On Bikes We’re Humans


I was squeezing my way through city traffic on the evening of a Giants game, overheating on the tail of a Suzuki SV. A taxi cab caught between lanes parked itself in our path. When a few inches opened up, the Suzuki rider waved for me to go ahead.

In a city where traffic hard-lines bumper to bumper, we yield to motorcyclists. Of course riders are relentlessly polite to each other. But even car drivers will fold their mirrors to let me by, or at the very least scoot over in the lane so I can share.

On bikes we’re humans, in cars we’re metal boxes.

There’s an unwritten sacred rule among motorcyclists: If you encounter another, flash a peace sign. When was the last time someone reached out the window to extend a greeting to your car? Was it in the form of a middle finger?

The rider peace sign is like a hug from a stranger. Good hug, not bad hug. Someone is experiencing the exact same thing you’re experiencing – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the traffic – and look, they just endangered their own life to acknowledge yours!

No motorcyclist ever feels alone.

Alice's Restaurant on Skyline. Woodside, Calif.
Alice’s Restaurant on Skyline. Woodside, Calif.

I’ve been on two wheels since I was 3 years old, whether as pilot or pillion or, in my earliest days, tank bag (my dad didn’t trust me not to fly off the back).

Every city rider has learned the same lessons:

Old white guys in 911s like to drag race from stoplights. A pickup truck blows exhaust to the right. Our handlebars are the same height as a Muni bus’s wheel well. Our mirrors are the same height as a Camry’s. A Tesla Model S is ten inches wider than any other sedan, and we hate them for it. If we fold down our mirrors and duck, we could ride under a semi-trailer and come out the other side (but we’re not gonna).

If you’re on a dual-sport or a motard, none of this applies and you should go ride in the dirt where you belong.

But most importantly: if you’re ever depressed, buy a motorcycle. Or if life’s got you mildly dissatisfied, buy a motorcycle. You gotta trust me on this one. The happiest people I know all love motorcycles.



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