What Type Of Oddness Should A Motorcyclist Have?

Crazy-good riders

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Contributing Editor Peter Jones shares his wealth of motorcycle knowledge, experiences, insights, history, and much more.Cycle World

What’s that little button on the left handlebar for?” Mike’s wife asked.

“It’s the blinker switch, why?” Mike replied.

“Because, while I was looking over your shoulder, I saw you press it seven times in just one block, so it seemed very important.”

Mike doesn’t like to ride around with an errant blinker flashing. Mike has obsessive-compulsive disorder. That’s maybe a good thing. I’ve come to suspect that having OCD might be the proper type of oddness a motorcyclist should have. Except, of course, for me. I’m personally not obsessive compulsive.

I have, however, noticed that when I ride I’m constantly writing worse-case scenarios in my head for everything that I see before me. If someone jumps into a car a thousand feet ahead, I plan on them pulling out in front of me. At every intersection I slow to make sure that all the traffic is in agreement. For me, green doesn’t mean go; it means watch out for a new set of criminals. I basically assume that every other motorist wants to kill me.

I admit, some motorists do not desire to kill me. Well, that's why people call them accidents—desire and reality might not agree.

Again, I do not personally have OCD; it’s just that many others have sloppy habits, such as driving slowly in the left lane. In the 1990s that characteristic belonged solely to the blind and senile drivers in Florida. But now, like armadillos, it has migrated all the way north to the Mason-Dixon Line.

I've also noticed that people in airports use those damn human-trafficking conveyor belts the same way they use expressways; they park in the left lane. "Hey, lady, Dunlop made these things and they make race tires, so move it the heck over."

But I don’t have OCD.

The Cycle World forums seem to be largely peopled by what I refer to as The House of OCD. I think most of them are engineers. "Engineer" is fine-art major code for OCD. Anyway, we rarely understand each other because, as you know, I don't have OCD. And possibly because I was an art major.

I think that, for most people, driving a car is like tubing; they just sort of drift down the highway and try not to put a wheel off the pavement more than eight or nine times per mile. For them, staying within a 12-foot-wide lane is a nasty and largely unreasonable task—as long as there are no tickets or deaths, all is good.

OCD motorcyclists, however, consider riding a bike as a highly defined science. (Art? Ah, never mind.) There is nothing about riding a motorcycle to a motorcyclist that is arbitrary. One rides in a place in the lane always for a particular reason, and the reason continuously changes.

Also, we like our motorcycles to be highly adjustable, even though we only adjust them once. The hand levers, shift lever, rear brake lever, suspension, and now, of course, the mapping, traction control, stability control, and so on. Why? Because we each need to craft our machine to meet our needs of perfected riding.

It’s a fearsome task to practice riding perfectly on highways filled with car drivers doing arbitrary things. Morons.

Motorcyclists ride in particular gears at particular times, use particular tires for particular reasons, choose a brand and a bike for a particular feel of performance and comfort, and comfort tends to mean a performance that feels just right. And they turn off their damn blinkers. They also only ever mount from the left side.

I do too, though I don’t have OCD.