They'll creep up on you just about anytime, and anywhere. You may be at work, or fueling-up, or maybe even in line at the cashier at the grocery store. The simplest thing will trigger them, like the helmet you're carrying or your riding jacket. All motorcyclists fear them like the plague. By now, you should know what I'm talking about: clueless wannabe bikers.
We've all been there. I remember one time last year when I went for an early morning ride and decided to stop for coffee and a doughnut along the way (hey, I'm Canadian - coffee and doughnuts are major food groups, right?). I walk into the Tim Horton's and already as I'm ordering I can tell that they're watching me, just waiting for the right moment to strike (for you Yanks and Euros, Tim Horton is a demi-god here in Canada, who ensures we get our daily fix of caffeine and Boston cream). The first one I have to fend off is a baby-boomer with a beer gut and a goatee. Looks to me like a recently retired career desk jockey who probably spends all his mornings chugging coffee here 'cause he's got nothing better to do. He fires off his first shot: "You ride?" Well, there's the pitch, and it's a weak one considering I'm decked-out in full riding gear and carrying my helmet in my left hand. My first reflex was to ask him if he'd spent too much time sniffing glue during his career, but that would have simply encouraged him. Instead, I kept it short and simple: "Yep".
I was hoping that my succint, but polite answer would've been indication enough for him that I wasn't here to make conversation... It didn't work. Soon he was telling me how he used to ride but then sold his Sears Allstate motorcycle when he got married, and then with kids it just didn't make sense to ride anymore until they'd moved out but now that he's retired he's been thinking about getting back into riding except he's got a bad back and he's also scheduled for hip replacement surgery so he's not sure if he could handle a bike for at least a few months after the operation but besides that he's had to renovate the house this year because his wife had been asking for new kitchen cabinets so he doesn't have the money to get a new bike just yet but he's hoping that next year he might be able to get one except he's not sure if he's going to buy new or used and he figures he'll get a Harley Davidson because they're supposed to be the best, right?
Damnit. Another Saturday morning gone to shit.
Honestly, I always try to be an ambassador for motorcyclists. Small things, like smiling to kids staring at you from the backseat of the SUV at a traffic stop, or politely educating non-motorcyclists about motorcycling in general (ex. No, we're not all in gangs and we don't all wear chaps and leather with fringe). I figure I should do my share to promote the positive side of motorcycling to non-motorcyclists, as we aren't exactly climbing in the public opinion polls thanks to bad attitudes and loud pipes. But I digress...
There are some days, however, when I just don't want to listen to some old fart go on about how his poor ole pappy used to ride an Indian-4 - or even worse - some pencil pushing yuppie driving a Lexus with an OCC sticker on the bumper telling me how much better a chopper is compared to my bike when the arrogant prick has never even lifted a bike off the sidestand.
Nevertheless, I finish listening to beergut-goatee guy, then I smile, nod and tell him to get a Sportster 883L as he obviously lusts for a Harley, and the low seat height and featherweight of the XL will probably make it easier on his back and hip. He thanks me and wishes me well, while I take my double-cream and doughnut and make a beeline outside for the deserted picnic tables. That's where I had my encounter with the second one. This time, it was an elderly gentleman - probably in his mid to late seventies. He was inside the doughnut stop when I walked in, and I had noticed him checking out my bike. As he walked out and past me on the way to his car, he just had to stop and make a brief comment. "That a Jap bike you're riding?"
Lesson learned: When the first thing a cager wants to know is if you're riding a Nippon motorcycle, it's never going to be pleasant. They somehow believe that they have the right... no, make that the responsability to tell you what you should and shouldn't ride.
"Yes sir, its a Suzuki." Even as I was muttering my response, I already knew the gist of what his reply was going to be. "I rode a Norton for a while, then I had me an Indian for almost twenty years. Never, ever, would you have seen me riding a damn Japanese bike." And with that he turned around, got into his Toyota Camry, and drove off. Guess that argument was settled!
So I'm now in need of advice, dear fellow cyber-bikers. Does anybody out there have any brush-offs that have been proven effective with cagers who just have to talk about bikes whenever they see somebody pull-up next to them on two wheels? I'm open (and appreciative) to all suggestions.