" I said to myself.

From here we got into the more twisty part of the route, and so I was determined to hang with them all the way through, just to show them that just because someone rides a Harley doesn't mean that they're only about noise and image.

And it was my lucky day because the leader decided to open up the throttle and ride a lot faster than they normally ride. Today, they had a smaller group and he knew all the riders could handle these speeds. What's more I think he also knew that this other guy who was bashing Harleys was getting on my nerves, and perhaps he led the group at a fast pace just to offer me the opportunity to show him that I could hold my own with them.

And so I stuck with them all the way. I was in the middle of the group, keeping my bike right up nose-to-tail with them. I was probably riding at the upper limits of what I'd feel comfortable with, and in a few places could feel the front end of my Electra Glide starting to wobble. I was even leaning off the bike a little bit in the curves, something I'm trying to learn to do.

At the end of the ride, we were all seated in an outdoor food court, eating lunch and talking about the ride. The ride leader mentioned to me, "Steve, I don't think you need to buy that (Yamaha) FZ6, I think you ride that Harley pretty well through the curves". And he said it with that Harley-basher sitting next to him listening on.

I smiled and tried to say something humble and replied, "Thanks, but that Ultra Classic is still a 900 pound beast and it would be nice to get something designed for the twisties."

And Mr. Harley-basher was rather quiet.


  1. I think bashing what you secretly covet is a defense mechanism for a lot of people. In my experience, I've found that many people find it easier to put down things that are beyond their means, financially or otherwise, rather than let on they really want it but can't have it. No way for me to know if that's what's up with the guy you dealt with, but if I had to bet... ;)
    When you look at the cost of an entry level 883 versus what you can get in a metric for a few grand less, I almost don't blame the bashers. Also, there are plenty of Harley posers out there who fit the bill this dude described, being all about loud pipes and little else.
    I'll be the first to admit I don't care for sport bikes at all. I'm 44 and I feel they are for the younger crowd. I also have noticed on the road that more than half of them I've ever encountered were riding like dangerous assholes and making all motorcyclists look bad.
    The difference is that if I'm with several of my fellow Harley-riding buddies and theres ONE guy on a sport bike, I'm not going to stand there and mouth off to taunt the guy. I'd like to think I have a little class. The guy you describe obviously doesn't. We all have what we like and don't like, but a real man respects another man for choosing different, for whatever reason.

  2. I have to admit that I do a bit of light hearted teasing sometimes, but only with those who know me and know they can give me a shove back.

    People who don't, I just call them out on it. Why "hint". It's simply a question - "What really bothers you about Harley riders? Just lay it out there brother?" - Anyone who answers that question honestly just makes themselves look like an ass.

    If that doesn't work, then I just tell them to shut fuck up...and if I really wanted their opinion I would have beat it out of that's why they don't like us. All I know is I have had several bikes, none of them Harley is the first bike I have never gotten bored of. I just seem to respect it and love it more each day...sorta scares me sometimes.


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...)