It’s probably no secret that there are large parts of society that take a rather dim view of people who ride motorcycles. We bikers have had a pretty bad reputation over the years thanks to depictions in the media, films, and certain biker gangs that have a criminal element to them.

Bikes are also seen as being inherently dangerous vehicles. Riders are seen a being reckless and dangerous themselves too. Although a lot of what people who don’t really know much about biking believe is misinformation based on ugly stereotypes, there’s a kernel of inconvenient truth to it all too.

You see, every time a motorcyclist goes out on the road and causes trouble it makes every decent biker look bad. It makes local law enforcement less friendly to all of us and it may actually put the lives of other bikers at risk, as motorists are quicker to anger when it comes to mistakes made by people on bikes.

Since you are on my site, you are probably relatively new to the world of motorcycles, so I thought that maybe it’s still early enough to share some insight with you when it comes to biking as a whole. Each of us are doing all of the motorcycling world a disservice when we look bad in the public eye, so here are some basic tips on how not to be a jerk when you’re out on a bike.

Alcoholica

This can’t be said enough. Alcohol and motorcycles DO NOT MIX. I’m never going to tell you how to spend your free time, but if you are over the legal limit your bike should stay where it is. One of the ugliest stereotypes is that of the drunken biker, and there is no argument that can be made to justify swinging into the saddle when you are over the legal limit.

It doesn’t matter what you biker friends say, you just can’t ride if you are drunk. At best you’ll make a fool or yourself and at worst you’ll cause a tragedy. You should also check out my article about some of the most common bike accidents and how you can avoid them.

Seriously, don’t drink and ride.

Speedy Gonzales

Bikes can go fast. Faster than almost anything else on the road except some of the most exotic millionaire’s toys. That doesn’t mean that a public road is the place to go fast. If you want to test the limits of your machine, then do it right. Phone up your local track and find out what you need in order to take part in a track day.

There’s plenty of enjoyment to be had with a motorcycle at legal speeds. Don’t succumb to the urge to race on public roads. You know who races on public roads? Jerks, that’s who.

Splitting Hairs

Lane splitting is when a motorcyclist drives on the line that divides two lanes, and it really is a bit controversial. First of all, it’s absolutely illegal in most countries, but in general it’s tolerated as just something that bikers do. Unlike with drinking and riding, I’m not going to tell you that it’s always wrong to split lanes. However, it isn’t your RIGHT to split lanes. Motorists are not obliged to leave you enough space to do it. You are also not justified in getting angry at motorists who thwart your attempts at splitting the lane. I’ve seen jerk bikers kick dents in cars or deliberately break off mirrors because of this.

Motorists don’t expect traffic to be running on the dividing line of the lane, and why should they? Now, I know that one of the big attractions of commuting with a bike is that you never get stuck in traffic, because you can split lanes. You don’t have to give that up. Just be circumspect about when and where you split those lanes. I recommend you only do it when traffic is stationary and heaped up at the lights. Then you can SLOWLY make your way down to the lights riding between the cars. Keep your eyes open for cars moving across the line, and for the love of all that is holy thank a motorist who opens up space for you so you can pass. A wave of the hand is all it takes.

Horsing Around

Do you know who is impressed by your 30-foot wheelie off the line in main street? No one, that’s who. Public roads are not the place to practice stunt riding and if you get picked up by the cops because of dangerous horseplay I have no sympathy for you. I respect stunt riders for their skill, but you can find a safer place to practice wheelies and stoppies than a public space shared by innocent road users.

Rage Against the Machine

If you want to ride a motorcycle on the road you need to have a cool head about you. Car drivers will do things that make you angry. Too often a biker feels the need to “teach a lesson” to someone driving a car. Road rage is a problem for everyone regardless of how they get around, but I think because we’re so exposed on a bike, it makes us more prone to serious anger. If another road user does something dumb and it makes you really angry, take a deep breath and drive on. Escalating the situation serves no purpose. If no actual accident has happened then leave the situation. Drive to the nearest police station if you have to or just finish your journey, but don’t get into an altercation with another road user. That’s grade A jerk territory.

Zen Master

The bottom line is that you have to ask yourself why it is that you want to ride a motorcycle. Do you love the machine? Great. Do you love the community and the experience of riding? Even better. Do you want to be a motorcyclist because you want to be cool, be a badass, or something like that? Well, maybe you need to rethink why you are getting into biking, because those are some bad reasons to be a motorcyclist.

Have fun, love your bike, be friendly to other people, ride responsibly, and don’t be a jerk.