Though a lonely endeavor by virtue of space, motorcycles function to bring people together. It doesn’t matter whether you ride a sport bike, cruiser or enduro, or whether it’s a Honda, BMW or Harley, as long as you ride you belong. On the loneliest road, after hours of solitude you will pass a biker and he will extend his hand in greeting, engulfing you in a wave of warmth and camaraderie.
A thousand unspoken words pass through that hand, and there is only one way to hear those words: buy a motorcycle. Then, as you make your first fall, soak during your first unexpected downpour, blow a tire in the middle of nowhere, have your marrow frozen by the damp and wind, become happily lost on precipice framed switchbacks… then all of you will be shared in the wave and as the other passes he too will know and share your story.
This sounds like owning a motorcycle is an exclusive pursuit, but I would argue that it is one of the most inclusive activities in the world, capable of bringing together people from every corner of the world.
A motorcycle is the cheapest form of mechanized transportation available, and the most ubiquitous throughout the world. This means that rich or poor, 1st or 3rd world, you have access to the club. Doctors will ride next to teachers, and plumbers, and fruit vendors. Unlike so many other pursuits, regardless of whether you are seasoned or a novice, you are welcome in the club, and no grizzly rider of 30 years will scoff at the youth on his first steed when he waves “hello”. The motorcycle is the great equalizer; it eliminates the divergence of peoples that society inflicts on us. The motorcycle also means access. Access to parts of the world where cars cannot reach, access to people who are generally more empathic towards the traveler for whom safety and comfort are not a given. That degree of shared danger, like that of wars or other worldly struggles, creates a bond between riders, and those who understand their challenges.
Invariably motorcycles pique interest, arriving in a town or village on a motorcycle brings out the children and the locals. You are more likely to be invited into a home, more likely to be told stories and dreams of travel. You are therefore more likely to discover the underlying veins of similarity between yourself and the strangers you have met. In that manner a motorcycle functions to create ties of peace and understanding that few diplomats can achieve. You don’t need to go to college to learn how to ride a motorcycle and to understand the people you meet. All you need is an open heart and an open mind. And it is meeting real people which is the best weapon against ignorance and hate.
Futbol (soccer) has had a similar unification of peoples, as has art. But motorcycles offer even more as they bring people together who are further apart geographically, as well as financially or socially, and engage them in a shared struggle and joy which binds them ever firmly together. In the past, war has served as the great unifier, the creator of lifelong friendships. But these ties rarely cross borders, and the world pays a debt of millions dead for those sacred ties. Whereas bikers from every country will meet and share stories of their adventures, and open the door to sharing their lives, and friendships flourish quickly as people discover otherwise hidden similarities. No death, no hate, just a shared love of the road and of our world’s great natural gifts.
A secondary influence of motorcycles is that of natural preservation. The average motorcycle is as fuel efficient than the most advanced hybrid, at a fraction of the cost. The average biker seeks the road to witness in person our glorious mountains and forests and lakes and sunsets. This exposure, this removal from our encasement in houses and offices, makes bikers appreciate our world and work all the harder to see it preserved for future generations. I would argue that if every person on the planet were to spend just one weekend in a place like Glacier National Park, or in the Alps, or in the Serengeti, they would think twice before throwing something out the window, or voting to remove protections on wildlife refuges, or waste water. Bikers are witnesses to our nature’s beauty more often than most people, and if they are not environmentalists at first, they quickly become so.
The travel informs, the struggle unites, and the passion infects. Motorcycling is truly the next step in cultural understanding, the creation of the bonds of peace, the promotion of sustainable travel, and preservation of our planet.