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April 19, 2016

Things They Never Told You About Becoming a Biker

So, after months of nothing but Ramen Noodles, you’ve saved up enough loose change to put down a deposit on your first motorcycle. An exciting new world with leather jackets and without traffic, right? Sure, but there’s some other…stuff, too. Stuff no one else has told you about becoming a biker.

1. You’re Now An Expert Meteorologist

Forget the TV weatherman, you’re going to develop a better ability to read weather radar maps, cloud formations and wind patterns than anyone with an actual degree in the field. And that’s because the weather is now absolutely critical to your day-to-day life.

Will it dip below freezing on your commute tonight? If so, should you pack your heated gloves or is the ride short enough for just your heavy duty winter ones?

Is the rain today going to be light, meaning you can get away with leather or will it be heavy, meaning you need that Bibendum suit?

2. Say Goodbye To A and B

Before you had a motorcycle, you always tried to find the quickest and most direct way to get around. In a car or truck, it was efficient and practical to do so. Now that you have a bike, you’ll be willing to go 100 miles out of your way to visit a store or restaurant that has the same stuff as the one in your neighborhood. You’ll find yourself with entire States between you and home, amongst strangers and in strange places that you never knew existed, just because. You’ll tell your family you’re just going out for a quick ride, then return hours, sometimes days later, not entirely sure where you have been. And it won’t matter, because you were riding.

3. Manholes and Paint

Utility companies go around placing large, slick metal plates in the road, precisely where motorcyclists need to ride or, in intersections, put their foot down. In the dry, that’s no big deal. But, in the rain? A wet manhole becomes a deadly skating rink. Put a foot on one and your boot instantly slips, meaning you’ll drop your bike. Hit one while turning and you’ll be laying on the ground.

Road markings take on a new life in the wet, too. Nearly as slippery as manhole covers, they can make the back end of your bike weave around as the tire hunts for traction. Even under the gentlest of acceleration.

4. Waving Etiquette

Visit any forum and you’ll find novel-length screeds on the rights and wrongs of whom you should acknowledge while out on your motorcycle, and how. Should you wave at people on scooters? Will that thug on the sportbike come chasing after you should you fail to salute? Do cruiser riders count?

You could spend every moment of your ride waving at anyone and everything, which is just mental. It’s probably best just to get on with the task in hand and ride your bike. Unless you see another rider unwittingly approaching a speed trap, in which case it’s your sacred duty to tap the top of your helmet.

5. Bees & Animals

Bees are a pretty innocuous creature, so long as they’re in the backyard. Get on a motorcycle, though, and the humble bee is transformed into a weapon of mass destruction.

At anything over 10mph, a bee in the face/neck/any exposed body part will feel — and this isn’t an exaggeration at all — like you’ve just been shot with a rubber bullet. And, in its final throes, the bee will sting you. Probably in the face, because it’s trapped inside your helmet.

All of that takes place while you’re attempting to operate a relatively complex machine in busy traffic with absolutely nowhere to pull over safely.

Animals, too, have been put on this planet for the specific purpose of performing Kamikaze missions on passing motorcyclists. In rural areas, deer will wait in the roadside undergrowth, listening for the approach of a bike. At the very last second, when it’s far too late for you to take evasive action, they’ll fling themselves into your path, or maybe just leap straight for your head.

Even domestic animals like to get in on the act. Cats will test your reflexes by bolting from underneath cars to underneath your wheels. Dogs will feel it’s their duty to hunt you down.

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