A measure of how improper it is to ask if you can ride someone else’s bike is that simply touching someone else’s motorcycle is forbidden, unless they’re a friend and you’ve been invited to do so. Touching someone else’s motorcycle is pretty much on par with stealing a hug from the Queen: It doesn’t matter if you understand why you’re not allowed to do it, you just don’t do it.
Yet, once, while I was walking with a friend through a parking area at a bike event, marveling at the variety of modified machinery, a stranger joined us for a moment while we admired an MV Agusta America. Without warning, this stranger reached out and grabbed the handlebars. We jumped back in horror. My friend asked him, “Is this your bike?” The guy replied, “No, but I sure wish it were.” Then, he threw a leg over it. We shrieked like little boys.
My friend then asked him, “You don’t actually own a motorcycle, do you?” The guy answered, “No, why?”
At that point, we had two choices: Either try to educate this guy about the rules of motorcycling, or run from him before he touches the wrong bike at the wrong moment and we witness a violent crime that we knew we wouldn’t raise a hand to stop. We fled.
Girls are, of course, exempt from the rule of not touching a guy’s bike. That’s because if a girl touches your bike, it means she wants to have sex with you. Or so guys like to think. On the other side of this fantasy, males are not allowed to touch a girl’s bike. That’s because it means the same thing in reverse, and we already know the answer, so it’s just gross, violating codes of both gender and motorcycling.
There is one slyly legitimate way to ask if you can ride someone else’s bike, but it also has its rules: Just ask the person who owns the bike you want to ride if he/she would like to ride your bike. The insinuation is clear, but the option for refusal isn’t clouded with rejection, even though we all know that in this case, “no” doesn’t mean, “I don’t want to ride your bike,” it means, “I don’t want you to ride my bike.” Discretion must be taken if your riding mate has, for example, a Bimota and you have a Jawa. It’s uncouth to offer down. Well, a little down is okay.
I guess sometimes there is no easy solution. It’d be cool if someone wrote about this biker-law thing in a bike magazine. Then, we could clip it out and show it to our friends, claiming we’re sharing it because we admire the writing.