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Spare Parts: Tricked out

By Ernie Copper

When the busiest street in your town is a two-lane road with a shared turning lane, you live in a small town. I live in a small town. Most days, “average” is an apt description of the activities. No big news, no worldwide celebrities; nothing exceptional happens.

The other day that changed. An occasion of remarkable stupidity occurred right in front of me, leaving me speechless for a time. I am just now recovering to the point that I can relate it to you.

I was pulling out onto the aforementioned busiest street in town after getting my ears lowered on a Saturday morning. As I was going to be turning right onto said street, I gave the requisite last look to the left before doing so when he came into view—a young rider, wearing a full-face helmet, tank top and shorts, perched atop a sportbike. There’s nothing really unusual about that, even in small-town U.S.A. What was unusual was the way this rider was perched. His butt was on the seat, and that was the only one of his three points of contact that was anywhere near where they were supposed to be. His feet and legs were out in front of him on top of the gas tank and his arms were extended toward the front, with his hands folded in front as they would be if he were praying, an activity I would strongly advise if he were planning to continue to ride this way. He was weaving his hands from side to side as though he was using them as a steering aide. His style reminded me of how a magic carpet would be ridden, if there really were such a thing as a magic carpet.

The serpentine use of the rider’s arms and hands were ultimately of more use to attract attention to his antics rather than to serve any practical purpose in actually steering since his speed was moderate. He continued to ride this way for about half a mile in heavy traffic as I watched him from behind. With the Saturday morning commerce for restaurants, coffee shops and businesses, if he would have had to take any evasive action at all, he’d have been toast.

I’ve been riding on the road since I was 16 and can’t remember even coming close to having any ideas of riding in such a way. We seemed to limit our reckless behavior to going fast back then. There were a couple of guys who rode to high school when I was younger—Roger and Jap (not his real name, but he was of Asian descent—times were different then). While there were times they would wind through the gears after school, they never approached the level of stupidity exhibited by the rider I saw the other day. He exhibited a new level of stupid.

It’s not that I’m perfect or have never taken a risk. I’ve ridden with no hands plenty of times to zip up and I know many who regularly do so to snap pictures or light up. Without trying to justify those activities as being more legitimate or safer than that of the surface-street stunt rider, a rider who does so is far less committed to the action and less likely to be affected by any unintended negative impact.

Riders, and I use the term loosely, like this guy set back motorcyclists’ rights so far in so many ways—and that pisses me off. Crying for stiffer penalties for distracted drivers and freedom of choice concerning helmets while tolerating this kind of irresponsible representation of the two-wheeled community is asinine.

Today’s professional stunt riders also lose credibility because of this. They work hard to legitimize “xtreme” trick riding and are popular at rallies and dealerships across the country. Other than the idiot doing tricks in traffic, they probably stand to lose the most from this recklessness.

So, you may be thinking, why didn’t you do something about it? I tried. I pulled out when I could and followed him about half a mile before I caught a red light and he slipped away. I could have caught him by riding like a cowboy, but then I would have been just as big of jackass as he was. But I know the bike and I know the helmet, and if I ever get the opportunity, we’ll have a conversation.


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