Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Might As Well Face It - You're Addicted To Bling!

My yearly pilgrimage to the Caraquet Lobster-Bike Rally (catchy name, no?) was last week. Although I don’t particularly enjoy motorcycle rallies, it’s nevertheless become something of a tradition for me. First, it's a "all-style" rally - so you run into (not litterally) crotch rockets, cruisers, adventure tourers and even - yep - scooters! This year it seemed like scooters were planning an invasion of sorts judging by the shear number of 'em put-putting around. Secondly, it's in my hometown of Caraquet and it gives me an excuse to ride up and see the family. Of course, the rally has its share of testosterone-heavy events, like the ever popular tire burnout or the wet T-shirt competitions; but it’s also a great opportunity to hang-out with other motorcyclists of various backgrounds that share a common fascination.

This fascination with motorcycles can be on many levels: some find the act of riding itself an exhilarating experience – being able to lean into a corner and countersteer is something car drivers will never experience and it brings you closer to the actual act of driving than anything else. Others are die-hard wrench-heads that love to see exactly how many extra horses they can squeeze out of a few cylinders; this was prominent at the mechanics’ competition where “the best of the best” took to their wrenches to compete against the clock and – more importantly – against each other.

Other people simply like the bling.

Many times over the course of the weekend I was blinded by excessive amounts of chrome attached to unsuspecting HD’s, Road-Stars, Vulcans, Boulevards and whatever else. One chopper actually had a gold-plated engine case, exhausts, rims and other bits and pieces. I talked to the owner, Gary, and he confided (more like bragged) that it had cost him insane amounts of money to customize his bike; the only reason he stopped customizing was because he claims it was going to cost him his marriage! One thing he mentioned really caught my attention: “Once I started, I just couldn’t stop… It was an addiction!”. C’mon Gary – get a life! I’ve seen friends battle nasty addictions to alcohol and various drugs that often leave them scarred for life physically and emotionally, but I had to laugh in this guy’s face when he admitted his gold-addiction (which, by the way, is not a wise thing to do when the guy in question is the size of a truck).

All through my conversation with Gary he kept mentioning how his golden two-wheeled trophy (a Yamaha RoadStar, by the way) was a “great machine”. Now I don’t disagree with Gary since many of my friends and riding buddies have Yamahas and I can vouch that they are very reliable. I just wondered what kind of experience he had with the bike given that the odometer read 270 kms!

I don’t want to judge the bling factor too much; if it makes you happy (and doesn’t hurt anybody), so be it! But I hope they’ll forgive me if I don’t consider them to be serious motorcyclists (by my personal definition). To me, a serious motorcyclist (in no specific order):

  • has ridden higher than 3rd gear,
  • has seen the sun rise and fall from behind the handlebars,
  • has ridden in the rain, wind, cold and even possibly snow,
  • rides with full gear not only for safety’s sake, but also because it is more comfortable during thousand kilometer days,
  • doesn’t give a damn that his jacket isn't blazoned with a Harley-Davidson logo (or any other logo for that matter),
  • rides his or her motorcycle to work, store, errands, etc… not just to the local watering hole on Friday nights,
  • would rather spend money on heated grips than chromed rims,
  • would never, ever, trailer his or her motorcycle to a rally (or anywhere else - unless it's broken down)!
I don’t want to come off with an "I’m better than you ‘cause I really ride" attitude. My philosophy has always been: "It doesn't matter what you ride - as long as you ride". Like I said – whatever makes you happy. Just understand that bling doesn’t impress me and don’t be insulted if I'd rather talk to the guy sitting on the mud-encrusted high-mileage GS than bow to your chrome altar.